We asked Dreams Abroad members what they would do differently if they were starting out on their adventures now. After studying abroad in the United States, Carlos finished up an intensive English course in 2016 at Florida State University. He has since returned to Mexico and finished his degree. Here’s what Carlos had to say about what he’s learned about studying abroad in the United States.
Studying Abroad in the United States
1. Reach Out to New People
A genuine interaction with another person is just a greeting away. Most of the time we are wrapped up in ourselves. When we’re on the street, we tend to be on defense. A smile is all it takes to disarm that defense. One thing that works for me is using t-shirts from TV shows or bands. If you come across someone that likes the show or band on your tee, it is more likely he or she will be open to talk to you.
2. Put Yourself Out There
Get out as much as you can. Visit as many coffee shops as possible: you can learn a lot about people by watching how they live, what they do, and what they’re interested in. The same applies to art galleries and malls. Be aware of your surroundings, enjoy them, and start a conversation with a friendly stranger.
Be a good listener. Pay attention. No one likes a person who’s just waiting their turn to talk, so take interest in others’ lives and they will be more likely to see you as a confidant. I have learned that most people are eager to have a meaningful conversation so your goal should be to start one, but this can only be achieved step by step. You can’t talk about life with a stranger without finding some common ground first.
4. Grab Some Sneakers
Walk everywhere and anywhere. You don’t need a cab and you don’t need to wait 30 minutes at the Greyhound station. If you invest the time to explore the town on foot, you will be amazed by all of the things you could find. Take as many pictures as you can. Photography is a tourist’s best friend as it will make memories more vivid when the adventure is over. If you find a place that seems interesting, maybe a shop, a flea market, an antique shop, or a cigar club, just go inside if you feel like it. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
Wherever you go, that’s where you’ll be. Remember that. Traveling is the best way to get to know yourself. Enjoy your time alone, sit on a park bench and enjoy the moment. That’s what this is all about: enjoy your time abroad, have fun, learn, watch, imitate.
I found myself often thinking about how my life would be if I had continued on studying abroad in the United States. It’s a fun exercise that makes me really think about the things that I want in life and where I see myself in the near future. Being present in the moment makes you appreciate the value of the people around you and the ones waiting for you in your hometown. Cherish these moments.
Carlos is writing from Mexico City. He was a student at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and recently graduated.