- Get lost
It is easy to visit all the hotspots when going to a new place. While these “must sees” may be on your to do list, it is important to get out of your comfort zone. Pick a day when the weather is nice, forget the map, and explore. Don’t forget that it’s OK to ask questions and interact with locals. This is the best way to learn about your city. Maybe you’ll even stumble upon a favorite place during the adventure! Don’t just observe… Experience!
- Make friends with locals
Seeing how others live allows you to really understand the culture. Making friends with other Americans may be comfortable, but you won’t learn about your country’s customs, traditions, and way of life. The locals will help you feel more at home, and content in your new city. Plus, these friendships could last forever… Giving you free housing when you want to return (because you will)!
- Achieve your goals
Give yourself a mission. Making a list of the goals you want to achieve while abroad is helpful. It causes you to shape your values and accomplish everything you want to before you return home. Travelers have ambition, drive, and determination.
- Don’t buy souvenirs
A keychain or a silly gift shop knick-knack will only last so long. Look for local markets or artists. This is where you will find the memories you bring back that will last a lifetime. Buying unique objects that remind you of your experience abroad are priceless.
- Have empathy
Keep an open mind and have empathy. You’re not in America anymore and things will be different. Instead of complaining about the differences of home and abroad, embrace the change and grow from the experience. Have a positive attitude!
- Immerse yourself in the culture
Try to learn the language. Go to local restaurants and try new food. Participate in activities or events that are important to the community. Read the local newspaper. Plan to do something new everyday.
Kristie Kovarovic is a senior at The University of Kentucky studying Communications. She participated in the API program in Florence, Italy in Fall 2015.