Each year, more and more students study abroad. It’s a great way to see the world and experience new cultures. For those attending college out of state, it can actually be cheaper than a traditional summer session on campus! The advantages are obvious, but once you’ve committed to a semester abroad, the planning and preparation can be a bit overwhelming. After all, even if you’ve done some traveling in the past, you’ve probably never lived in a different country. Having thousands of miles (and a language) separate you from your hometown and your family is downright scary. Below are three tips to help you safely enjoy your study abroad experience.
No matter where you are, there’s always the chance that your bag will be stolen and misplaced – along with your camera, passport and cash. This situation is a nightmare, but if you plan ahead it can be sorted out quickly and (relatively) painlessly. Purchase international student travel insurance – travel assistance for these situations is usually included along with plans for an accident or medical emergency. Keep multiple copies of your passport and credit card in each piece of luggage. Use traveler’s checks and keep important items close to your body on crowded streets.
Live in the moment.
Once you’ve prepared for the worst, make sure you’re appreciating the best! Keep a journal, even if it’s just brief notes in a notebook or Facebook updates – these will help you keep all your pictures straight. Pick up maps, fliers and paper menus from places you visit. Allow yourself to try things outside your comfort zone, like zip lining or escargot. Resist the temptation to get comfortable and skip out on outings – these trips to museums and historical sites may be some of the most memorable of your stay.
This applies to not only your money but also your time. Dinners out, souvenirs, bus tickets – the little expenses can really sneak up on you. Make sure to have a weekly spending plan and look into student discounts whenever possible. Track your cash and spending, and always know exactly how much is in your account. As far as your studies go, set aside time each day to keep up with work. Most professors will provide you with a detailed syllabus, so don’t plan side trips the weekend before a big paper or exam. Do a little bit daily so that you don’t miss out on opportunities for travel.
When getting ready for a big trip, you’re going to feel anxiety. Most of it will melt away when you’re surrounded by people in the same situation – not to mention the stunning views and new adventures. But you still want to be prepared for a little homesickness. Pack a small jar of peanut butter for those nights when you just want an American snack. Stock up on calling cards or download Skype so you can get in touch with friends and family back home.
The best way to stave off the blues may be to act the part: imitate the locals. By immersing yourself in their culture, you’ll become more comfortable, blend in and get to know people to whom you may never have otherwise spoken. Bon voyage!