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Four Steps to Making Your Year Abroad a Success

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An increasing number of young people are choosing to study internationally as a launching pad for a successful career. Every year, thousands of students hit the road to have new experiences and meet new challenges in a foreign country. I’ve helped and advised on academic exchanges for many years now, and have developed four simple steps which I believe can help ensure you’re well prepared for your long trip abroad.

Ask friends and family to help you set some goals before you go


You don’t want your academic exchange to become a boring experience, so avoid complacency by asking people around you – your classmates, friends-of-friends, mentors and lecturers –for ideas and suggestions on what to do and how to best achieve your own goals and objectives.

For example, we had a group of students who went from Kazakhstan to Hong Kong for one semester, and they worked together to draw up their goals and objectives for the trip. By doing this, they developed a comprehensive to-do list and arranged more things in advance of leaving for Hong Kong than they might otherwise have done.

Don’t forget to keep up-to-date with events back home


One of the biggest mistakes you can make is forgetting that in a few months’ time you’ll have to go home to your alma mater. Many programs and projects will move forward without you and new projects will start. Therefore, it’s important to maintain communication with your home university and stay in the loop. Check all deadlines for grants, internships and scholarship opportunities at your home university, and also follow any sporting events or other competitions which you have an interest in.

Share what you learn with others


Communicating your experiences is a fantastic way to network and build important connections. Talk to your lecturers back home – maybe they would be happy to integrate things you’ve experienced into their classroom program or use you as a case study. It might be that your host university has a society which could benefit from learning more about where you’ve come from, or you produce a helpful vlog that goes viral. Whatever it is, think of creative ways to share your experiences with people who could learn from them.

Be energetic and engage with your new environment


Moving to a new place is never easy, but you can make a success of it by being energized and making the most of every opportunity. Communicate with sports clubs and societies to find similarly-minded groups of people you can interact with. Check the university calendar for events you can participate in and get to know people. Be adventurous and explore new customs, cultures and cuisines. Remember: you won’t get this opportunity again, so don’t waste a minute of it.

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Rafis Abazov's profile image
Written by Rafis Abazov
Dr Rafis Abazov is a visiting professor at Al Farabi Kazakh National University, Almaty, Kazakhstan, where he also manages a joint program with Earth Institute of Columbia University (New York, USA). He has written 10 books, including The Culture and Customs of the Central Asian Republics (2007) and has regularly contributed op-eds to The New York Times. Mr Abazov enjoys collecting rare books on British exploration of Central Asia and reading travelogues on Central Asia and the Middle East by Eugene Schuyler, Vladimir Bartold and Lord George Curzon. He has also authored photo exhibitions about his trips to Central Asian republics, Turkey and Afghanistan. Contact info: Office 1400 Rectorat, 71 Al Farabi Ave., Al Farabi KazNU, Almaty, 050040, Kazakhstan

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1 Comment

In a lot of ways, my experience was exactly how I imagined it would be. I’m so glad I got a chance to experience the places, people, and events that I did.