Written by Lana Dahman ’20
Throughout my travels, I have learned quite a few things that I hope to share with students interested in studying abroad, themselves.
- Choose a study abroad that academically speaks to you. It is so easy to get wrapped up in how beautiful a place looks, but the trip will not live up to your expectations if you do not go on one that interests you beyond the scenery.
- You will be in class… a lot. Again, I think it’s easy to think of this study abroad experience like other schools, when it is completely different. The traditional study abroad experience entails going to another school overseas and making your own schedule. This study abroad experience involves you going with a class and the schedule made for you. Just keep that in mind.
- Enjoy the culture as much as you can. My professor did not give us a lot of time to interact with the culture, but the times we got were really refreshing. It is important to strive to be culturally aware and what better way to do that than to be in a different country with a different culture? Interact with people and find out what they love about their homeland.
- Know that you’ll probably have to pay cash wherever you go. This is extremely important. Yes, there will be places that take a credit card but do not rely on that. You will always be expected to have cash on you, so prepare accordingly when exchanging your money (which can be done at the airport).
- You will usually get one bill at restaurants. This goes back to my last point. Make sure you are prepared and that you have cash. This gets especially confusing when you have a large group getting food together. Get your calculators ready. Double check the total so you’re not the person that doesn’t cover their bill entirely.
- You will probably have to pay for water. I think there was maybe one place I went to that didn’t have me pay for water… and the prices add up. If you drink the water, be ready to add that into your bill too; especially when multiple bottles of water are brought out.
- Research beforehand what you want to do in your free time and how much free time you’ll have. This is important so that you can make sure you are financially prepared and also don’t waste time trying to find exciting things to do while you’re there. Your free time is limited so you want to be sure you can utilize as much of it as you can.
- Do not just bring a carry on unless that’s how you typically travel. My professor recommended that we only bring a carry on and so many students struggled. I didn’t take the advice and was quite content with my suitcase situation. Just be independent and don’t have anyone carry it for you. Some extra room in your suitcase might be ideal since you may buy items overseas. It is easy to access your stuff better if it is not crammed, as well.
- When you actually get there, take a moment (or a few) to really let it sink in. Close your eyes, and be present. Do not reflect on the trip once you leave. You should continuously reflect throughout the trip and let the trip help you grow in any way it can.
- Have fun. Do not spend your trip reminiscing about America and what you miss about it. You’ll be back soon enough but there is no guarantee you’ll be back to the place your visiting. I know you’re there for school, but it is so important to have fun and enjoy. Make sure you communicate with your professors if you feel like you don’t have enough time to do that, because it is so important.
- Try food you’ve never tried before. All I can say for this one is… why not?
- Bond with your travel buddies. I guarantee that you’ll find some common ground, even if that common ground is the enjoyment of the course or place you are visiting. You will be around everyone for three weeks, so make the best of it.
- Take some time for yourself. Make sure that you stray from the group every so often and enjoy the scene. I am sure the place you’ll be venturing to is undoubtedly beautiful.
- Take pictures. Do not go overboard with the picture taking but take a few good ones that’ll have you reminiscing when it is all said and done. Try to capture the moment as best as you can, but also know that some moments are too real to capture.
- Try something new. For me, that was getting my feet nibbled on by fish (which was definitely an experience). I only regret the opportunities I don’t take. So if there is something you want to do, and it’s safe, just go for it.
- Try not to get lost. Be smart and be aware of your surroundings. We had a kid get lost on the subway but was able to find us. If you are traveling, know where your destination is so you can seek help if you get lost.
- If you are a reflective person, bring a journal. I am someone who is constantly reflecting in my head and bringing a journal is something I wish I had done. Many of my classmates brought journals and just wrote in them during long bus rides. It gives you a platform to put your thoughts into words and remember what it was that made you reflect later on.
- If you get motion sickness regularly, be ready and take the necessary measures to relieve it. I don’t get motion sickness so I didn’t bring anything but I know many that brought Dramamine and swore by it the entire trip. This is helpful especially if you go on long bus and boat rides during your trip. It is better to take it before it gets bad than to wait for it to worsen and then try to relieve it.
- Make the most out of the trip and be spontaneous. We went to the beach one day after going to some museums and I thought since it was only going to be an hour that I shouldn’t bring my swimsuit because I wouldn’t want to swim… well, I was wrong. The water looked amazing and I decided to be spontaneous and go in fully clothed. I don’t regret it for a second. It was amazing.
- Disconnect… Just do it. Prove to yourself that your phone doesn’t control you. There is nothing I found enjoyment in the most than when my phone was on airplane mode and I was not constantly checking it. It is okay to disconnect from some loved ones for a bit and enjoy focusing on yourself. Discover new things you enjoy doing and food you enjoy eating. Don’t post every thing you do to social media, keep it for yourself.
Enjoy the trip, it’ll be over before you know it!