Preparing: Visualizing your time abroad
In our last post we discussed not overthinking your time abroad–how it is important to let go of your presuppositions and realize that things will be different (and not necessarily a bad different) than you picture them in your head. Despite that, it’s incredibly important to be prepared for study abroad and while not crossing the line into anxiety territory, there are some methods of visualizing your time abroad that will help!
When I was looking into study abroad, the first thing I did when presented with a new option–Leiden, The Netherlands? Edinburgh, Scotland? Derry, Northern Ireland?–was hop on Google Images and drool over beautiful pictures of international cities and countryside. Google will be your best friend–like we discussed it’s important not to have concrete, make-or-break expectations, but it will go a long way towards helping you be properly prepared and at least have a clear vision of the basic expectations you may have.
So, Google… but what else? My constant Google searches on each new city lead me to new, fascinating websites and different options. So if you just found out that your application to Milan, Italy, or Hong Kong has a very good chance of being approved, hop online and spend this time getting stoked! My favorite internet resources are these:
- Wikipedia. RESEARCH! Research on your host city is a great way to know what to expect. Wikipedia–we all know that this isn’t an accurate/legitimate resource for writing essays but for basic information and those footnotes, it can be helpful!–will have basic info on your destination city and country. I particularly like reading through sections like “Landmarks” and “Transport” to get an idea of what the city is known for–knowing why tourists love to visit a certain city and what aspects of it is important knowledge–and to see how well connected it is to the rest of the country/continent.
- InstantStreetView.com. This is probably my favorite research tool. At least, the most fun, and the most eye-opening! Instant Street View, upon typing an address or town name in, will take you instantly to that street and you can walk around and explore (through the power of Google Maps, but you don’t have to download any software and it’s much easier to use in your browser). Go to your prospective university’s website, find their street address, and type it in Instant Street View. I’ll never forget the first time I looked up the Magee campus in Derry/Londonderry Northern Ireland. I didn’t even know if I’d ever be going to school there, but when a cab dropped me off, half a year later, it was like seeing a movie come to life.
(Warning: It’s incredibly addicting to walk around on Instant Street View and you’ll get sucked into their view of the day as well!)
- Google “study abroad student [your university here]” and odds are you’ll find student blogs and perspectives on your potential university. As an independent student, directly going to a university, I found this helpful since no one from my home university had ever gone and there wasn’t a program at Ulster at that time.
- The Student Room. This is a website specifically for UK based students, discussing their universities/decisions. However, for students going TO the UK, it’s like the perfect glimpse into what you can expect in terms of standards and culture and day-to-day life at the university–and from a source that isn’t trying to sell you on a program. For students in other countries, there are lots of similar forums. Even though I wasn’t a full time UK student at the time I signed up and I was American, they still let me join & one big benefit was that I found my university forum and happened to find one of my future flatmates on here, leading to some great conversations and making me feel a lot more comfortable about what to expect!
- Your university’s department website. If you plan on studying economics in Costa Rica, you should spend a lot of time reading up on every aspect of your university’s department website. For me, as a graphic design student, I wanted to know everything that a potential university in the UK had to offer–not just what they had to offer study abroad students, but what standards home students in my program were held to and how they were developing the program.
It’s important not to have concrete, make-or-break expectations, but the internet will go a long way towards helping you be properly prepared and at least have a clear vision of the basic expectations you may have.
Do you have a favorite website/resource you go to before you travel or that was impactful while you studied abroad? Tell us in the comments section below or join the conversation on Twitter!