7 things no one tells students in the US about studying abroad

Studying in a different country can be an amazing experience. iStock

For American students, studying abroad in a different country could be an eye-opening and educational experience. And even though it seems glamorous, studying abroad comes with a lot of responsibility and cultural differences to take note of.

Here’s what all US students should know before studying abroad in a different country.

American history and current policy are taught from a different perspective.

After learning about America’s history and policies from a standardised curriculum, US students might be surprised that the narrative is different (and perhaps more critical) once you’re in a classroom abroad.

Fast-food staples won’t taste the same.

You’ll probably be able to try unique menu items, too. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Some food from chains might taste different when ordered from another country.

One of those differences can come down to salt content. According to The Salt, McDonald’s 10-piece nuggets in the US contain more than double the amount of salt as the same nuggets in the UK.

Students will also be able to try unique fast-food menu items from famous chains.

Grades might seem lower than what Americans are used to.

Try to research the grading scale before you enroll. Shutterstock

Many different countries have varying grading scales based on teacher expectations, rigour of classes, and other cultural factors.

To combat this, many American universities will implement a “pass/fail” grading system so that students’ GPA isn’t impacted by grading scales abroad.

US students should make a point to look into the school’s policies beforehand.

Streaming accounts won’t look the same.

Different shows and movies will be available. Shutterstock

Different countries have different shows and movies available on streaming services, including Netflix.

Netflix content varies from country to country, and in some places, US accounts won’t work at all. But this can be a great opportunity to watch shows and movies that weren’t available in America.

Read More:
What Netflix costs in 17 places around the world

Popular American condiments like peanut butter and ketchup sauce may be scarce or sold at a premium.

Depending on where you travel, ketchup can get expensive. Adam Berry/Stringer/Getty Images

US-beloved food items like peanut butter can be tough to find in some countries and if you do manage to locate a jar, it will probably be on the expensive side.

Also, keep in mind that the international versions of condiments like ketchup will probably taste different because of the types of ingredients and amounts of sugar and salt used.

Alcoholic drinks and laws could be different.

Be sure to drink responsibly. Goncharov Artem/Shutterstock

Even though the minimum legal drinking age in many countries is lower than the legal drinking age in the US, it’s still important to drink responsibly when studying abroad.

Some countries don’t have the same restrictions on alcohol content as the United States does, which means that the same alcohol students consume in the US could actually be stronger in another country.

For example, in Hungary, some regularly consume palinka shots, which can clock in at 86% alcohol. Compared to the 40% alcohol of a standard shot of American vodka, it’s quite high.

The US Bureau of Diplomatic Security recommends spacing out drinks to ensure you’re staying within your limits.

Students should also take note of drinking laws in their host country. For example, in Germany, it is illegal to ride a bicycle while drunk.

Tipping might be offensive.

It’s considered offensive in some countries. Anastasiya Aleksandrenko/Shutterstock

Americans should look into the host country’s tipping protocol and etiquette rules before starting a study abroad experience.

It’s certainly useful to know that in some countries, like Brazil or Japan, tipping in cash can be considered rude. Meanwhile, in countries like Italy or Germany, it’s customary to round up the tab to the nearest euro.


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