How to Make the Most out of an Immersion Course Abroad

Singers on The Voice don’t send in their submissions from the safety of their homes; they go on stage to audition in front of millions. Shark Tank participants step out in front of the most renowned business extraordinaires, and they risk having their ideas eaten alive. And yet, whether the participants flop or succeed, they overcame their nerves and went out to pursue their dreams.

Such is the idea of an immersion course abroad. Whether you travel to study language, politics, religion, art, or something else, in an immersion course, you surround yourself with your passion for that month or that semester. You become so involved in it that you have no time to think of any concerns, doubts, or fears. You take the leap. You learn everything firsthand.

My experience with an immersion course began two years after I graduated from college. When I was an undergraduate, I suffered from an anxiety disorder that made me mentally and physically sick. Although I met with doctors, therapists, and school counselors, it wasn’t until I began studying the effects of pranayama (meditative breathing techniques used in yoga) and employed them during anxiety attacks that I began to feel relief. Interested in the benefits, philosophy, and medicine of yoga, I knew I needed to learn more.

After a full year of practicing yoga daily and studying the best books I could find, I started looking for teacher trainings. I knew I wanted to make it an adventure and began looking at programs in India, Costa Rica, and Indonesia.

"I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out until sundown. For going out, I found, was really going in" - John Muir #bigsur #california #rooted in #nature #reallyrealyoga #goouttogoin #takeawalkinnature #seeweareone // lately I have been fascinated with #sacredgeometry - you see it all around us, the same systems within us, are the systems we are taking place in. Tiny jelly fish the size of a tear drop lit up with energy // trees with veins reaching for the soil // the earth, growing and changing with #energy just like us. See that we are one. Respect the earth. Keep this place nice for our grandchildren. I don't care much for politics so whatever side you stand on, make sure you are doing your part to protect the realist most powerful asset we have, this earth.

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Here’s what appealed to me about an immersive course in a new country:

  • A new environment
  • Hands-on experience
  • The ability to learn visually
  • Shorter time between lessons
  • Experiencing a new culture
  • Devoting the majority of the trip to my studies
  • Completing my teacher training hours quickly, which meant spending less money on rent, food, internet, etc.

It took months of searching, but eventually, I found Marianne Wells’ Yoga School, which was more affordable, more flexible, and better focused on the therapeutic aspects of yoga than much of the competition. This was a once-in-a-lifetime chance, much like any immersion course. As you can imagine, I became nervous as the training grew closer, but like the contestants on television competitions, there was no backing down now. Instead, I had to prepare myself to make the most out of the trip.

Preparing to leave for an immersion course abroad? Take these steps to reap all the benefits that your course has to offer.

  • Have a general understanding of the subject before diving in. Being immersed in a subject can be overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into. Take an introductory class beforehand or read books about the subject from your local library. It’s also important to recognize and understand cultural differences. Different cultures may have laws you don’t expect, fashion norms you should follow, or foods that don’t fit your dietary restrictions. Be well informed so that you can adjust quickly to the host country.
  • Mentally prepare for the coursework. You’ll be learning in shorter intervals. One lesson will be quickly followed by another. There will be less time to process the first lesson before jumping into the next, which is why you’ll want to have a decent base of knowledge to work with. My classes went from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. every day for 14 days straight. By knowing this schedule prior to arrival, I was prepared for vigorous note-taking and the exhaustion that was to ensue.
  • Invest in durable books and bags. Your books won’t just be filled with notes; they will become journals of pivotal moments and self-discovery. You’ll want to savor them. Purchase materials that will stand the test of time (and traveling).
  • Give yourself time to digest the information. After an immersion course, it’s important to give yourself time to look over notes and let the information sink in. Immersion courses can feel like a whirlwind of learning. Allow yourself a few days to unwind before returning to your usual busy schedule.
  • Have a packing checklist. My program equipped me with the perfect checklist. It included everything from bug spray to colored pencils. If you aren’t this lucky, organize a list and do your research on the environment you’ll be in and the course criteria. You’ll want to be prepared for class and comfortable while you’re in it. If you’re going to the jungle, you’ll want ziploc bags to avoid mold. If you’re going to an arctic tundra, you’ll want snow gear and heat packs. Email the hosts and ask if they can provide you with a list of suggestions.
  • Get there early. Give yourself a chance to get acclimated before the studies begin. Remember, you’re in a new country! Even if you’ll be studying in a small town, you will likely fly into a big city first. Stay in the big city for at least a night before your course begins. This will give you time to rest, recover from jet lag, and allow your body to adjust to any changes in temperature or altitude. It’s also worthwhile to unpack your things and make sure that you have everything. If you’re missing something, this could be the last chance you have to make it to a store. Ask the hostel or hotel staff where you can go to get what you need before heading to your final destination; there won’t be time to run these kinds of errands once you’re in class.

If you’re planning on taking your education around the world, tell us about it in the comments. We would love to hear about it!

About Katelyn Brush

Katelyn likes learning, good health, traveling, and pizza on Fridays. Her mixed education, composed of SUNY the College at Brockport, a semester at a community college, and one abroad at the University of Oxford, helped her earn a bachelor’s degree in English. College also gave her a few lessons in Taekwondo and sleeping in a hostel dorm with total strangers. She’s a yoga teacher, author and illustrator of the children’s book, “Signing Together: A Guide to American Sign Language for Everyone.” As a Student Caffé writer, she hopes to help you through the highs and lows of college with a laugh ... or 20.

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