Tips for Prioritizing Responsibilities While Abroad

Ameer Dunston headshot
Ameer Dunston
March 13, 2019

Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! It should be full of laughter, memorable experiences, growth, and many other things. While studying abroad is incredible, it is also important to remain cognizant of responsibilities during your time in a different country. The utilization of a planner and calendar are key for a successful semester or year abroad!

First, let’s talk education. It is important to take your studies seriously even while being abroad for a semester. For your credits to transfer back at your home institution, you must pass your classes. Therefore, you should take your studies seriously not only to receive class credit, but to further enhance your intellect in a global context, and to compare your education at your home institution to your semester abroad institution to assess your growth as a scholar. Use a calendar to mark all deadlines pertaining to quizzes, exams, and essays. It is highly effective to allocate time for studying in advance to allow yourself to have a smooth balance between classes and your social life. Also, perform research on the city you are studying abroad in throughout the semester. It is a great way to match your readings to your experience in your host country. Additionally, make friends with local citizens and other students who can inform you about the current economic, political, or educational climate in the country you are visiting. Challenge yourself and do not settle for less! The material I am learning in South Africa has been interesting thus far, and I am extremely proud of the knowledge I have acquired thus far, and I look forward to the knowledge I will acquire by the time my program ends.

Secondly, while abroad it is imperative to budget and keep track of your spending patterns. It is super easy to dive into excess spending because you are living in a new country and the conversion rate regarding currency exchange might work in your favor, but we are young adults, and therefore it is important to make mature decisions that will benefit you in the future. I highly recommend establishing a budget to track your expenses related to travel between countries, transportation, food, entertainment, savings, and other categories specific to your wants and needs. I highly encourage students who will study abroad in the future to buy groceries instead of eating out often. You will save tons of money by cooking inexpensive healthy lunches and meals during your time abroad. Also, it is important to note that you should budget prior to your departure date so that once you arrive in your host country, you are able to live comfortably and access the necessities important to your living experience for your semester abroad. Additionally, you should save while abroad. You may need to find housing for a summer internship if you study abroad during the months between January and June, and without proper management of money, you might not be able to find a reasonable housing situation. There are plenty of resources students can utilize to help budget and save while abroad. Students should visit which is an online personal financial education tool that provides guidance on all financial topics ranging from savings to investing. Budget, budget, budget!

Furthermore, while studying abroad it is important to keep track of scholarships, interviews, and other deadlines separate from class deadlines. For example, you may be interviewing for internships, volunteer work, or full-time jobs upon your return to your home country. Since the time zones are different, it is important to remain in constant communication with representatives for each organization or company you are working with. Additionally, you should designate time to apply for scholarships if this is a necessity. Lastly, you should keep track of other deadlines related to conferences or programs that are relevant to your fields of interest. For example, if you are passionate about education, you might want to research conferences or programs that are constructed specifically for students who share the same interests as you. This is important so that you may continue to be productive and proactive about your undergraduate experience during your return to your home country.

Furthermore, if you are a junior studying abroad, it is highly important you draft a plan for your senior year. In this plan, you should list several post-graduate opportunities, whether that is taking a gap year, working full time, or entering graduate school immediately, and make a list of pros and cons for each opportunity. Make a list of scholarships you may need to apply for if you are considering graduate school. Make a list of locations you may consider residing in after graduation. Whatever you do, just plan accordingly so that you can be prepared for any unexpected circumstances thrown your way.

Enjoy your semester abroad because when else are you going to live in another country for 5 months while completing your undergraduate degree? It's possible, but not too many students have this story to tell. I encourage all students planning to study abroad to follow through with the process, have plenty of fun while abroad, but remember you are still responsible for certain things. This experience will truly tap into your level of independency and skills related to discernment. You can have a tremendous experience while planning and budgeting accordingly. Your experience is what you make of it. Do you want your story to be one of horror or one of delight? I expect you would prefer the latter! 

Ameer Dunston headshot

Ameer Dunston

I am Ameer Dunston, a junior finance major & television & film minor from Buffalo, NY at Howard University. Additionally I am a 2016 Gates Millennium Scholar and I love to uplift others through any source possible.

2019 Spring
Home University:
Howard University
Buffalo, NY
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