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How to prepare for my school year abroad?

School year abroad, an unforgettable experience for which you have to be prepared

With time, the adventure of studying a school year abroad has evolved a lot to become the complete experience that it is today. Studying in another country provides the perfect opportunity to acquire a bilingual level of another language, as well as being the best way to know different cultures and to be trained in an international education on which to build a future higher education.

Although each course thousands of students decide to take the step of studying an academic year in another country, many factors influence this experience and that condition the program of each student. For this reason, it is important to prepare well, to enjoy and get the most out of a school year abroad. If this idea goes through your head, here are some tips that can help you in this adventure, we continue!

Maria Guinea with her classmates during their school year in the United Kingdom

Desire and motivation, the most important thing!

To start with our tips we will highlight the most important of all: you will live and study in another country! This requires that you take into account many factors: you are going to live with a family different from yours, or in a residence with students from other parts of the world; you are going to a school with different subjects than you have in Spain; you will meet many new people (classmates, teachers, friends, relatives …); You may live in a place with a different climate than what you are used to … In short, many aspects of your life will change.

It is important that you accept this situation and that your desire and your motivation to carry out an academic year program abroad are real and intrinsic. We are sure that it will be an experience that you will remember for a lifetime, but it is also important that you do not feel pressured when it comes to deciding to study abroad. Many people have a higher level of connection and closeness to their environment and who do not wish to study abroad in such a strong way as to separate themselves from their family or their school. This situation is not better or worse, it is simply different and of course just as valid and respectable. If your motivation and willingness to embark on this program are not high enough and you have doubts about it, do not be afraid to consult it beforehand and, if necessary,

However, experience tells us that the majority of students who attend an academic year abroad overcome these small difficulties and end up integrating and adapting completely to their new culture, so much so that the end of the program arrives much earlier than they would you like 🙂

Inaki Uriagereka at a football game during his school year in the United States

The language, the first step

It is very likely that to study a school year abroad, some schools will do a language test to assess whether or not you are qualified to participate in the program. However, whether or not it is so, keep in mind that you must prepare and strive to achieve a level high enough to take advantage of the classes and your day to day as naturally as possible. Once there, the adaptation and the linguistic improvement will arrive without you noticing, but it is important that you do not wait to be in destiny to deepen in it.

Although in most cases the language in which you will receive the classes, and in which you will have to live in your day to day, will be English, the destinations for an academic year abroad are very varied and diverse: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany… With this, we mean that, as it happens with Spanish, depending on which region or country you are studying you will find variations and differences concerning the English that you will have studied at your school in Spain. So a good way to polish these details and differences could be to familiarize yourself with the contents of these places: movies, TV series, music, books … And this situation should also be taken into account if your destination is a country with a language other than English

Borja Millán, school year student in Canada

The importance of keeping an open mind

As we mentioned before, a school year abroad implies a series of changes to which we must adapt to enjoy the program as much as possible. For starters, if you stay with a host family, it can have many characteristics that differentiate you from yours: it can be composed of more or fewer members, of different ages or sexes, with different customs or religious creeds, living in one more house large or smaller … The same can happen to you if you stay in a residence, where your companions may have very different or varied origins and customs.

In addition to the aspects that will change as far as your accommodation is concerned, there are differences regarding school and education. A different educational system, with new subjects, a way of studying and working that you are not used to, different schedules, a greater presence of sport … In short, a series of novelties that go hand in hand with the program and that will hit you in greater or smaller measure, which makes it very important to be able to keep an open mind and be flexible to changes. Remember that you should be the one who adapts to your new reality and not the other way around, so the more proactive you are, the easier it will be for you.

Teresa Ballester and her friends. The academic year in the United States.

An immersion in a new culture

Within the preparation for an academic year abroad, there is an equally important aspect to know the language or the daily routine that you will face: inform yourself about your new culture. Some circumstances and characteristics affect your new society in a much more general way and that are present everywhere, and although many of them will be discovered as the week’s progress, it is recommended that you investigate in depth how your new destination works.

Among the things that you can foresee before starting the program and that you can start to investigate include: the currency that is used and an estimate of the prices of certain products, the usual schedules of the classes and the shops, the climate that makes every season of the year, how to act in emergencies, festivities and traditions, means of transport … Read and learn a bit about these details will surely come your way to reduce culture shock and adapt faster to your new environment.

Our student Carmen Cerdido, preparing pumpkins for Halloween

Do not forget, there is a course to pass!

At this point, you are almost ready for the new course, but you should not forget about just that, the course. This program perfectly combines the cultural immersion and the academic year, with equal importance for both fields, with what you have to keep in mind at all times if you want to progress academically and continue your studies the following year (either in Spain or, again, abroad), you must pass all the subjects.

Although the educational system and the subjects are different, we are sure that the course will have one thing in common with those you have done in Spain, there will be parts that are easier for you and others that cost you more. For this reason, you should give your all and strive to obtain the best possible grades. After all, returning with countless anecdotes, memories, experiences and a course passed would be the perfect end to your school year abroad, right? 😉

Graduation of Jorge Oliveros and his classmates