When you're studying other cultures, there's no better way to do it than by immersing yourself in the culture you're studying. Most university programs begin with textbooks and talks in lecture halls in your home town, but if you really want to consider yourself a student of culture you need to experience it firsthand by taking an international program. Here are some tips on how to do so.

If you want to study abroad, it is generally advisable that you do not do so in your first year at university. It's a big enough culture shock getting used to post-secondary education. If you have to also adjust to a new culture and a new language, it increases your chances of failure. Your final year is also a bad time to go as it may throw off your graduation. Therefore the second or third years of your program are the best times to go on a university exchange program.

There are a number of ways to arrange a university exchange. Generally the easiest way is to go through an established partnership between your university and one in a different country. Often university departments will have connections to their counterparts in other countries, so you might see if your English department has a partnership with the English department in a university in Malawi for example.

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International exchanges are expensive, so consider how you're going to pay for it. Once you leave the country you no longer have the benefit of government supported education, so expect your tuition to be one third to one half more expensive than local students' tuition. You might get a job and save up or secure a grant or scholarship to pursue your studies abroad if your parents cannot afford to send you.

Before you leave on your exchange, you have a lot of prep work to do. There's the normal things like packing your things, giving notice at your place of employment, securing visas and booking your flight. Plus there's all the cultural prep you need to do. Know enough of the language to get by when you arrive and make sure you know all the basic cultural dos and don'ts. The rest you can learn while you're there.

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