Make the most out of your international experience!
Practically, you will have a few logistics that you’ll need to remember to do while you’re away. These will be highlighted below.
Few experiences offer as many learning opportunities as spending time abroad and having an international experience be it even for a short amount of time.
Ten ways to make the most of your international experience
1. Make local connections
It some countries, making local friends and meeting local families was not easy to do, but it can be the most rewarding aspect of an international experience.
Please keep in mind that socialization patterns are different across cultures and the way one goes about developing and nurturing a friendship can be quite different from here at home.
Depending on how long your international experience is, consider volunteering while abroad or joining local clubs or student organizations to connect with local community members.
Posting on blogs, personal web pages, and other social networking sites are a wonderful way to document your experiences abroad. Some students keep a personal journal while abroad and find they read it and re-read it in the months and years after they return.
Writing can lead to deeper reflection and understanding of international experiences and how they affect each student in a unique way.
As part of your intercultural training program, you will be given a journal to reflect on your intercultural learning so this will be a great way to document your international experience.
3. Travel (but not every weekend)
Go on, explore the area, see the sights, try new things! But, don't forget why you chose to have an international experience in the location you did.
Get to know the people in your host community. How do they structure their lives? What concerns are they facing? What makes them happy? Seek to interact with those you might normally not meet, such as the senior population, non-profit groups, or other local citizens that are not necessarily associated with your education program.
By better understanding your local community, you will gain a context in which to process what you learn in the classroom!
4. Break out of your comfort zone
It is not easy to break away from the comfort of people from the same country and perhaps the same university who are going through a similar cultural adaptation process, but spending quality time with people other than other students from your home country or from MtA allows you to form more meaningful relationships within the host culture and deepen your understanding of local traditions and the intercultural experience.
5. Live like a local
Shopping, eating and socializing with local students is surely the best way to control costs and as an added bonus you will get to see and do things that you might not have known about from a guide book or the internet.
6. Show appreciation across cultures
Leaving a tip in a restaurant, sending a thank you card or offering a kind word are all typical ways to express our appreciation here at Mount Allison.
Showing appreciation in a different culture might require a new approach. In some cultures, for example, gift giving is very important.
How do people where you are studying show their appreciation? Using the language appropriately, observing societal norms and expectations, and following established protocols can demonstrate your appreciation.
7. Involve your family (but do not depend on them)
By the time you arrive in your host country, you will have already jumped over many hurdles, including sorting through piles of pre-departure paperwork, keeping a good GPA, and packing the essential items for success abroad.
Our advice to you is to view your family members as advisers, mentors, or consultants but refrain from using them as assistants, secretaries or trouble-shooters.
By empowering yourself to address the challenges and opportunities of daily life abroad, you gain skills in intercultural communication, problem solving, navigation, and much more. Embrace these opportunities for growth!
8. Culture adjustments
Adjusting to a new culture certainly has its emotional ups and downs. Working through daily challenges abroad means that you are moving away from being a tourist toward having more meaningful engagement with the culture.
As difficult as it can be, this is a time for you to consider your own values, assumptions and beliefs and to explore how they are being challenged by your new experiences. Keep in mind that adjustment depends largely on the individual, degree of cultural difference (and perceptions of similarity) and other situational factors.
9. Study the culture
Traveling, learning the local language, and pursuing outside social interests are just some of the many ways you can enjoy your time abroad. But keep in mind that your academic courses are also a great way to pursue in-depth knowledge of your host culture.
Become a specialist in some area of the culture! Don't be satisfied by writing a paper on the contemporary politics of the place where you're studying and not interview a local politician, for example.
If you have the opportunity, don't miss out on studying alongside local students by enrolling directly in a local institution.
10. Develop a new perspective
Quite often the most important things you need to know about a culture, no one ever tells you.
Through time, experience and keen observation, however, you'll begin to discover the cultural knowledge people are using to organize their behaviour. What values, attitudes and assumptions inform that behaviour?
Try to discover the worldviews of those in the host culture by putting aside your own predetermined notions of the way the world is or should be. Challenge your definitions of discrimination and prejudice. What significance do these issues have for those in the host culture?
Logistics when you're there
Exchange students: submit your confirmation of arrival
Submit the Form 1-F (Confirmation of Arrival in Host Country) to the International Centre within 10 days of your arrival to your host country.
There is important information on this form, including your contact information, current address, and updated course load.
If there have been any changes to your courses, report them on Form 1-F and the international affairs co-ordinator will contact the exchange advisor to commence a quick transfer credit assessment of your new courses.
Preparing to leave your host country
1) Complete your Intercultural Training Program
Log back in to the Intercultural Training Program in Moodle and complete Module 2 — Returning Home.
This second part of the program focuses on the re-entry process and will help prepare you for leaving your host country but will also help you to navigate the often difficult process of coming home and re-entering your degree at MtA.
There are many great resources and the module includes ways to connect with your community in a meaningful way after having an international experience, even if for short amount of time.
2) Transferring credits (if applicable)
Make sure an original copy of your transcript be sent to Mount Allison when you have completed your studies at your host university.
Important: do not get transcripts sent to your personal mailbox. The registrar’s office does not accept transcripts that have been opened by students.
If you're on an exchange with a partner university
Most partner universities will automatically send your transcript back to Mount Allison but some require that you submit the request in writing.
Transcripts should be sent to the International Centre:
Mount Allison University
62 York St.
Sackille, NB E4L 1E4
Fax: (506) 364-2263
Once the we receives your official transcript from your exchange studies, the Registrar's Office will use your form 1-E, and form 1-F and transfer the credits to your Mount Allison account.
If you're on an independent study abroad
While you are on your self-designed international study, make sure you request a transcript be sent directly to the registrar's office.
Mount Allison University
62 York St.
Sackille, NB E4L 1E2
Fax: (506) 364-2272
How will the transfer credits appear on my transcript?
Transfer credits will appear at the top of your transcript and can be viewed online through Connect.
Courses from abroad will be listed on your Mount Allison transcript as exchange transfer courses at the beginning of your degree audit.
They will show up as pass/fail credits with no evaluation attached to them.
They DO NOT appear under the term you were abroad.
What if I want additional copies?
If you would like additional copies of your transcript for graduate school applications, it is best to make this request while you are still a student at the host university.
Speak with the staff at your host university's international centre for more information.
When returning home, some students are surprised to find they experience as much, or more, culture adjustment as when they first began their international experience.