8 things to know before studying abroad

Studying abroad has become very popular among college students, and in recent years it has become more achievable and affordable. 

Studying abroad is scary at first for most people (usually the fun kind of scary). Whether it’s your first time out of the country or your fifth time, there are always going to be unknowns. 

You are thrown into a new world with new people and experiences, so there can be a lot of discomfort and unknown answers to your questions at first. But studying abroad is a great way to learn about yourself and other cultures too.

Here is a list of things I wish I had known prior to departing for my four-month adventure, many of which I learned while overseas. 

Pack light

This one might seem obvious but it’s harder and more crucial than you might believe. Try to leave five pounds or more of extra space in your suitcase when leaving your home country. You most likely will need the extra space for items bought over the course of your stay. This is also crucial because carrying heavy luggage in unknown terrain and weather can be exhausting and difficult.
Vacuum bags are major space savers too!

Don’t break the bank on phone service

Many people think they have to use their current international plan to get service abroad, which can be extremely pricey and not that useful at the end of the day. For most places in Europe,
purchasing a SIM card is extremely easy and well worth it if the stay is for more than a couple of weeks. Purchasing a cheap smartphone abroad is also an option that I had never thought of until I found myself in a position where I needed one.

Learn the language

One of the best lines to giggle about is “Most people speak English, it will be fine not knowing the language. Everything is Americanized!” In most cases this is not true. Spending two weeks at a resort in Amalfi versus spending four months in a local apartment in Florence are considerably different experiences. This is a harsh realization many have when trying to find ingredients at the supermarket for the first time, and there is not a single word of English or anyone who speaks it. This doesn’t mean that extensive knowledge is needed, but before leaving, be sure to know phrases that can help you communicate with locals in any situation. There are many
pocket sized phrasebooks you can purchase.

Make travel arrangements in advance

Making travel arrangements weeks or even months in advance will save loads of money. Yes, air travel in Europe is cheaper than flying domestic in the United States, but those tickets for 150 euros plus other expenses for the weekend add up quickly. Save money by
booking as soon as possible. I can almost guarantee you can find someone who will want to go to Paris or London for a weekend with you, especially if it’s at a cheaper rate.

Go grocery shopping daily

Food in Europe is made
fresh daily in markets and restaurants. Only fruits and vegetables in season are on display, and they lack the preservatives used with a lot of produce in the United States, which means those strawberries are only going to last a few days before getting moldy. So don’t waste money buying multiple packages at a time if they won’t get eaten. Also make sure to know how to do some basic cooking before you leave because eating out every day will get very expensive.

Ditch the leggings

The only time people in Europe wear leggings as an outfit is while exercising. Locals typically wear nicer day-to-day clothes than what we are used to as American college students. Leggings of course are not forbidden, but it certainly will scream “tourist.” Still wondering what to pack? Here’s a rundown of
proper European attire.

Being a tourist is OK

When studying abroad for a longer period of time, it’s easy to get trapped in between wanting to fit into the culture and still being a tourist. You are only visiting for a short period of time so make the best of it, even if it means participating in that cheesy photo-op. Just remember to be respectful of the host country. Learn more about sustainable tourism

Every experience is unique

Posting cool pictures and clever captions on social media is something everyone does. While it is fun to see what your friends are doing, there is no such thing as a perfect photo. Don’t expect your experience to be just like your friend’s “Instagram experience” because every study abroad is different and poses different challenges for each person. Check out some
advantages of studying abroad.

by Marina Craig

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