Who is the current prime minister of Italy? What is traditional Spanish cuisine? What exactly does Brexit mean? If you are going abroad soon and don’t know the answers to these questions, you will want to do some research while you’re packing.
Researching your destination helps you feel more comfortable in your surroundings. Demonstrating knowledge of your host culture also shows respect and interest- qualities that will serve you well when making new friends abroad.
Here are five easy ways to learn about your host culture before going abroad:
1. Other students: Talk to international students at your university who may be from your intended destination (this is a great chance to practice language skills, too!). Ask the study abroad office to put you in touch with students who have recently studied in the city or country you will be going to.
2. Guidebooks: Series such as Lonely Planet and Let’s Go are tailored to young travelers and come in hard copy and electronic versions. They often include a brief overview of the country’s history and culture, in addition to offering recommendations for accommodation, restaurants, and travel tips.
3. Social Media: Follow students and locals in your host country. Seeing their images and posts will get you excited and introduce you to fun places to explore. To get started, check out SAI on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest!
4. News Outlets: Start reading a local news source, such as the BBC (United Kingdom), El Pais (Spain), La Repubblica (Italy), or Le Monde (France). Become familiar with what the top stories are, and be prepared to have discussions on those topics when you arrive.
5. Movies: There are lots of films and documentaries available for streaming and download that can help get you prepared. Anything that takes place in your host country – from L’Auberge Espanole to Anthony Bourdain – will give you a glimpse of what’s to come.
Study abroad will offer you lots of opportunities to discover the unexpected – but doing a little groundwork before you go will ease your transition and help you make the most of your time abroad.