Advice for New Students

For new students planning a gap year, I would recommend first planning your locations and making sure they are approved by FSU ahead of time. I personally ran into a lot of problems because of this. All the information required to fill out can be tedious, but just remember it is necessary as all this program wants is to help support your exploration of and your curiosity for worldly knowledge and to keep you safe. The next thing I would recommend is making sure you’re preparing well ahead of time. You should take no chances; make sure your passport is up to date as soon as possible (because it can take up to three months to send it in, have it updated, and returned), check for your nearest passport clinic and make sure you have all your vaccinations, and make sure you are fully packed for and educated on your destination. For my first trip, I went in way-over packed and apart of this was because I did not do enough research and ask enough questions about my environment. I had a general understanding of my destination, but if I would have known more information about it ahead of time from simply asking more questions I could have avoided various airport fines from heavy baggage. And, finally, my last recommendation for next year’s FSU study abroad students is do your best to immerse in your environment, but also give yourself leeway. It is impossible by realistically even the first month to be fully adapted to your environment. A lot of times I had unrealistic expectations that because I had a similar ethnic background to the location I was traveling to or because I took various language classes in middle and high school that it would be easy for me to adapt. Going into a new environment whether or not you are aware of the culture or the language because of past exposure is always going to be difficult. There are times you are not going to understand the language, the culture, and the people because they are so different from what you are used to, but with time you will adapt. Of course, you need to continuously try to interact for this to happen, but you should also not force yourself too fast into doing various things that you are uncomfortable with. My first month in Santo Domingo I would only try to watch tv and movies, listen to podcasts, play games, listen to music in Spanish, and force my self to engage in Dominican cultural and conversation as much as possible. I was desperate to do anything to improve my Spanish conversational and comprehension skills as soon as possible. In reading this that actually does not seem too bad, but for me personally, it was a lot and extremely stressful. I often found myself overly exhausted because I was trying to force myself to adapt into my environment too quickly, but when I stepped back and created a balance between at times forcing myself to engage even when I was uncomfortable and letting myself just exist and naturally adapt to things I started to no longer have to force myself. I found myself willingly wanting to listen to music, podcast, and movies in Spanish, consistently engaging in conversations, and learning. I allowed myself the leeway, time, and space to exist and realistically after one and half months I finally started to feel more comfortable. Cultural adaption will happen, don’t worry; in the meantime, focus on living in the moment and enjoying various aspects of your new environment and the rest will come. At first, it will be difficult, but at the end, you will reflect and be so glad that you did it.

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