Studying abroad is a hugely enriching experience, which deepens your understanding of your host country and yourself. Before you leave home you’ll picture yourself on your new campus: Making new friends, settling into new accommodations, trying new foods, and gaining fluency in a language previously foreign to you.
All of these things will happen. You’ll make more friends than you can count, the food and housing will initially frustrate and then enchant you, and little by little that language that was always confined to the pages of your textbooks will come alive. It’s a crazy, humbling experience and you’ll never, ever regret it.
However, there will be aspects to your overseas program that you might not be able to anticipate so accurately. For example, most of your friends will probably be other exchange students. Odds are you will be housed with other international learners, you’ll all be in the same language classes, and during the evenings and weekends you’ll form an amazing group of adventurers. They will be some of the best friends you ever make, but they will also be in the same boat as you. They will also be “other” in this adopted country and therefore not much closer to linguistic fluency OR local savvy than you. This can be frustrating if your ultimate goal is to acclimate to your surroundings. So what should you do?
It’s always a good idea to become involved with your local community, whether through volunteering...