Studying abroad is a dream for many students. It can also be a great way to set you apart from the competition when applying for jobs because it is essential to understand other cultures when working in public relations. CEO of Golin, Fred Cook, said in his presentation at the 2014 PRSSA National Assembly, “Expose yourself to new ideas and fresh perspectives. The more experiences you have, the more interesting your options will be in the future.”
While the value of an education abroad is evident, most students do not realize how much preparation is necessary. The following are some tips to remember before studying abroad.
1. The multi-step process of preparation ensures that students have the best possible experience physically and mentally during an overseas trip. Culture shock is inevitable, even for a short trip. Most students will go through a period of mood swings and confusion. This is normal. The best way to adjust to being abraod is to immerse yourself in the culture. Trying new things is great, so be adventurous. Trying too hard to stand out and represent your country of origin will only hinder learning experiences.
2. Pick-pocketing is the number one crime in Europe. It is more likely for travelers to be a victim of petty theft than violent crimes. This fact keeps the European crime rate relatively low. To avoid petty theft, you should always keeping personal items close to you, wear attire appropriate for the host country, plan your activities ahead, do not stand around looking at a map, and be weary of street vendors.
3. Returning home can actually be harder to adjust to than arriving to the host country. Many students experience more mood swings and confusion after coming back for the first couple weeks. This adjustment is also normal. Remember that it was a valuable experience and you will readjust after your daily routine is set.
4. Although it is not required to be a fluent speaker of the host country, it will benefit you to research the cultural customs to better communicate. Before speaking to natives, ask if they can speak English. Be polite and do not assume natives can understand and communicate with you in English.
5. Remember that little things differ between Europe and America. The electricity plug-ins are of higher voltage in Europe. Bring a converter instead of an adapter to ensure small appliances will not fry. Time can also be an issue when studying abroad. Most European countries run on military time, which is an adjustment from America. Since there is a time zone difference, jet lag can occur. To help avoid it, do not sleep on the first night until it is an appropriate hour in the host country or it will take longer to recover. It is also not custom to tip servers, because they are paid on salary. European living spaces are smaller, especially the showers. Be prepared to live in a condensed space.
6. Overall, the most important things to remember are to use common sense and do not forget to enjoy it. You will be in a new country and not everyone gets to have that experience. Do not just sit in your room all day after studying. Explore your new city. Make the most of your experience by going out and making memories. A study abroad experience gives you a new perspective and you will have unique stories to tell your future employers.
By Bridget Anders
PRecisely PR is the blog of the Illinois State University Chapter of the PRSSA. We write about Chapter events, the public relations industry, member profiles, and more.