I recently had the chance to study abroad in London. It was an amazing experience to say the least. I would recommend this opportunity to any college student; it isn’t something that should be passed up. With that being said, I figured I’d share some of the things I did prior to leaving, as well as some of the things I gathered while abroad.
1. When you’re looking for a program to enroll in, make sure you do some research on the area you will be visiting. Unfortunately, we live in a world where violence and terrorism seems to be prevalent in our day-to-day lives. Normally of course your school is not going to send you to a place where your life would be put in danger, but checking out the news and events in your host country can’t hurt. Also, learn the areas that are safe and welcoming vs. the ones that are considered dangerous and should be avoided. There are websites you can visit that point these areas out and give you actual listings of unsafe areas. Tripadvisor for one has a link you can go to that lists the most safe and unsafe places in each country. After all, safety should come first.
2. DON’T be a slacker! I cannot emphasize this enough. There are often times when most of your assignments are given to you weeks before you actually leave. So please make sure you’re work is completed before your flight leaves the ground. Here’s why: once you arrive at your destination the last thing you want to do is schoolwork. It’s hard to concentrate on anything except where to go next, and what to see. You don’t want to be stuck in your room doing work while everyone else is sightseeing, going to museums, and let us not forget the pubs/bars. (Apparently in Europe as long as your elbows reach the bar you can drink.) As you can assume, this is where I spent a good portion of my time “reflecting” on my days.
3. Money can be an issue for some people when studying abroad. Even if you can afford the cost of tuition there is still a need for spending money. Budget your spending money and spend wisely. It’s so easy to get carried away. Make sure you check out and understand the exchange rates before you start blowing money in the gift shops. The price you see on the tag is not what you’ll pay in American dollars. This price usually doubles. Souvenirs and other gifts are a great way to remember your trip, but make sure you save enough money for the essentials such as food. Rick Steves has a great website on using ATMs in Europe. One last tip; make sure you get rid of all your coins. Don’t wait until the last day and be stuck with a bag full weighing you down at the airport.
4. A question many people have before studying abroad is, “What about cell phone service?” There are of course cell phone plans that can be purchased so you have international coverage, but this can sometimes get pricey and I only recommend this for people who need to stay in constant contact with family. Twitter and Instagram can wait. The other option would be to utilize all of the WiFi hotspots. Yes, this does mean you can’t instantly upload your new beautifully filtered photo for all your followers to see, but if you are patient enough, there is usually a WiFi hotspot within walking distance from almost anywhere (at least that’s how it was in London). So, if you don’t need constant cell service, I recommend just using WiFi. This will save you money and it will save you from having your face in your phone while walking past Big Ben, the Vatican, or the Eifel Tower.
5. My last tip for you is the simplest: ENJOY YOURSELF. Studying abroad is possibly a once in a lifetime experience and it will be over quicker than you hoped. Take as many pictures as you can, but don’t get lost behind the camera lenses. I can almost guarantee that when you are boarding your plane to return home you will be thinking to yourself, “ Wow, I really wish I had more time here.” Whether you are abroad for two weeks or two months, it is never enough time to do everything you had hoped.
So there you have it, a few tips to think about before you study abroad. Most of these tips come from personal experience, so take my word for it. If you are definitely studying abroad soon I hope you enjoy your trip as much as I enjoyed mine, and if you weren’t sure if you were going to study abroad before reading this, I hope I helped persuade you into making the right choice to explore the world.