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Sophia's Advice on Studying Abroad

Preparing for a trip abroad, where you will be submerged into a new culture, can be a daunting prospect. Readying yourself as much as possible beforehand will limit the stress of traveling greatly. Here are things I have been doing to prepare myself:

Research Your Host Country

Research is key in knowing what you will face in the new country you will be visiting. Look up current events of the country as a whole and the specific area that you'll be staying in. This way you will know what has been happening in the area and you will be able to participate in conversations about them, probably impressing your host family along the way!
Though current events are important to keep up on, they are not the only thing you should research. Make sure to familiarize yourself with popular activities, sports, games, food, fashion, TV shows, songs, celebrities, sights and slang, along with cultural norms, etiquette, signs of respect, locational grammar, weather and appropriate mannerisms. These will help you feel included in daily conversations and help you make sure you are being a polite guest in the local culture. The internet will, of course, be helpful but going to the library will allow you to check out books in the new language and improve your comprehension skills. As research goes, do as much as you can, but keep in mind that local life will be different than a tourist’s point of view on a website. Prepare for culture shock even if you think you're a textbook pro. 

Share Your Own Culture

As you are interested in the country you're visiting, your host family will be interested in the country you come from. Make sure that you have pictures accessible to you in the country you're visiting that you can show your family. What you do on a daily basis, what you do for fun, where you've gone for vacations, what your town life is like and who your friends are will be something your family will want to hear about. Make a photo album on your phone, if that is doable, specifically for your host family and practice explaining each picture you will show them. This will help you discover useful words you will need to know and help you describe your home life as well as you can!
Alongside your pictures, throw in a few videos of you briefly explaining an area that wouldn't be captured in a photo. Do the explanations in Spanish and English as it will be interesting for your actual family and your host family to hear the translations in a foreign language. As an extra thank you to your host family for welcoming you into their lives and culture, bring them trinkets from your area as gifts. These will help them remember you once you leave and make them feel appreciated. Try and make the gifts relate to a key aspect of your hometown, and If you want to be super awesome, find some of your favourite recipes from your daily life and offer to prepare a meal for your host family, while still appreciating the food that they introduce to you. 

Make a To-Do List

A majority of the stress that you feel when traveling is that you have forgotten something essentialyou just can't remember what. To prevent this gut-wrenching feeling, make a list of every single thing that you will be needing on your trip. Start months beforehand, listing all the basics and the quantity of each you'll bring to the very last bobby pin. You may think it's a pain now, but when on some random Wednesday you remember that you would be lost without that one sentimental memento, you will be extremely grateful that you started your list so early. Once you believe that you have everything that you could possibly need, pack it all up for practice, then go around the house looking for anything you could have missed, that is not in the exact bag, with the exact items you will bring on your trip. Do this also with what you will bring in your carry-on bag for the flight, making sure you have your passport, boarding pass, flight information, and headphones, so you will be completely prepared and packed for your big adventure. 
Enjoy the process of readying yourself for a completely new experience. It is amazing that you get to live in a new culture and speak a new language. Make sure you appreciate each and every moment. 

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