Are you visiting the United States on a GPI US program this spring? Whether you are traveling abroad for the first time or you are a seasoned world traveler, here are some useful tips that will help you prepare for your experience in the United States!
1. What should you pack?
Have you packed for your program yet? Before you leave Japan to travel to the United States, make sure you are ready for anything you may encounter during your trip. Here are some questions to consider while you are preparing:
What is the weather like? Is it warm? Cold? Snowy? Make sure you are prepared for all different types of weather. For example, in Boston the weather is famous for changing suddenly. When in doubt, bring clothing for all different types of weather.
Do you love taking photos, or do you have a different way of documenting your adventures? Don’t forget to bring anything you need to help you remember the trip – it will be an exciting and memorable experience and you’ll want to reminisce on it later!
2. Have you done your research?
You will be in the U.S. for a very short period of time. In order to maximize your study abroad experience, it is essential to first research the area you are going to visit. Here are some questions to consider while researching:
What do you know about the history and culture of the area? Where are the sites and landmarks that you will be visiting, and why are they significant?
What cultural differences will you notice between American and Japanese people? What do you think causes these cultural differences?
What stereotypes do you have of Americans? Do you think that these stereotypes will change during your program?
Although you will learn the answers to these questions and more during your program, doing research before you leave will only deepen your understanding and curiosity. Make sure you come to the U.S. with lots of insightful questions. This is a rare opportunity to ask as many questions as you would like, so make sure you come ready to learn!
3. What are your goals for the program?
Why are you participating in this study abroad program? Are you just hoping to have a fun travel experience, or are you seeking something deeper?
Many of our students arrive in the U.S. with concrete goals that they wish to achieve. In preparation for your trip, you should set goals for your program. What do you hope to achieve? Perhaps you want to improve your leadership skills, grow your self-confidence, or learn how to empower others. Maybe you would like to improve your English skills, or try five different kinds of American food. Whatever goal you choose, make sure that it is specific, realistic, and something that you are passionate about achieving!
Try to make your goals as concrete as possible. For example, instead of having a goal like “I want to improve my English,” focus that goal into something like “I want to give a presentation in English about my school life to an audience of 20 Americans” or “I want to talk to 5 people I don’t know in English today.” Do you see how the last two goals are more focused and measurable? These goals will be easier to accomplish.
In addition to creating goals, it is very important that you take action to achieve them! Without a solid objective, you may return home after your program and feel as though nothing has changed. You should actively strive to achieve your objectives every day of your program (and after you return home!) to fully maximize your experience.
4. Are you coming with an open mind?
What does having an open mind mean? It means that you are willing to try new things or to hear and consider new ideas. Although packing, researching, and setting goals are important for you to be successful during your program, what is even more important is entering your program with an open mind. You will be visiting a foreign country, where people speak many foreign languages, eat many different types of food, and are from many different places. You might have an idea of what an American looks like, but realize once you arrive that this idea has changed. Or, you might want to visit a specific landmark, but find that other members of your group are interested in visiting somewhere else.
These are all valuable, meaningful experiences that will help further your ability to learn, change, and grow during your program. When something unexpected happens, it is a chance to discover something new. Why do your group members want to visit a different location? Maybe there is something there that you will find inspiring, but that you did not discover during your research. You can learn something from every experience that you have, if you come prepared with an open mind and a desire to grow. If you come with the right mindset, you will have a transformative experience on your program!
With these 4 tips, you have what you need to make the most of your GPI US study abroad program – but the rest is up to you. Remember to act, learn, grow, and most importantly, have fun!