Holly W. is an international student from the U.K. studying at University of California, Berkeley. This summer, she is interning in the ISEP Central office working on student learning projects. Here she shares some advice for students preparing to study abroad on how you can use technology to your advantage.
During my time as a British international student in the U.S, I’ve realized that using technology strategically has helped me become better immersed in my host community. At the same time, I’ve also learned the value of turning off my laptop and unplugging from my cell phone. Here is my advice regarding the use of technology during study abroad, picked up from my experience as a foreign national in the U.S. over the course of my undergraduate degree.
1. Technology can help you find out about your host community
Use technology to your advantage to find out what’s happening in your host community: where you can go for a day out, where the best college restaurants are, where the best hikes are in the area and so on. Don’t be afraid to research places where you can meet new people from your host country to help you make local friends – are there any sports teams you can join, music groups you can audition for or clubs you can try out on campus?
2. Tune into local news
Part of the experience of studying abroad comes down to learning about the local media and how it presents current affairs. Watching the local news (on many different channels) has been one of the biggest factors influencing my understanding of the U.S. I recommend flicking on the TV before you leave for class in the morning to see how it compares with your home news channels (if you don’t have a TV then see if your laptop is able to tune into the local radio or TV news).
3. Travel with the help of technology
With the help of websites such as Airbnb and couchsurfing.com, I have been able to see much more of the U.S. than just my college town. Learning how to navigate foreign public transport and cities where English is not the first language is part of the learning curve when studying abroad. Technology helped make traveling possible for me since I was able to search and compare the cheapest options for transport and accommodation.
4. Use technology to stay in touch with friends when you leave
Although the time you spend on social media should always be kept in check during your study abroad, it is a great way to stay in touch with the friends you made abroad once you return to your home institution. Speaking for myself, some of the friends I’ve made while abroad at college in the U.S. will be friends for life, mostly thanks to technology.
5. Disconnect from social media
Don’t spend all your time during your study abroad skyping and messaging your hometown friends. Granted, it can be difficult being far away from home, especially when you first arrive, but your friends will all still be there when you get back. If you don’t put some boundaries on how much time you spend chatting with them via social media, you could miss out on important opportunities to make new friends, learn about your host culture and so much more.
Thanks for the tips, Holly! Do you have other ways you used technology to your advantage while you studied abroad? Share with us in the comments!