Many college students study abroad, either because they have the opportunity, or because it’s required for their degree program.
Sometimes, it’s OK to look like a visiting tourist, but when you’re spending multiple months in another country, blending in is a better option than sticking out. Here are a few pointers on how to study abroad without seeming like a tourist.
Say “Au revoir” to English.
If you’re studying in a country that speaks another language, don’t speak English the entire time. Try to speak as much of your host country’s native tongue as possible. Not only will you become proficient in the language, but it will also make communication with locals easier: they appreciate it when you try. Picking up on the dialect of the city or village you now live in will make you seem more like a native and less like a visitor.
Ditch the duds.
If your ensemble screams “American,” ditch it. Hit up some local shops and thrift stores for a few key pieces to help you blend in with your neighbors in the classroom, workplace, or on the streets; this will help you to feel more comfortable in your new place and will most likely be more climate and culture-appropriate.
Grab a bite of culture.
Even if you’re unsure about some of the traditional meals in your new country, don’t seek out familiar chains like McDonald’s. Ease yourself into new gastronomic experiences by sampling some of the standard dishes of your country. These meals, which can be found easily throughout the country, will provide nourishment if you can’t eat the more traditional or odd-sounding dishes.
Travel in style.
Learn public transportation systems, especially Metro lines, as quickly as possible. More reliable and less expensive than taxis, public transportation is easy to use and can get you almost anywhere easily.
Spend time walking through your new home and getting lost. Carry a map for emergencies, but try not to use it if you can help it. Let yourself wander and then find your way back to your apartment or host house. You’ll get to see some of the main tourist spots and a few off-the-beaten-path ones as well. And you’ll feel especially proud of yourself when a weekend tourist stops you on the street to ask you for directions!
Keep digital memories with you.
Carry a camera everywhere you go and take lots of pictures. If you’re taking pictures of monuments, the pictures will be a great reminder of the walk or train line you took to get there. However, try to avoid taking “typical” photographs in front of main tourist spots – take pictures of monuments, buildings, or gardens off the beaten path, like the ones you discovered while you were getting lost.
Be a people person.
Make friends! Introducing yourself to neighbors is a great way to meet people and make new friends. Do not feel as if you need to hang out only with your fellow students. Becoming friends with the people in your neighborhood will help you immerse yourself into their culture. Speaking their native language will help you improve the skills you already have from classroom conversations.
Now that you have the skills necessary to survive your semester abroad, remember that you’re there to have fun and to learn, but the point of studying in another country, though, is to become immersed in the culture of their temporary home, not to be a tourist.