If you're constantly filled with wanderlust like I am, you understand that studying abroad while in college is a must before graduation. I remember writing down the words "study abroad" on a college goal/to do list, both terrified and excited for the possible opportunity.
After going abroad last summer, I learned a few tips and tricks for traveling to and living in a foreign country. Here are some things I wish I knew before going abroad.
1. Buy the correct adapters and/or converters.
Let's not make the same mistake I did and practically blow up a fan because the voltage wasn't correct. An adapter is simply what you plug into an outlet in a foreign country so that whatever you plug into it will fit correctly. A converter also allows you to correctly plug in any electronic device, but it also converts the voltage to whatever it needs to be for where you are (make sure you check what you need for your country before purchasing to make sure you buy the right one). Most things you need to plug in, in my experiences, such as a curling iron, straightener, or fan, are not the correct voltage unless you purchase it abroad. You will need to use a converter to change that. An adapter is only useful if whatever you're plugging in is already the correct voltage.
Pro-tip: All Apple products are universal, so you don't need a converter, only an adapter.
2. Make sure your phone will work.
If you plan on using your personal cell phone while abroad, set up a data plan before you leave. Chances are, you don't want to use up all of your limited data all at once and run out immediately. Make sure you have enough to last depending on how long you'll be there and how much you think you'll be using your cell phone to text or use the Internet. While connected to WiFi, you won't be using data, and be sure to turn your data off when you aren't using it. When you're roaming the streets, don't know the WiFi password, or there is simply no service, you'll be using data while using your phone.
Pro-tip: Most countries are filled with several Starbucks. They will always have free WiFi! Restaurants tend to have WiFi access as well.
3. Know the currency.
It's important while being abroad that you learn the values of the country's currency and that you know how that converts to American dollars. You don't want to be surprised when something that appears cheap converts to a more expensive price in dollars. I would also suggest converting some cash of whatever currency you need to keep in your wallet so you can have it when you arrive. You can also always use an ATM while there to get cash by using your credit or debit card.
Pro-tip: There are several apps available on your smartphone that will convert different currencies to dollars to show you the value when you type them in for your convenience.
4. Learn the language or slang.
Though I studied abroad in an English-speaking country, there was definitely a barrier at times for different terms. We all know those in England call French Fries "chips," say "knackered" instead of "exhausted" and "cheers" tends to mean "thank you." Be aware of and familiarize yourself with different terms in this case. If you plan to go someplace where you don't know the language at all, it's helpful to know a few key phrases before leaving. However, you will most likely learn the language better and learn more when you actually are immersed in it.
Pro-tip: Buy a small phrase/translation book or dictionary to carry around with you in case you need to say something or understand what someone is saying. Chances are, though, depending on where you are, some people there speak at least a little English.
5. Pack Light.
While it may be tempting to pack your entire closet into a large suitcase, you don't need to! Only bring the basics. Pack clothes that are easy to mix and match with different tops and bottoms and shoes that are comfortable for walking! Shoes and jackets/coats tend to take up the most room, so don't pack too many of them. Check the weather before you go and make sure you are prepared for it, though you can always try to purchase clothing or shoes while there if you forget something.
Pro-tip: Buy things like shampoo, body wash, detergent, etc. when you arrive to save room in your suitcase. Chances are you'll end up using it up while you're there and throwing it away once you leave. You can save room in your suitcase and also make room for souvenirs and whatever else you bought while there.
6. Bonus: Have fun and be safe!
Being in a foreign country can be hard to adjust to at first, but once you are familiar with your surroundings and find some friends to explore with, you'll feel right at home! Always be aware of your surroundings, especially at night, depending where you are, and watch out for pickpockets and thieves. You may not want to walk alone at night or even during the day. Be smart about where you are and what you're doing and enjoy everything the country has to offer!
Pro-tip: If you carry a purse or bag, buy a cross body one with a zipper or carry a backpack to prevent your valuables from being taken.