Oh the Places You Can Go | Being a Foreign Exchange Student

Hit the Beach While Studying Abroad

If you are a prospective foreign exchange student who wants to travel abroad for a year of study, why not select a program near a beach? Of course, you’ll need to attend your scheduled classes and take part in all the other required activities connected to your academic travel. But during the off hours, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have the option of spending some time at the beach? Here are eight of the better-known international destinations where a foreign exchange student can enjoy every weekend at the beach, weather permitting.

France: Nice

While most people seek out Paris as their destination for international study in France, Nice is the best-kept secret in the world of foreign exchange coursework. Offering some of the world’s most beautiful beach access year-round, you have the advantage of studying at one of several universities in the city and spending your free time on the warmest, cleanest, and most festive sands in the entire nation.

Spain: Grenada

You can learn Spanish in a U.S. classroom or spend a year in one of the gorgeous cities in Spain, only a few minutes away are some of the most scenic beaches in Southern Europe. Grenada’s universities are world famous, offering programs in management, language, and religious studies. You can also take all your courses in English if you prefer, or challenge yourself and choose one or two classes taught in Spanish. Students who have spent a year in Grenada report that the city is one of the friendliest on earth, and the locals are extremely supportive of foreign exchange students.

South Africa: Cape Town

It’s a long, long way from the U.S. to South Africa, and many students don’t even have the country on their “radar” as a place to spend a year abroad. However, Cape Town is a wonderful destination for those who want to spend their academic year abroad in an English-speaking nation that has some of the globe’s most awesome beaches. Situated, as it is, on the southernmost point of the African continent, Cape Town has for decades been a travel destination for people who want to spend time on the sunny, warm sands of Southern Africa.

Costa Rica: Monteverde

Costa Rica is already internationally famous for its beaches, but what many people don’t know is that it has some of the best foreign exchange programs in the world. Whether you want to study Spanish, science, business, or architecture, there’s no better place to have the luxury of top-notch international beaches nearby.

Greece: Thessaloniki

For foreign exchange students who want to see where all those postcards of breathtaking beaches come from, Thessaloniki is the place to go. With at least a half-dozen respected academic programs in the city, students can have their choice of major fields of study. At the same time, the region is one of the most famous on the continent for scenic, warm beaches.

Australia: Sydney

Sydney is perhaps the top destination for foreign exchange students. One reason is the city’s thriving cultural life, wonderful people, and incredible beaches. With the exception of New York, Los Angeles, and London, Sydney is said to be the most popular choice for year-abroad students. You’ll have your choice among more than 20 local beaches, and others are just a short drive away. Australia is one of the world’s most attractive continents for all sorts of reasons, their beaches being at the top of the list.

Indonesia: Bali

No “beach study” list would be complete without the inclusion of Bali, Indonesia’s jewel. Perhaps no other place on earth is renowned for its beautiful scenery, on land and sea, as is Indonesia. Not only is the local culture thriving and welcoming to all travelers, but foreign exchange students who travel to Bali for coursework always come home with glowing reports about the year. Whether you choose to study the local language or to take all your courses in English, Bali is an ideal location to learn about another culture and spend relaxing weekends at the beach.

Make sure the program you choose offers coursework that interests you and fits into your major field of study. There are dozens of international academic programs that include the option to visit a beach regularly, so don’t feel limited by our brief listing above. Being able to relax near the calming ocean waters, and enjoy sports like scuba diving, swimming, surfing, and boating will only enhance your overall experience as a foreign exchange student. Academic travel need not be all about books and tests. There’s fun to be had, and you have a right to seek it out!

Immerse Yourself in Culture with a German Host Family

There are plenty of books, DVDs, audio programs and online lessons available for anyone wanting to learn German, but there is no real substitute for actually immersing yourself in the language. One of the best ways to do that is to date someone who speaks the language, or if that isn’t an option, to stay with a host family. It is true that German, with its logical order of words, and little assimilation of foreign words, is one of the easiest languages to learn, but it will be easier still if you are living and working in the country.

Think about it – by staying with a German host family, you are forced to speak German just to get by. Whether you are trying to decipher a restaurant menu, asking for directions, or making sense of the local television news, learning the language is so much easier if you are surrounded by people speaking it constantly. And not only speaking it, but speaking it fluently, pronouncing words correctly, using slang and colloquialisms, and using real everyday phrases – not like the phrases that you might find in an English/German phrasebook.

Having to speak the language just to get by and to make yourself understood is one of the best ways there is of becoming fluent – or at least proficient – in another language. There is a world of difference between simply repeating ‘Can you tell me the way to the railway station?’ in German, and actually being in a German town and asking that same question. More than one study has indicated that the most effective way to learn a foreign language is to surround yourself with people who speak that language – or better still to go and live in the country for a few months.

Of course, you can simply visit Germany and spend a couple of weeks in the country, and there is no doubt that you would pick up something of the language. However, staying with a host family gives you far more opportunity to listen, to practice and to really learn the language, rather than simply a few key phrases here and there.

Even watching the television or sitting around the dinner table chatting can help you to brush up your German, something that reading a book or listening to a recording just can’t do. Many people find that they become firm and lifelong friends with their host family, and that can be one of the most rewarding parts of the experience.

And staying with a German host family is about so much more than simply learning the language. It’s also about meeting new people, perhaps even making lifelong friends, experiencing a new culture and traditions, and having the opportunity for German travel. Staying with a family in a foreign country means that just about every experience is exciting and challenging, whether it’s ordering a beer in the bar, mailing a letter in the post office, or attending a sporting event.

Germany is a large country, and one of your biggest challenges may be deciding where in the country you want to stay with a host family. Berlin is one of Europe’s most exciting and cosmopolitan cities, famous for its nightlife, museums, and reminders of the Cold War. Hamburg, Frankfurt, and Dusseldorf are all large cities, offering all the cultural options that you might expect, while Munich is considered by many to be Germany’s most charming large city. And Germany has no shortage of towns that look as if they belong in a fairly tale, complete with castles, half-timbered houses, and narrow, cobbled streets, including Lubeck, Heidelberg, and Rothenberg.

And if you do go to stay with a host family to learn German, exploring the rest of the country is easy, thanks to the excellent transport infrastructure. Like most other large European cities, German towns and cities have comprehensive bus, tram and subway networks and the German rail system can speed you to the furthest reaches of the country in just a few hours. Staying with a host family in Germany also means you are well placed to explore the best of Europe, including France, the Alps, Italy and the Czech Republic.

If you are struggling to master the German language, staying with a host family can not only improve your German, but can also provide you with the adventure of a lifetime. Contact hostfamily.com to find out more and to take the first step towards finding the family that is perfect for you.

How to Overcome Homesickness as a Foreign Exchange Student

Being a host family is one of the most satisfying and rewarding things you can do in life. And of course, the experience is just as exciting for the foreign exchange student who is sharing your home and your life for the next few months, or perhaps longer. However, homesickness is one of the most common problems faced by many students; think about the first time you left home, whether to go to college, travel or work overseas or perhaps join the military. Those feelings can be just as real for a foreign student.

Homesickness Is Inevitable

If you are a foreign exchange student preparing for your first trip away from home, it’s important to understand that being homesick is a normal part of the process. Over time, the feelings really will pass, and it’s important to remain positive and focused. Remember, this is only a temporary situation. And we all know just how important it can be to acknowledge and talk about our feelings, rather than keep them bottled up inside – talk to your host family and tell them how you feel. It isn’t anything to be ashamed about. Most feelings of homesickness will diminish after a few days or a few weeks, as you adjust to your new surroundings, become more comfortable with your host family and of course, are occupied with work for much of the day.

Keeping Busy

Keeping yourself busy is one of the most effective remedies there is if you are missing home, and although you may not believe it at first, the busier you are, the less time you have to even think about home. Of course, you are with your host family to work, but even when you aren’t working, being active, interacting with others and finding ways to pass the time can all help.

There are plenty of opportunities to find something that you enjoy and will keep you busy, including a local sports groups, joining a gym or fitness center, and outings to the theater or cinema. A temporary membership at the local library or YMCA can be a wonderful way to not only pass the time, but to make new friends too, and many places such as schools, hospitals, and churches are in desperate need of volunteers for a few hours a week.

Of course, most students need some time to simply relax and do nothing, but putting yourself out there and keeping busy really is an effective antidote to homesickness.

Bringing Home to You

Bringing some touches of home into your new environment is also a wonderful way to fight being homesick. Technology has made it easier than ever to connect with home, and you can get a taste of home by finding radio stations and TV programs from your home country.

Shopping for the ingredients for a meal you might cook at home, and then preparing it and sharing it with the host family is also something you can do to fight those feelings of being homesick. It’s also easy to video chat with loved ones back home, although be careful of spending too much time chatting with friends and family back home, which can actually make you miss home even more. Remember that as a student you aren’t alone; just about everyone gets homesick to some extent, and there may be other students in the area who you can talk to, perhaps even someone from the same country.

Host Families Can Help

As a host family, part of your responsibility is to make sure your foreign exchange student feels safe and welcome. It isn’t too difficult to recognize the signs of homesickness, although many students may be ashamed or reluctant to admit that they are missing home. Encouraging your student to acknowledge their feelings is important, and as we all know, simply talking about what’s bothering us can go a long way to making the situation better.

Your student needs their alone time, but if you sense they are homesick, make an effort to include them in family activities, helping to prepare a meal or cookout, taking them to a school or sporting event.

The hosting experience is exciting for both the exchange student and the host family, although it can have its challenges. Being away from home for the first time is something that we all face sooner or later, although like many of life’s experiences it really isn’t that bad! Acknowledging the feelings, keeping busy, remaining focused and maintaining those reminders of home can all help to minimize homesickness.

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All You Need to Know About Studying Abroad

Become a Better Leader by Studying Abroad

Americans who study abroad have the opportunity to develop leadership and character skills that can help kick-start their future careers. When you live and study in a foreign country, you inevitably face situations and circumstances that challenge you to learn and grow beyond your comfort zone. 

Studying abroad can help you expand your horizons by giving you opportunities to explore new cultures that have much to offer on a social, academic and professional level. Your experiences as a foreign exchange student could be the catalyst that propels you into a better and brighter future.

Key Benefits of International Study

The benefits of participating in an international studies program are many and varied, for both high school and college students. As a foreign exchange student, you will face situations that challenge you physically and mentally, prompting you to develop positive traits and skills that will help you overcome them. As you grow in such essential areas as communications, creativity, teamwork, problem-solving and people skills, you have the potential to become a strong and confident leader.

Studying abroad may be an expensive venture but the short and long-term benefits far outweigh the costs. Finding a host family to live with during your studies can help curtail some of the expense. It also gives you an opportunity to make new friends and experience a new culture at the grassroots level. 

Many foreign exchange students have found living with a host family a delightful experience. Through living and studying with a host family, you can gain greater insight into your new environment, practice local customs and norms and learn to speak a new language.

Here are a few more ways in which international studies can be of benefit to today’s students.

Global Awareness

In today’s global economy, it’s important for upcoming generations to develop a sense of global awareness. Studying abroad can help you develop an understanding of global affairs from alternative perspectives other than your own. As a foreign exchange student, you will be exposed to cultural differences, lifestyles, and viewpoints unique to your way of life. Such differences will give you a greater understanding of the world around you which will be a tremendous asset in establishing a career in an international firm.

Career Advancement

An international studies program that promotes cross-cultural knowledge and skills can be an invaluable tool in advancing your career. International leadership skills can open many doors for employment within today’s ever-increasing global society. Individuals with strong leadership skills are among some of the most sought-after employees for management positions in top businesses today. Studying abroad offers numerous opportunities to hone communications, problem-solving and people skills that are essential to leadership.

Personal Growth and Development

Participating in a foreign exchange program puts you in a marvelous position to learn and grow on a personal level. Living and studying in a foreign environment requires that you learn to adapt to situations far different from your norm. In the process, you learn new aspects about yourself and discover abilities and traits you were unaware of before. There’s nothing like getting you out of your “comfort zone” to help you grow.

The more exposure you get to a new culture, the more opportunities you have to expand your creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. During your tenure as a foreign exchange student, situations may arise that require quick thinking and “out of the box” solutions. You may find yourself changing the way you operate or think concerning social, economic or political views. Open-mindedness is a valuable leadership trait as it fosters greater communication and teamworking.

Studying abroad can also boost your confidence and self-esteem as you learn to overcome challenges in your daily schedule. People are more apt to follow leaders who exude strong confidence in their abilities and skills.

People Skills

Studying in a foreign country is bound to grow your people skills as you learn to get along with individuals from another culture, beginning with your host family. Learning to communicate effectively will make it easier for you to progress in your academic studies and make new friends. 

Different countries also have different etiquette, customs, and norms. It’s important to learn what’s acceptable and unacceptable in your new environment so that you don’t inadvertently offend others during your stay.

An international study program has much to offer individuals who desire greater input from their academic studies. By studying abroad, you can develop strong leadership skills that will give you an edge over your counterparts in establishing a successful career.

Common Obstacles to Studying Abroad and How to Overcome Them

If you hope to one day travel abroad as a foreign exchange student, it helps to get sound advice from others who have trod the path before you. The good news is that millions of people have spent years studying abroad and know well the pitfalls and myths associated with this type of venture. Here are some of the most common obstacles and myths about being a foreign exchange student:

Safety

U.S. schools carefully screen overseas programs for safety factors. If there is any question about the security of visiting students, the program is either put on hold or canceled. This happens rarely because most schools are extremely selective in the first place when it comes to setting up study programs in other nations.

Still, you should expect to sign a routine release, stating you won’t hold your academic institution responsible for unexpected things that could happen to you. In reality, you’ll be in no more danger (and possibly less danger!) than if you were to simply stay at your homeschool in the U.S.

Cost

Many students have unwarranted fears about the cost of overseas programs. In the majority of cases, such year-abroad coursework is either less expensive or costs about the same as studying in the U.S. for the year. One reason for this is the typically low cost of tuition in European and especially Asian colleges.

Plus, there are dozens of scholarships and grants you can apply for as a prospective international student. Ask your college advisor about grants, scholarships, and any financial aid packages that are unique to your school. Many college students are pleasantly surprised when they begin to research the costs of studying abroad.

Chaos

The fear of social chaos, not having any friends, being away from family and similar phobias are typical and widespread among students who intend to spend a year overseas. Fortunately, these fears are nothing more than the common human reaction to a new, unknown situation.

In fact, nearly every overseas exchange student meets more new friends than they expect to, and often begin several life-long relationships while studying abroad. The typical homesickness tends to wear off after a few weeks, as does the fear of general chaos.

Housing

Some students are afraid they’ll have no place to stay while studying abroad. Schools are very careful to make certain that each student has housing accommodations worked out before departure, so there’s really no need to worry about housing. Whether you live in a dorm with hundreds of other students, share a small house or apartment with someone, or reside with a host family, there are literally dozens of housing options for foreign exchange students.

Language

Because English is the international language of education, it is easy to find coursework delivered in English for the entire year-abroad program, no matter where you go. Japan, Russia, France, Brazil, and even Iceland have international education programs for students where all the courses are taught in English. The so-called language barrier is really not a problem for U.S. students who wish to spend a year studying overseas.

Falling Behind Academically

With proper planning and the right amount of input from your guidance counselor, you can make sure all your overseas courses will apply to your graduation requirements at your homeschool in the U.S. Sometimes you might have to use up a number of electives, but there’s no common college major that does not lend itself to overseas study, at least for a year.

For students who want to spend more than one academic year overseas, special arrangements might have to be made, especially if you are a pre-med or architecture major.

Medical Concerns

Because every nation has a different kind of healthcare arrangement for its own citizens, U.S. colleges have been careful to make sure that overseas students are either covered by their own medical plans or are able to get a short-term medical plan under the auspices of the host country.

Most major medical insurers in the U.S., for example, offer regular coverage for students who are under their parents’ medical insurance. This is the case with most overseas students, who are almost always under the age of 23, a standard cutoff age for large, U.S.-based carriers who offer family coverage.

Before You Fly to Your Destination

Realize that every trip abroad is different, so you might not encounter every one of the situations mentioned above. However, it’s wise to become acquainted with as many of the possible challenges as possible before embarking on your incredible adventure as a foreign exchange student and discovering the wonders of international travel.

How to Get Mom and Dad to Let You Study Abroad

If you have always loved to travel, and your idea of a fun read is to browse through the world atlas, you may well like the idea of becoming a foreign exchange student. It’s one of the easiest and safest ways there is to not just travel somewhere new and exciting but to immerse yourself in a foreign culture for a year or so, and enjoy the experience of a lifetime while doing do.

However, you may have a hard time persuading mom and dad to let you out of their sight for that long to study abroad, especially if the furthest from home you have been up until now is the other side of your home state. Of course, all parents are naturally protective and to convince them that you aren’t going to be kidnapped or run off to get married if you become a foreign exchange student, you should try these strategies.

Getting a Job

You may not realize it but travel isn’t cheap! If you spend just a few minutes researching online, you will get some idea of how much it costs to fly to Europe or anywhere else in the world. And of course, the flights are just the beginning – if you are going to study abroad, you will need money for food and public transportation, as well as the inevitable souvenirs.

Even a foreign exchange student needs a day off every now and then, and some money to spend on that day off. There are also various study abroad fees that will need to be paid, and if you don’t have a passport, that’s another cost.

You are probably assuming that your parents are cheerfully going to pay for all of this, but it would certainly make a strong impression if you were willing and able to pay some of these costs yourself. And that means getting a job and systematically saving up money towards the costs of becoming a foreign exchange student.

Not only will this convince your parents that you are mature enough to travel and study abroad, having a job is the best way there is of understanding the value of money – how long it takes to earn it, what it’s worth and what it will buy you.

Save Up For Your Trip

Getting a job is all very well, but if all that hard earned money is being spent as soon as you have it, it doesn’t help you. Not only do you need a job, but you also need to save up money for all those costs we mentioned above. One of the best ways to do that is to simply open a separate savings account and make a point of depositing at least 30 percent of your pay in that separate account every week or month.

That may sound like a lot, but after a while, you won’t even notice that you don’t have that money. Mint and Pocket Money are just two of the useful apps available to help you to save if the concept seems too difficult. Think about how impressed your parents will be if you are saving up and you have a job – surely they just can’t say no when you mention that you are interested in studying abroad.

Research Your Program

Your parents are also more likely to say yes if they feel you have thought this whole thing through and properly researched it. That means looking carefully at different study programs and making a sensible decision based on the big picture, rather than how many parties you are likely to be invited to. And if mom and dad feel they have some input into the decision too, they are more likely to give you the go-ahead to study abroad and become a foreign exchange student.

Telling Your Parents

You can maybe see that it’s much better to let your parents know about your desire to travel and study abroad if you already have a job and are saving up money. The more you know about what you want to do, where you want to go and about how much the whole thing will cost increases your chances of winning the approval of your parents.

The goal here is to let them know that you really are mature and sensible enough to handle a study abroad program, even if you weren’t always the most sensible of children. And remember your parents may be reluctant at first – it’s up to you to show them just how serious you are and how much you really want this life-changing experience.

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