Five Ways to Maximize Your Semester Abroad
by Sam Pearson
Navigate with maps – Instead of relying on your smartphone’s map app, use a paper map. Navigating a city with a map helps build problem-solving and orienteering skills. You will build independence as you rely on your directional skills to get from your hostel to the city center.
Consider your transportation options – Most urban study abroad destinations in Europe are connected to multiple transportation options. This allows you to compare air, rail, bus and water transportation. Deutsche Bahn, for example, offers a Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket for unlimited travel within Germany for a single day for 44 euros per person and an additional 8 euros per person.
Understand your own cultural identity before you leave the U.S. A 2015 study found that high levels of motivational Cultural Intelligence (one’s confidence and interest in engaging in cross-cultural relationships) produced higher “well-being” and “suitability for overseas work” in a business program’s study abroad students.¹ Consider participating in the next Corban University Cultural Intelligence (CQ) training before your international experience.
Set goals – What personal and professional outcomes do you want to get from study abroad? Make this financial investment count. For example, 80 percent of study abroad program participants surveyed by the American Institute for Foreign Study reported that they developed “an ability to adapt in diverse workplace environments.”² Verbally articulating results such as an appreciation for cultures and a growing sense of personal independence in ways that potential employers will value is the topic of our workshop, Marketing Your International Experience.
Think critically about your coursework – As Amanda Doty observed after her semester at the American-Bavarian Exchange, “I thought that it would be a course where I would learn some facts about a country and then move on to the next subject without applying the information, but nothing could be further from the truth. . . . My classes taught me how to defend ‘Truth’ to a lost world without being judgmental or condescending. They taught me that not every situation is black or white and pushed my boundaries.”
¹ Peng, A. C., Dyne, L. V., & Oh, K. (2015). The Influence of Motivational Cultural Intelligence on Cultural Effectiveness Based on Study Abroad. Journal of Management Education, 39(5), 572-596. doi:10.1177/1052562914555717
² American Institute for Foreign Study. (2013). AIFS Study Abroad Outcomes: A View from Our Alumni 1990-2010.
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