8 Study Abroad Tips

Stella M. is currently a junior at SYA France and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Saint Mary's Hall in Texas.

Bonjour! Currently, I am on a school trip with SYA France in one of the most magical cities in the world: Paris! During Christmas Break, I was lucky enough to go to with my family, and I was most certainly reminded of its magnificence. However, coming back with my class has molded an entirely different experience, one that I don’t think I will ever forget. Whether it was seeing La Tour Eiffel light up on a chilly night, discovering new restaurants, or walking aimlessly through the charming streets of Paris, these past few days have been unforgettable.

So, as most of you have already turned in your applications for SYA, I thought it would be fitting to give some insight into what I think will truly enhance your year abroad.

8 Tips:

  1. Don’t sweat the small things.

●     While the past five months have been incredible, it has, undoubtedly, been filled with ups and downs, That being said, don’t allow your inevitable mistakes the power to affect you. Instead, accept them and learn to move on. There have been times when I have been way too hard on myself because of the bus I missed or the homework I forgot to do, and I can say that the worrying did not help me in the slightest.

  1. Write.

●     In September, I told myself that I was going to write every single day. Let me tell you, it is much harder than it seems. I wrote for the first couple weeks, and then eventually abandoned this nightly ritual. Flash forward four months to January, I made the decision to commit to writing every single day. I can’t speak for everyone, but I think being able to look back on each day spent living abroad is pretty incredible.

  1. Make a genuine effort to connect with your host family.

●     I could not be happier with my host family, and I could not imagine this year without them. At the beginning of the year, I was much more timid when I was spending time with them, whether it was at the dinner table or taking a walk in the park. I soon arrived at the realization that this shyness wasn’t doing me any good, and in order to “profitez-bien,” you have to put in the effort to speak often and contribute, and soon it will come naturally. I used to rehearse my sentences in my head before saying a simple sentence; now, that has completely changed and I am happy to say that I am truly at ease. My host family members treat me like I am a part of the family, and I will always treasure that.

4. Understand.

●     Vague in its nature, I have found that in order to adapt to a new way of life, you have to try and understand what you are experiencing. It’s easy to spot the differences between the old and the new. What I have noticed, however, is that in order to truly understand a culture, you have to pay lots of attention, listen attentively to others, whether or not you initially have similar opinions, and ask questions. There is still so much I don’t know about France, but I do feel that I have learned a lot as result of having this certain mindset and expressing a sincere curiosity.

  1. Be open to making new friends and forming relationships all throughout the year.

●     You will start talking to people in the airport before your departure. You will sit with a group of people at Jean Mace the first week. And, eventually, you will have invaluable friendships with people who you cannot imagine living without. I am still getting to know people better, and I think having a class of about fifty students allows you to get to know everyone pretty well. The year is already flying by, and I think opening yourself up to to different people and not confining yourself to a certain group of friends makes the experience even so much better.

  1. Have fun and live in the present!

●     Being a junior in high school, there are many stress and anxiety inducing things to think about. College will come, jobs will be on the horizon, but the opportunity to spend a year abroad in high school will unfortunately never make an another appearance. I am currently attempting to only focus on today, the present, and only that. This applies to the general scheme of things, but I think this way of thinking is especially important  when you are doing something like SYA.

7. Make your own traditions.

●     Rennes is a remarkable city, and I do feel a sense of home when I’m strolling the cobblestone streets. My friends and I have scoped out the town, and we find ourselves drawn to the same spots such as CupYou or Columbus Cafe. I think we have consistently eaten frozen yogurt Friday after school for the past month. :) It’s been something nice to look forward to after a long week of classes, as we will sit in the booths for hours talking and laughing on countless and completely unrelated subjects.

8. Look at the glass half full instead of half empty.

●      I am usually an all-around positive person, and I am a firm believer in the phrase “Look at the glass half full instead of half empty.” You can focus on the negative aspects of life, or, you can revert your attention to the brighter side. Your attitude has the power to completely transform your experience, and while naturally spending a year abroad in high school will be a tumultuous ride, simply stepping outside and smiling can turn the day around.

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