Your semester abroad doesn’t have to be something you did way-back-when, during which you took a couple (thousand) photos, drank a lot (legally!) and then promptly left in the past. That well-stamped passport of yours means you’re a traveler extraordinaire. Use your new sense of adventure, independence and self-awareness to turn up the rest of your college game.
1. FILL YOUR SCHEDULE WITH COOL CLASSES
Remember how fashion and décor in the renaissance period caught your interest when in Copenhagen, or when you realized, holy crap, you don’t actually HATE learning about the historical reception of Shakespeare in the 16th century. Don’t leave your renewed interest in learning tucked away in your suitcase. Sign up for more exciting electives, take charge of your education and say “Sayonara” to the days of dreading going to class. Well, sort of. Studies show studying abroad makes you smarter, too, so don’t be too surprised when you rock a 4.0 this semester.
2. DOWNLOAD (AHEM, RENT LEGALLY) THE MOST FITTING MOVIE.
Few things feel better than curling up on the couch, firing up your old VHS player and mindlessly scarfing down popcorn while you reminisce on the glory days of your semester abroad vis-à-vis a dorky kids movie. Pro tip: Get the sing along versions.
Here’s a regional cheat sheet if you need some inspo:
Europe: Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, 101 Dalmatians, Pinocchio, Cinderella, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Beauty and the Beast, the Aristocats, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Tangled, Hercules, Ratatouille, Frozen, Anastasia, The Little Mermaid
South Pacific: Finding Nemo, Lilo and Stitch, Rescuers Down Under, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (I couldn’t resist)
Asia: The Jungle Book, Aladdin, Ponyo, Big Hero 6, Totoro, Kung Fu Panda
Latin America: Up, The Emperor’s New Groove, Rio, A Bug’s Life
Africa: The Lion King, Tarzan, The Prince of Egypt, Madagascar
Antarctica: Happy Feet
3. GRAB YOUR STUDY ABROAD BESTIE AND JOIN A NEW CLUB.
Your home campus is brimming with opportunities begging for your helping hand and mediocre “that’s what she said” jokes. Whether you have an interest in bumping up your volunteer hours, joining a performing arts group or helping new international students get acclaimed to life on campus, now’s the time. You might even consider getting involved with your university study abroad office to inspire future students to be brave, take the leap and travel like you did. When you start applying for that competitive internship or your first high-paying job, you’re going to stand out. You’ll being able to demonstrate how studying abroad motivated you to participate in new causes, gaining more leadership roles on campus. Bada bing, your offer is clinched in the palm of your hand.
4. MASTER A RECIPE FROM YOUR STUDY ABROAD COUNTRY.
The sharp pangs of missing your study abroad destination will slowly find their way to your dinner plate. It’s a real shame the “Americanized” versions of our favorite foreign foods no longer satisfy your cravings for an exotic meal. Sorry local Chinese buffet, Chipotle and Olive Garden, I’ve moved on to tastier things. Instead of signalling defeat or an urgent reason to buy a plane ticket back, view this as an invitation to don your most colorful apron and take your talents to the kitchen. No matter if you want to become an aficionado of alfajores from Argentina or a connoisseur of Cambodian curries, the best way to connect your experience abroad with your life back home is to invite ALL of your senses to the party. Prepare a dorm feast for all of your friend’s tastebuds, showing off your new Wolfgang Puck skills. Besides, you’ll have a (trapped) audience to hear about your time abroad.
5. LIVE MORE CONSCIOUSLY.
You have wrestled with defining your character and how you fit into the great, big scheme of things. You’ve looked directly into the eyes of hundreds of people who live lives that look nothing like yours. You’ve grappled with your privilege and gained insight on your cultural identity. You’ve raised your awareness and therefore have a responsibility to live with more consciousness towards the people and finite resources of this planet. Walk or bike to class instead of driving. Commit yourself to seeing all sides of the story. Pledge to become a more informed citizen. Utilize your new communication skills to improve your relationships. Explore creative ways to better others in your communities, whether on campus, in town, in your country and beyond. Stop only short of world domination.
Just because your story has changed from “I’m going to study abroad” to “I’m studying abroad” and now to “I studied abroad” doesn’t mean that it’s over. Continue building on and unpacking the lessons from your semester (same with the new wardrobe you brought back). And if you connect your experience abroad to your life back home as well as Queen B and Jay-z connected, then there are even more unforgettable (minus the tequila) nights to be made.