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How A Semester Abroad Prepares You For College

Posted by Lindsay Hall on 4/18/18 7:34 AM


Heading off to college can be a little intimidating. Luckily, there are (fun) ways, like a semester abroad with ILP, to prepare yourself before you dive head first into your first semester in college!

I know what you're thinking ... If I've never been on my own, why would I move to a whole other country?

If you volunteer abroad with ILP, you're not actually alone. It's a safe way to learn the necessary skills of living on your own without actually living on your own. It's also the kind of experience that's going to throw you out of your comfort zone which tends to be such a growing experience to build your confidence.

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Even though a semester volunteering in Europe, Asia or one of these other ILP countries is very different than a semester at college, it acts as such a good way to prepare to live on your own. Here are a handful of the skills I gained when I was volunteering abroad.

Skills You Need Before College 

  • Time management  
  • Be able to work well with others
  • Being comfortable outside of your comfort zone
  • Money management
  • Problem solving
  • Disconnecting from your phone

Time Management 

Time management in college is essential. Between attending classes, doing homework, studying (and for many people) having a job ... it's exhausting. If your experience is anything like mine you will never feel like you have enough time in day.

After living abroad for a semester with ILP, you'll be a pro at this. Between lesson planning, teaching, commuting to and from school, spending time with your group and planning all your awesome vacations; you'll get the hang of it.

Luckily, learning to plan your time during your ILP trip is no where near as crazy as your BYU semester schedule will be, so it'll be an easier transition. You'll be volunteering 20 hours a week, so you'll need to balance your teaching/volunteering time with all the fun things you want to experience, and your responsibilities (like planning lessons or emailing friends and family from home). 


Be Able To Work Well With Others

Being able to work well with others in college (and life in general) is crucial right? You will be doing big group assignments that you will have to reply on each other for a good grade. You will have roommates that you might not love, but hey, you live with them. You might have coworkers that have different ideas and goals, but you'll need to work together.

While volunteering, you will be with the same group of people the entire time. There's not a better situation to learn this skill than traveling abroad with someone! You guys will be traveling, teaching, and in most cases, living together, which means you'll need to figure out how to get along and make the best of the situation, even if you aren't best friends with everyone around you at the time. 


Being Comfortable Outside Of Your Comfort Zone

Being independent requires you to be comfortable doing things outside of your comfort zone (or at least be willing to do them). At college, you won't have your parents there to make that uncomfortable phone call or talk to your teacher for you. Living in a foreign country will stretch you in ways you didn't think you needed to stretch and will only make being independent from your parents that much easier.

An awkward phone call will be nothing for you after living in a country full of people that don't speak the same language as you. You'll gain so much independence and confidence during your semester that you'll be set for college. 

Money Management

Part of being an adult is understanding how to be responsible financially. While in college or living abroad, you will be responsible for your spending habits. Learning to manage your money while on on a semester abroad with ILP is a lot easier because you don't have to think about things like rent, food, etc. You will learn to budget your spending money so that it stretches far enough for you to go on all those awesome vacations while still having some extra money to go shopping with. It will also teach you how to travel on a budget

Problem Solving

You won't find a better way to do that than living abroad and not speaking the language. I mean, when your toilet is broken and the repairman doesn't speak English, you get pretty creative. While you'll have a support system with your Head Teacher and your ILP group, you will still need to find ways to problem solve. 


Disconnecting From Your Phone

Do you have a hard time being away from your phone for a few hours? Yeah, you're not the only one. Because our phone provides so much convenience and connection, it's so easy to depend on it and spend most of your day using it.

I found that during my ILP semester I just wasn't as attached to my phone because I was traveling so much and seeing so many amazing things. Of course I used my phone, but my experience living abroad was so profound that I found myself naturally just wanting to "disconnect" more often.

While ILP does offer an international phone plan and it's really easy to stay connected to your family, you might also find yourself wanting to be more present and spend less time on social media.

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Come spend your semester abroad with us!

Interested in volunteering with the International Language Programs? Click below to read some FAQ and get more info!

Frequently Asked Questions


Topics: Get Ready For Your ILP Trip, All About ILP + Volunteering, Tips For Your Twenties


We are ILP, a Utah based non-profit org that has service abroad opportunities for college-age volunteers. We're sharing all our tips for making the most of your time traveling and living abroad.

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