Becoming a foreign exchange student is a great and unique life experience. It also looks good on your resume for any graduate school applications. Since you'll be living and studying in another country with a culture and language you may not be completely familiar with, some careful consideration needs to be done before going on this adventure.
- Plan ahead. Almost all exchange student programs are instituted through schools and universities, while others are offered through non-profit agencies. Know the requirements for the program you are interested in. Decide how long you would like to stay in the host country. Generally, your stay can be for a few weeks or months, an entire semester, or even an entire year. You also need to know where you will live. Your options include a host family, dormitories or other residence halls at the school or university, or apartments near the school or university.
- Make a budget. One necessarily needs to fill out an application first to be accepted into a foreign exchange student program. The tuition and other miscellaneous fees will vary in different programs. Most fees will cover transportation, health insurance, a passport or student visa, cost of living, and other necessary costs. Expenses not directly related to the program however will likely be your responsibility and will come from your own account. So it's prudent to set aside some personal money for any emergency or unexpected expenses. You might want to look into scholarships that are often available for applicants in foreign exchange programs.
- Take in the local language and culture. If you decide to travel to a country that doesn't speak any language you know, it is best to learn as much of the local language as you can before you leave. Being able to communicate in the host county's lingua franca is an obvious advantage as it will make all your interactions easier inside or outside the classroom. In addition, you should research their particular customs or traditions to avoid unintentionally offending someone and lessen the occurrence of awkward situations.
Choosing to become a foreign exchange student and studying abroad will certainly be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. It will open your mind to a different culture, expand your social experience, and give you the chance to possibly learn a new language. Everybody's on the World Wide Web now, but nothing beats first-hand experience like actually studying and living in a different country.
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