Like a Fish in Water: How to Grow Abroad When You Go Abroad

The following is an exclusive excerpt from the new book, Like a Fish in Water: How to Grow Abroad When You Go Abroad by Rich Kurtzman.

From the Introduction


You’ve seen it before—a friend comes back from study abroad, and they are beaming. They had the experience of a lifetime. They’ve had a transformation.

All study abroad programs and study abroad offices tell you that it will change your life.

And it’s true. I’ve seen it happen. It absolutely happened to me, and I’ve been alongside thousands of students who have felt the study abroad “magic.” They grew more confident, resilient, adaptable, self-aware, and worldly. They landed their dream job because of their study abroad experience. They no longer stress about the little things and are willing to take on anything the world throws at them, because they’ve conquered bigger issues in other countries, cultures, and languages.

But in my twenty-five years working in international education, I’ve also seen too many students who wasted the opportunity. Some couldn’t handle the challenges and left early. Others strolled through their time abroad leisurely and skimmed across the surface but didn’t transform in the ways that so many others have.

The difference between that first group of students and the second is that those who felt the magic had the right tools to guide them. They knew what they had to do to maximize the experience. They also understood that a life-changing experience abroad includes bumps along the way. That’s part of what this book is about: discover the magic, but don’t expect perfection.

I want to help you along this journey. I want to take everything I’ve learned and make sure you don’t miss out. This has been my passion and mission for the majority of my life.

Excerpt from Chapter 3: You have to adapt to the culture because it won’t adapt to you

This assignment is easy: do one of these challenges, and write down how it makes you feel. Write as much as you can about the experience. Even if you are not abroad yet, some of these will still work for you. Just make sure you go out and try them when you get to your new city too.

  • Go explore a new part of town by yourself.
  • Go explore a new part of town by yourself, and only use a paper map, not Google Maps.
  • If you are used to getting around your city with one type of transportation, take a different type. For example, if you only use the metro, tube, or subway, then take a bus.
  • If you usually walk from your home to your school or internship, take a different route every day, for a week—even if it takes you more time.
  • Start talking to a stranger (but safely). Strike up a conversation with someone who works at a cafe? or restaurant that you frequent.
  • If you love your social media, go without social media for twenty-four hours.

By changing your mindset to see the positive, and being willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone, you have made huge progress towards gaining some of the magic of study abroad growth.

You can purchase your copy of Like a Fish in Water: How to Grow Abroad When You Go Abroad here and find out more at 

Praise for “Like a Fish in Water” 

Like a Fish in Water is the one and only resource I recommend to all students who are considering study abroad. This book is a must-read for students and families as they prepare for one of their most important and enriching educational journeys. It provides reassurance, critical advice, and guidance that I haven’t seen in any other writing.”

—Devika Milner, Assistant Dean and Director of Study Abroad at the University of Miami

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