Contrary to popular belief, ignorance is not bliss. At least, not in the world of study abroad. The more you know about what to expect at your host institution/country before you go, the easier you will find it to settle in, the more you will get our of the experience and the less likely you will be to suffer from culture shock when you get there. With that truth in mind, make sure you read everything that is sent to you from your host university and IIT - remember that it is more than being physically prepared; you also need to be mentally prepared.
Below are some ideas on how to better prepare yourself:
Regardless of your current language proficiency, it is a good idea to strengthen your skills or introduce yourself to the language. Some familiarity with the language will strongly enhance your experience abroad even if your classes are offered in English. The Galvin Library has copies of the Rosetta Stone levels 1 & 2 in Arabic, Chinese, German, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. For full details visit the Galvin Library or see http://library.iit.edu/language/.
- German Cultural Center
- Alliance Française
- Goethe Institut Chicago
- Chicago Cultural Center
- Japan America Society of Chicago
As found on our Resources page, you can easily find free language resources online, such as Ethnologue or Word2Word. Keep in mind these online sources won't prepare you to take courses in your host language, but they may help you greet friends politely or go shopping at the market.
Research the local conditions, laws, legal system, political landscape, weather and culture of your host country. A good place to start will be in useful travel guides, such as Lonely Planet, Rough Guide and Frommers.
These give invaluable hints, tips and feedback from previous Study Abroad students to learn about the culture of your host country, take advantage of the resources here at IIT and in Chicago. At IIT’s International Center, you may ask to be paired with students from your host country. They will be able to introduce you to the culture and language. Their first-hand experience of the host country and institution will be valuable as you prepare to depart.
Contact any other students who are going to the same university or area as you – meet up before you go, arrange to travel together, help each other with paperwork. Not sure of other IIT students attending your university? Ask the Study Abroad Office to help connect you!
Who better to tell you what to prepare than the IIT student who went to your host university last year? Students’ emails are available via their returned mid-program questionnaires, or, if not, the Study Abroad Office can forward on your emails to the returned students.
Housing a diverse group of domestic and international students, the Global Village community in IIT’s residence halls encourages students to become global citizens as they explore the many connections among language, art and culture on regional, national, and international scales. Residents are encouraged to learn about other cultures as well as share their own heritage through community discussions, programs, and activities. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how to get involved.
Student organizations and other cultural programs are also a great way to meet students from your host country. The International Center, the Office of Multicultural Student Services and countless student organizations host many programs each semester. Consult the following sites for a calendar of events:
In addition to participating in international events on campus, take advantage of the awesome opportunities in the diverse Chicago neighborhoods. Attend festivals, ethnic restaurants, and cultural centers, such as:
Our own Resources page will allow you to research the culture, language and laws before departing. It will also address specific issues for minorities, those with disabilities, women studying abroad, GLBT and more.