IIE Blog Opening Minds
IIE Blog Opening Minds

Top 10 Tips for Immersing Yourself in the Culture While Studying Abroad

By: Daniel Obst on Thursday, August 7, 2014

In an op-ed in the New York Times about the ‘world’s coolest places,’ columnist Nick Kristof writes that "travel can also be an education, a step toward empathy and international understanding." At IIE, we couldn't agree more. In fact, this was one of the most important factors that led to the establishment of IIE in 1919.

In IIE’s first annual report (956 KB, PDF), which was published in 1920, the founders described origins of the organization as follows: "The outbreak of the Great War found most Americans, even of the intelligent class, unfamiliar with many of the problems brought to the surface by it. Americans had devoted themselves almost exclusively to the development of the great resources of their country and had pursued a policy of comparative indifference to foreign affairs. This was not conducive to the development of the ‘international mind,’ so necessary to a sympathetic understanding of the problems and difficulties of other peoples."

One of the best ways to develop an ‘international mind’ is through study abroad. Earlier this year, we launched Generation Study Abroad, a five-year IIE initiative to mobilize resources and commitments with the goal of doubling the number of U.S. students studying abroad by the end of the decade. The initiative already has more than 300 commitment partners, including higher education institutions, study abroad organizations, governments, and associations.

This summer, thousands of American college students are studying or interning abroad in countries all around the world. And, as the authors of the recent IIE/AIFS Foundation book, A Student Guide to Study Abroad, write in a chapter on immersing yourself in the culture, “Spending time in a foreign country can’t help but open your eyes to the wider world, especially different ways of doing the everyday things that are common across cultures.”

I hope that all the students who are currently studying abroad are opening their eyes and minds to make the most of their experience.

Here are 10 tips for immersing yourself in the culture:

Top 10 Tips for Immersing Yourself in the Culture

Help us spread the word about the value of study abroad by sharing your experience, photos and thoughts with us on social media! Tag your posts with #generationstudyabroad and make sure to connect with IIE on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

A Student Guide to Study Abroad was written by IIE's President, Allan Goodman, Stacie Berdan, an international careers expert, and by Sir Cyril Taylor, AIFS Founder and Chairman. The paperback edition is available for purchase for just $14.95 in the IIE Bookstore; the eBook is only $5.95 and is available on Amazon for Kindle, Barnes & Noble for Nook and on iTunes for iPhone, iPad, and iTouch.

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  • Becky Kline said:
    8/19/2014 1:16 PM

    Most returning students seem to focus on the impact a study abroad experience has had on THEM: some version of "It changed me" or "I learned so much" are fairly typical comments. Can we advise students to prepare for reflection on the impact THEY had on people they encountered during the study abroad experience?

  • Paul Thomas said:
    10/4/2014 3:59 PM

    You can immerse your self into the French culture whilst in France as there is a project here in Brossac in South West France which offers internships and Volunteers program that centers around a French association. The association holds monthly fund raising events such as "a Soireé Cultural" or the up and comming Marché Noel or Christmas market and more is planned. The interns and volunteers at La Giraudiere work to put the event in place so the immersion into local French life is superb. You can read more at the website.

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For more than nine decades, the Institute of International Education has been at the forefront of international education. The Opening Minds blog is IIE’s take on how this field continues to change. Here the Institute’s leaders will explore international educational exchange, global student mobility, institutional partnerships, international development, and other topics and trends that are shaping higher education around the world.

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