We hope so far you have gained some valuable knowledge of the East Asian culture from reading our posts. This time before we share our weekly experiences we decided to write a section including five tips of how to have the best experience when studying or working abroad.
We have traveled and worked in seventeen cities within China two in Thailand and one in Vietnam (so far). Within these places, we’ve spoken to numerous students, parents, and employees from all over East Asia about how they can get the best out of their time when they go abroad for school. Studying or working abroad is a BIG decision! It isn’t like going to the mall to pick out a new outfit; it’s a huge step forward to bettering your future and ultimately your career. It’s an investment of your time, money and life. We hope that if you are going abroad soon or even if it is something you decide to do in the future that you take our advice into consideration.
5 Crucial tips of how to have the best experience studying or working abroad:
1. Use the amenities & services
Take the time to find out what services are included in your tuition fees/benefits when you are studying at a new school or working at a new job! Take advantage of these amenities they will better your overall knowledge as a student & as a professional. Some examples of amenities that full time students get at Georgian College are: Peer mentoring, tutoring, counselling, health insurance, the writing center, the athletic center (gym membership), research help, and IT support. There are also a numerous amount of events & activities provided by GCSA (Georgian College Students Association) and many more services to better your success.
2. Join a team/club, activity that you enjoy, or have interest in learning about Getting involved will help you meet new people and build long lasting friendships. Be sure to check out what the Student Association has to offer where your located and how you can get involved. At Georgian College (Barrie Campus) we have the Georgian College Students Association (GCSA). If you have an idea of a new club that you want to start, you can go to GCSA and turn that idea into reality. Regardless of if your serious about playing a sport, or just want to play for fun, we have varsity sports team, intramurals, extramurals as well as so many other options within the Athletic Center department.
3. Make friends with residents
When you create good friendships with people that live in the area your residing in this will help you learn more about the culture, and ultimately learn how to adapt faster. For both of us, so many friendships that we have are with people from the culture we have visited. From doing this, we have built great connections for our careers. Most importantly though, doing this helps you learn valuable information that you wouldn’t learn from a book or a classroom setting. Ask questions and be curious it is the best way you can fully discover what you want to know about where you are.
4. Speak the Language!
This one is so important. Too many times people travel abroad, spending so much money and time with an end goal to adapt but then stay in their comfort zone. They find a group of friends that all speak the same language as them and they live day to day as if they would have if they were still living back home. We are writing this tip here to suggest to you don’t be shy or ashamed of making mistakes when you’re learning a new language! If you don’t make mistakes, you will never learn. The more that you speak the language of the culture you’re in, the quicker you will learn and the quicker that you learn, the more you will grow. Take the time to think deeply about your end goal. During the times that you feel uncomfortable, focus on why you started.
“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”
– Albert Einstein
Volunteering is also a great way to meet new people and learn about the culture. Sometimes when you go abroad at first, it can feel like you’re doing a lot all at once. Volunteering will help distract your mind if you’re feeling overwhelmed about studies or work. Even if you just volunteer for one or two hours a week, it’s a great way to help others and get involved with your campus or city. Instead of thinking that volunteering will just “add more to your schedule” see it as an activity to clear your mind. Also, it looks great on your resume in Canada ;)!
So, do you want to know what we did while we had our quick vacation stop in Bangkok, Thailand?! At first the thought of relaxing poolside and enjoying our time off felt like a great idea when we arrived in Bangkok, BUT we decided to do the total opposite and fill our days with activities! Our friend from Australia recommended a great driver, Suthep. He took us to a couple of authentic areas in and around Bangkok. On the days that we weren’t with Suthep, we filled our time with some fun stuff as well. Our itinerary went as follows:
July 16th – Arrive in Bangkok, visit chatuchak market, check into hotel, get Thai massages at Health land (they were incredible), dinner.
July 17th – Three hour Bicycle tour with “Co Van Kessel, Bangkok Tours” (highly recommend them), lunch, back to Health land for a relaxing massage, meet with our Aussie & Thai friends have dinner at Khao San Road (backpacker area) thanks for a great time Carly, Peter & Anchelee!
July 18th – Meet Suthep, drive to see the elephants, walk around Amphoe Bang Lamung, eat delicious Thai food for lunch (found the best pad thai), spend time at Nang rum Beach near Pattaya, meet our Canadian friend, Brittany for dinner and rooftop drinks on Sukhumvit 11
July 19th – Meet with Suthep and get Thai tattoos, lunch at Khao San Road, bargaining at Khao San Road, visit The Grand Palace, dinner and adventuring around, pack for our flight the next day
July 20th – Breakfast, adventure around Sukhumvit Road, drive to airport to head to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam!
When we arrived to Ho Chi Minh city (HCMC), we had three great presentations. HCMC is located in the south-eastern region of the country and is the largest city in Vietnam by population. Our first presentation was with Loc, at IDP Agency, the second at the TMS agency and the third was with Loc again but for a pre-departure meeting for students going abroad. All the presentations were fantastic, and the students were so eager to learn about how the student life is in Canada. We would like to thank everyone who helped us in Ho Chi Minh city. Although our visit was short, we had such a great time with all of you!
Next week we are off to Hanoi, Vietnam then back to China! Stay tuned for next weeks post, we are going to share some great information about reverse culture shock. As always, the rest of our photos are posted below. Also we would love to hear from you, leave us a comment and share our blog!
Until next time,
Melissa & Paulo