Making the decision to invest in your international education will put you in the 1.6 percent of U.S. students who take their studies overseas. This means you’re already going to stand out (for the better) just by deciding to go abroad. However, now, more than ever, students are taking strides to not only go abroad but do extraordinary things with their experience.
Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, unless you are able to work it out that you can go more than once! This means that you should take the experience for everything that it has to offer. You could be a student who simply takes classes in another country, or you can fully immerse yourself in a new culture; grow, learn, and come out on the other side more educated and understanding of other cultures. We, of course, recommend the latter. And, we make it pretty easy to enhance your international education while abroad with these six opportunities.
Learn About the Local Culture
It may surprise you to hear that you have to make an effort to learn about a new culture even if you’re living in it. Living in another country is simply not enough. It’s very easy to take your U.S. comfort bubble overseas and stay in it.
That’s why nearly every USAC program offers cultural courses. These courses will not only increase your knowledge of the local culture, but many will take you out of the classroom and into the local community to experience the culture first-hand.
Here’s just a sampling of some of the culture classes we offer around the world.
Alternative Culture, Literature, Music, and Lifestyles – Czech Republic
Brazilian Culture: Film – Brazil
Contemporary Arab Thought and Culture – Israel
Indian Culture and Traditions – India
Italian Culture – Italy
Spanish Culture and Civilization – Spain
Modern Chinese Culture and Society – China
Polish Culture, Heritage, and History – Poland
Thai Society and Culture – Thailand
To see what courses are offered by program, head to the USAC website, navigate to your program of choice and click on “courses” in the left navigation bar.
Live in a Homestay
Participating in a home stay or living with a host family means that you live with a local family during your study abroad. These are families that USAC has partnered with to host students. Some families have been hosting students for years and we welcome new families every year.
Living with a host family puts you right in the middle of the every day life of your new host country. You’ll learn the language, get to experience homemade local foods, and gain a forever second family. Some families will have other children that you’ll get to interact with, and often times you’ll be included in large family activities like holidays, weddings, etc.
It’s easy to go abroad and surround yourself with American students. The effort that needs to go into meeting locals sometimes comes as a surprise to students. Even though it may take a little extrovert effort, the reward will be worth the work.
Many USAC programs will provide a language partner or local buddy program to help you meet locals. Other great ways to meet locals include chatting with students on campus, seeking out local restaurants, cafes, etc. and being open to meeting new people. We’re all here trying to live the best life we can, and most people are happy to share their story and hear yours when you’re studying abroad. So get out there and make some new friends!
Participate in an Internship or Volunteer
Another great way enhance your international education while abroad is to take advantage of USAC’s internship and volunteer opportunities.
USAC internships are rich resources for your academic and professional development. Internships are optional and included in your program fees. They are counted as part of your academic credit load and are in addition to the minimum credit requirement.
Some areas of placement include the following, depending on your program location:
- Marketing & Communications
- Hospitality & Hotel Management
- Biology & Environmental Sciences
- Health, Medical & Dental
- International Business
- Social Work
- Music & Art
- Non-Governmental Organizations
If you aren’t up for doing an internship, you can easily volunteer during your time abroad. Just let the USAC staff know that you’re interested in this experience and we can help get something set up for you.
Partake in Field Studies & Optional Tours
A key part of enhancing your international education while abroad is seeing everything you can see. We know travel is a large part of why students study abroad which is why we offer field trips and overnight tours to popular destinations. Field trips are usually included in the program fees and overnight tours are an additional fee. However, the great thing about overnight tours is they can often times be taken as a field study.
Field Studies earn one-credit and allow you to deepen your academic experience by completing additional academic requirements, keeping a journal, and engaging in discussions of the sites visited to better understand their historical and cultural contexts. A field study course counts as part of your credit load. Field studies will vary per program so it’s best to head to the USAC website and navigate to the tours and field studies section of your desired program to see what field studies are offered.
Complete a Service Learning Opportunity
Service learning is a unique opportunity that you can only take if you’re studying abroad in Accra, Ghana or Alicante, Spain. This opportunity combines community service with academic instruction. You’ll receive credit for your service learning class, and gain an international education experience unlike any other.
These are just six ways you can enhance your international education while abroad. But the best thing you can do for yourself and your study abroad experience is be open minded and jump at any and all opportunities that come your way. We promise you won’t regret it!