Learn About Your Destination
One of the best first steps you can take is to learn about the culture of your host country and the experiences of students who have studied there. The following questions will help you consider and set realistic expectations for your trip, allowing you to have a safer, more enjoyable experience.
Try to answer the following questions and find out how prepared you are! If you don’t know the answers, you may find them in a country guidebook, which has sections about the history, culture, and politics of each country, on a website like the ones in the “Resources” section on the right, or in the country-specific materials given to you by your program.
- How many prominent politicians, athletes, artists, etc., in the host country can you name?
- Are there other languages spoken besides the dominant language? What are the social and political implications of language usage?
- What is the predominant religion?
- What are the important holidays? How are they observed?
- What are the expected gender roles?
- Are there any cultural taboos you should be aware of?
- What foods are most popular and how are they prepared?
- How do people organize their daily activities? What is the normal meal schedule? Is there a daytime rest period? What is the customary time for visiting friends?
- How do people greet one another? Shake hands? Embrace or kiss? How do they leave one another?
- If you are planning to live with a host family, learn a little about everyday family life. Ask returnees questions such as:
- Is it appropriate to shower every day and for how long?
- Will I appear rude if I study in my room?
- What kind of local transportation is available? Who typically uses it?
- Is the price asked for merchandise fixed, or are the customers expected to bargain?
- How will your financial position and living conditions compare with those of the majority of locals?
- What currency is used? What is the exchange rate?
The following questions may be program-specific. You can find the answers in the materials distributed by your program using the “Resources” section to the right or by contacting returnees.
- What are the visa requirements? Does the program assist in the application process?
- What do students do in their free time?
- Does the on-site staff let you know about events around the city?
- Are there university clubs, organizations, or social groups that you can join?
- Are there specific health/safety considerations you need to know about? Required immunizations?
- What are the average class sizes? Teaching styles?
- Will you (realistically) interact with local students?
- What is included in tuition? Does the program offer a stipend for cultural activities?
- What is the housing like? What is the food situation?
- Should you bring your host family a gift?
- Are there specific cultural activities that should not be missed?
- What is the culture surrounding alcohol use?
- Are there any identity or diversity considerations you should be aware of in the host culture?
- How much money should you expect to spend? What’s a realistic budget?