Studying abroad is a great opportunity to not only improve on your language skills, but to learn more about the location you are at in general. This includes not just the city you are in, but the entire country as well. When I studied abroad in Paris, I made it a point to not just focus on improving on my French speaking and writing skills, but to learn more about Paris and France as a whole.
And while you will inevitably go on mini field trips to some of the more popular places in your study-abroad city, the fact of the matter is that these places are more than likely going to be tourist destinations. And while seeing such places is definitely something you should be doing while abroad, you need to make sure that those places don’t define your time there. Think about it: any family going to Paris for two weeks could see those very same tourist destinations. What will make your months-long time in the city any different from theirs?
You need to make sure that you truly “live” in your new city – and definitely treat it as “your city” for that matter. Do not go around living as a tourist, or at the very least only live the tourist lifestyle for the first few days or so. The majority of your time should be spend uncovering the lesser known destinations that make your city great.
I remember a colleague who was with me while I was in Paris, who literally went to McDonalds every day after class. Yup, you read that right – an American student studying abroad went to McDonald’s of all places. And I can admit that going to McDonald’s just once to see how it differs in Paris might make some sense, but doing it every day was not only absurd, but honestly a waste of his valuable time in Paris.
Instead of being like my colleague, make it a point to try new places each and every day. In fact, make sure that you never go to the same restaurant or eatery at all while you are abroad, unless you find something that really is amazing and justifies going back to. Explore new parks to visit and walk down new streets whenever you get the opportunity. In short, make sure that you are fully immersing yourself in the city and all that it has to offer.
This may seem like a relatively small and perhaps even insignificant thing to do while you are abroad, but again, it is important to keep in mind that your time in any study-abroad city is limited. There is simply no time to waste doing and seeing the same things over and over, when there is so much of the city to explore. If you go to a big city like Paris for example, I can tell you through my own personal experiences that even half a year there will not be enough time for you to explore the entire city, no matter how hard you try. Although exploring the entire city may be impossible for you, it is your duty to do the best that you can.
And keep in mind that not all destinations will be absolutely amazing. There may even be places where you don’t particularly enjoy yourself for whatever reason. However, it is all part of the experience of living in a new city, plain and simple. As long as you make the most of your time in your city and make a concerted effort to do as much as humanely possible with the limited time that you have there, I can promise that you won’t regret your time there when it all comes to an end.