You will be abroad for a short amount of time so we recommend limiting your internet use as well as time spent communicating with those back home. Take advantage of the opportunity to explore a new city and meet new people!
Don't rely on using your US cell phone abroad. Check with your provider to find out about international rates, data plans and roaming charges. Most students do not use their US cell phone or calling cards for calls or texts while abroad and instead take advantage of Skype, Google hangout, iMessage, WhatsApp, etc. to communicate with those back home.
Most Freshman Seminars Abroad provide basic cell phones for participants. The phones will have local numbers for your host country, and you will receive information at your onsite orientation. If applicable, you will also receive internet access information at your onsite orientation.
Not all countries share the same laws about freedom of expression that we have in the US. Keep in mind that derogatory comments, especially on social media, can result in legal claims and have extended legal implications even after you have returned to the United States.
Freshman Seminars Abroad are unique within study abroad programs because of the strong emphasis on the group. In order to make the most of the group experience it is important to maintain some basic principles of living and studying together:
- Get to know your fellow students throughout the semester. You will be in class with your classmates for 8 weeks before going abroad. Take advantage of this class time, as well as the out of class activities, to get to know your classmates.
- Respect the differences within the group: Respect for each other’s differences is crucial to successfully living and studying in a group. Some differences can be obvious such as gender, religion, physical disabilities or national origin, while others are less obvious such as learning disabilities, social class or sexual orientation. As you are preparing to be open-minded and respectful to the differences of another culture, also prepare to be open-minded and respectful to your fellow classmates.
- Find strengths in each person: Find strengths in each participant and let him or her do what they are good at.
- Support one another: You will encounter challenges and moments of frustration while abroad. This is all part of the experience. Support each other in these difficult moments.
- Recognize how your demeanor affects the group: Each individual wields great power in influencing the group both positively and negatively. Check in with your emotions and demeanor to ensure that you are contributing to a positive group dynamic.
Learning about the local culture and adjusting and adapting to it is crucial to any travel abroad experience. The cultural differences you encounter can enrich your life by presenting you with a broadened worldview and new approaches to solving problems.
Tips for Learning About the Local Culture
- Frequent places like markets, local restaurants or cafés
- Spark up conversations when possible with host-country nationals (such as with your restaurant server, shop owner, tour guide, bus driver). Ask about his/her favorite restaurant/shop/activity
- Observe what the locals do. Don’t spend a lot of time in touristy hangouts
- Take advantage of opportunities that include host country nationals
- Venture out in smaller groups to make it easier to meet people
- Make every effort to speak the local language, even if it is just pleasantries (hello, goodbye, please, thank you, etc.)
Tips for Crossing Cultures
- Be open-minded (Embrace difference and new ways of doing things. Remember: “It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just different”)
- Expand your comfort zone (Try new foods, go to the theater, take public transportation)
- Stay flexible (You will encounter difference. Things will get off schedule. Go with the flow and live in the moment
Students often find that it is just as difficult, if not more difficult, to readjust to life in the US after studying abroad. You may find that your perspectives have changed significantly and that you may not connect with friends and family in the same way you did before going abroad.
The class session back on campus immediately following your time abroad will be a re-entry workshop, where you will be able to discuss your abroad experience with your group and “unpack” the experience.
Additionally, The Learning Abroad Center offers a variety of resources and opportunities to help you readjust to life in the US. For more information, visit: UMabroad.umn.edu/students/process/reentry.
Make the most of your experience
Below are some quotes from students who have recently returned from a Freshman Seminar Abroad. Read about their experiences, and take their advice!
“It exposes you to a different environment and allows you to look at things in a new perspective. You also get the chance to learn about a different culture.”
“I remember last summer looking at Freshman Seminars Abroad and being super scared to actually apply for one. My week abroad was definitely one of the best weeks of my life. I learned so much about myself, my classmates, and another culture. For anyone who is scared or nervous about a Freshman Seminar Abroad, it was definitely well worth my time and effort.”
“It was a great way to "get your feet wet" for a study abroad experience.”
“I learned so much about myself and my goals for the future all while meeting great friends and getting to know a professor well.”
“It's a good way to meet other students with common interests, and form a relationship with others that is impossible to get anywhere else. You are constantly learning about yourself, your peers, along with the culture of the host country and the material of the class.”
“It is a fantastic opportunity to learn about a topic that you find interesting that may not pertain to your major. It also is a super affordable way to travel and a good setting for a first experience abroad. You also have the chance to really bond with peers and form friendships that will last a life time!”
“Pack light! Also pack for all types of weather because it is very unpredictable!”
“Be very open and accepting of everyone and their ideas. Try your hardest to engage with the locals because that is how you'll get the most out of your trip.”
“Stay positive and have an open mind, it is an experience of a lifetime.”
Parents are very important supporters of students' international experiences. Browse the resources available on this site with your parents, as appropriate, to better understand the process. Direct family members to this resource page.
The Learning Abroad Center is student-centered. We purposefully strive to communicate with and send all correspondence to students. Students are the individuals who will be abroad and are responsible for themselves in a foreign country. While we are pleased to meet with parents and family members to answer questions, in many cases, we cannot share information out of respect for FERPA student privacy regulations. As the student, questions should be funneled through you and the student should serve as the family representative.
Under Federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, and University policy, college students are considered responsible adults and are allowed to determine who will receive information about them. As a result, the Learning Abroad Center does not share academic, personal, or financial information with a third party (including parents, spouse, guardians, etc.) without the student’s written permission. As part of their application, all students designate two emergency contacts who will receive information only in the case of an emergency.