If you’re participating on any Education Abroad experience, there will definitely be time for learning. For example, if you go on a service abroad program you will learn about culture, and if you go on a teach abroad program, you will learn what the decorum is like in an international classroom. However, you are not just learning, teaching, interning, researching, or providing service abroad. So, what do you do with the rest of your time? Bars and pubs? Travel? Hanging out with new-made friends? Regardless, you will learn outside of the program you went on.
While you’re abroad you do have to focus on the reason you’re there, however. You will be able to immerse yourself in a culture unlike the one back here in Lexington. You will be constantly surrounded by locals of where your program is located. This is a learning experience in itself. What all is involved then? It can’t be that hard, right? Well there are a lot of moving parts to the location you are in. Some of the variables are currency, food, language, mode of transport, social context, etc. All of these will become second nature by the time you have left your program, but learning these are crucial in order to have a successful experience. Take currency, for example. Currency is always changing. The pound was nearly one and a half times what the dollar was, and now that currency has fallen.
Though there are some of the more tangible things in a particular country, there are also other ways that you will learn while abroad. You will learn about traveling, how to book flights, where to avoid, the best watering holes, and how to research. If you don’t believe me, let me put this in perspective for you. While I was abroad, I had 2 weeks off for Easter Break (Spring Break in England). During my Easter holiday, I was able to travel throughout London, Amsterdam, Munich, Prague, Vienna, Innsbruck, and Zurich before returning back to Oxford. I learned that that smiling in the Czech Republic is frowned upon due to the fact that smiling to someone in public is a come on. I learned that you should always carry at least 50 Euros in cash, because some places only take cash, and there will be some situations where you will need the quick cash. I learned that taking a night train is the most magical experience someone can have. I learned that regardless of where you go or how long you are in one location, the amount of respect for others will grow (and so will your tolerance for others). I learned that even if you travel alone somewhere, you’re never alone because awesome, new people are just one conversation away.
Education Abroad offers a lot of amazing experiences. The greatest experience that someone can get involved with while abroad is culture. By understanding the small things about a culture will lead you onto a whirlwind of adventures and learning outside of your typical settings as a student at UK.
Connor Bechtol studies Management and Marketing at the University of Kentucky, and he just returned from studying for the full academic year at Oxford Brookes University.