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Out of the Comfort Zone

For international students and Texans traveling abroad, life is the lesson

By Liz Williams, Fri., Aug. 24, 2012

Out of the Comfort Zone

FOR TRAVELERS ABROAD

"A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step."

Lao Tzu might have been on to something, but we know of a few more steps you should take before entering the world of international study.

• Force yourself out of your comfort zone. Travel is the best way to bust up an academic routine. Almost everywhere else in the world, 18-year-olds are sent on a "gap year" to explore the world and grow up a bit before starting higher education. Summer-abroad programs allow you to spend a summer half-studying and half-traveling.

• Acquire a passport. Different deadline times have different fees. Plan ahead and save.

• Don't wait until the last minute to apply – applications take time to process.

• Create a budget: Studying abroad is not out of reach. In fact, most programs operate within current U.S. tuition rates range. "Exchange" or "affiliated" foreign universities means same tuition, different location. Your campus international/study abroad office can help you find affiliated universities.

• Get to know your campus international/study abroad office. Duh.


For Longhorns, check out the free, upcoming University of Texas Study Abroad Fair, Sept. 12, Gregory Plaza, 10am-3pm. http://world.utexas.edu/abroad.

FOR CURRENT INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS

Welcome to the friendliest and most open-minded city in Texas! Here are some hints to make your adjustment easier:

• Socialize: Get oriented. Ask lots of questions. Strike up conversations with strangers.

• Don't waste time trying to get comfortable or blend in: You're different, which means you already fit right into Austin.

• Explore Austin: Barton Springs Pool, free live music on patios, the hike and bike trail – Austin is all about being outside. Join as many newcomer or activity groups as you can; it's a great way to meet people.

• Avoid the homesick blues: Find your native cuisine or explore what's native here; make it an adventure to go to new restaurants or markets, or stay in and cook with friends. Set up Skype so you can keep up with family. Send postcards home.

• Get out of the campus area: It's easy to get stuck on campus. Every weekend, take a quick trip – alone or with a gang – even if it's just across town. Texas is big; go explore.

Top Traveling Tips

• The further ahead you plan, the cheaper it will be.

• Digital documents: Scan or take photos of all your travel documents so that you have digital copies you can access from your phone or an Internet cafe; put a physical copy of your passport in your luggage.

• If taking your phone, get it unlocked and buy a prepaid SIM card at your destination.

• Teach your family to Skype before you leave.

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