Going abroad can be an exciting experience, but it can also be intimidating when you don’t know what to expect. It’s not the easiest thing to prepare for a trip to a foreign country and oftentimes important details are overlooked.
Kevin Lee, a student at Simon Fraser University, went on an AIESEC global community development internship in Malaysia. The time he spent in abroad served as an eye-opening experience that allowed him to step out of his comfort zone and learn new skills while developing old ones. But Kevin discovered that things don’t always go as planned when traveling overseas and many unforeseeable problems can arise.
From sharing a room with multiple interns, to dealing with potential dangers, here are Kevin’s top tips and things to keep in mind when traveling abroad:
Only pack the necessities.
When packing for a trip, think about the necessities. Avoid bringing expensive valuables to decrease the risk of pickpocketing. For short-term internships, pack as little as possible, as you may want to continue traveling afterwards.
Keep valuables close to you at all times.
The best way to decrease the risk of having your valuables stolen is to know where they are at all times. Simple things like limiting the amount of cash you carry, keeping your wallet in your front pocket and putting your valuables in harder to reach locations (for example, a zipper pocket instead of a Velcro pocket) are quick ways to avoid losing valuable items.
Develop and maintain good relationships.
One of the benefits of sharing a room with multiple interns was that Kevin was able to get to know people from around the world that he wouldn’t have necessarily met. Developing your network and making good contacts overseas can always come in handy if you wish to travel overseas again. When Kevin traveled to Singapore after his internship, friends he had met in Korea during his study abroad semester a year before showed him around the city.
Be respectful of the culture.
Kevin notes that one of the biggest differences between Canadian and Malaysian culture is the way people carry themselves. Travelers should do their research before going to a foreign country, whether it be on the Internet or through travel books and magazines. It is important to know what is culturally acceptable and respectful when traveling abroad to avoid potential confrontations with locals.
Travel in groups.
It’s easy to get lost or taken advantage of in a foreign country so one of the best ways to explore the environment you are in while staying safe is to travel in groups. Although Kevin’s roommates were all international students, they stuck together and looked out for each other. Not only is it safer to travel in groups, it’s also a lot more fun!
Most importantly, enjoy your time abroad. Kevin’s favourite part of his exchange was getting to meet and form strong bonds with students from around the world. He was able to meet people of different backgrounds and form life-long friendships.
Janine Wong is a Simon Fraser University student going into her second year of the Beedie School of Business program. She has a deep love for adventure and travel as well as a keen interest in exploring different cultures. With her passion for traveling and her roles as marketing and social media coordinator of the SFU chapter of AIESEC, she hopes to continue building the leadership potential and expanding the global mindset of youth.