02 December 2015

Studying Abroad: The Do's and Don'ts

Now that my own semester abroad has come to a close, sad I know, I feel that I have learned so much about studying abroad that I wanted to share it with any future study abroad people. Now of course by now most of you know that I have been studying in London, so majority of these tips will be tailored to there, but I do think that these tips can be applied to any city. I gathered most of these tips from personal experience, but I also asked many of my friends who studied and traveled along with me for some advice as well.

Do study abroad. Okay I know this one was pretty obvious, but I really think that it should be said especially for people who are on the fence about it. I cannot stress this enough, but I honestly think that studying abroad was the best thing for me. I learned so much and I made so many friends. It is an experience that you can't get anywhere else.

Do take a pre-trip before classes start. Again this is one of those tips that applies to the program that I was involved with, but I do recommend experiencing traveling on your own a little bit before having to actually start going to class. On my pre-trip we visited Paris, Bruges, and Brussels beautiful cities that I did blog about previously. The pre-trip was a great way to make new friends beforehand and not feel so alone and also helped ease the excitement of actually being in Europe without your parents. So when it came time to start taking classes we had gotten some of that excitement out of our systems.

Do make sure that credit cards and money is situated before leaving United States. Again I can't stress this enough. Before leaving you especially have to make sure that your credit card is a chip card. Not many places in Europe accept swipe cards only and the same goes for ATMs too. I know a couple of people who were unable to get cash out because of that and were stuck with little cash so make sure yours has one! Also make sure your bank knows that you're traveling abroad as well.

Don't be shy and get out of your comfort zone. Definitely explore the city you're in, talk to locals, and try new foods and drinks. Get the taste of the city you're in and experience it.

Do get an international SIM card for your phone once you arrive. This saved me so many times, the plan that I got with the company Three had unlimited data for £20 a month and many of my friends and I agree that it was definitely worth it. You can use it for directions, where to find restaurants, you name it. You can even use it in different countries, mine worked in Italy, France, Denmark, and the U.S. believe it or not!

Do take school seriously. I know you want to travel, I know you want to explore, but you're there to study (I sound exactly like my mother) and you don't want to have to scramble towards the end because you didn't put in your best effort at the beginning.

Do keep in mind what kind of living arrangement you would like to have while studying abroad. Depending on how long you will be studying for, you will be spending quite a bit of time where you live so make sure you choose the best option for yourself. Make sure you take into account how far everything is from where you're staying, your friends especially. This turned out to be a problem for me personally because I stayed in a home stay arrangement that was at least an hour away from the rest of my friends who were staying in apartments. Just make sure that you take everything into account before deciding because I wish I had chosen differently.

Don't get lazy. If you get an opportunity to do something then definitely do it! If you say you'll do it later most likely you won't and it'll just be a missed opportunity. Always get out of the house and go do something, even if its raining. The first couple of weekends were like that with my roommate and I and it would have been nice to go explore more, but we just got lazy haha.

Do bring a large backpack to travel around with. Especially if you plan on taking weekend trips a backpack will help so much. Also, many European airlines charge an arm and a leg to check a bag and its just not worth it.

Do bring medicine and take immunity boosters. YOU. WILL. GET. SICK. They do not joke when they warn you about that. Honestly.

Do plan trips in advance. This is my number one piece of advice right here. The one thing I wish I had known about before traveling to London. Sure, traveling in Europe and the U.K. is mostly affordable, but it can be SO much more affordable if you do it way ahead of time. The trick that they say to use is to book on the Tuesday 6 weeks before you leave on that trip. So, my advice would be to get to the city you're traveling in and find out what your free weekends are and book asap because that will be how you get the best deals.

Do blog! Or journal, or take pictures, whatever suits you, do it! I honestly never would have thought that I could have the discipline to blog every week, but because I was doing so many fun things I wanted to remember them and blogging was the best way to do that and you can put pictures!

Do bring: 
Here's a random list of miscellaneous items that really helped me out during this trip.

  • Compression Bags- commonly known as Space Bags. Hilarious but effective. Get the travel ones that don't require a vacuum. Everyone laughs, but guess who fit 5 days worth of stuff in her backpack?? This girl :)
  • Pen- You'll always need one and someone will always ask to borrow it, but it really comes in handy. 
  • Flip flops- Especially if you're planning on staying in hostels, they really make a difference. Its also surprisingly hard to find them in London too. 
  • Filtered Water Bottle- I bought mine in the states and it was much cheaper than in Europe, but not impossible to find. You will save so much money when you don't have to constantly buy water bottles all the time. 
  • Small umbrella- Again tailored to London, but you never know it rains a lot in Europe and the rest of the U.K. as well. Preferably, a small one that you can just throw in your bag and forget about it until you need it. 
  • Small travel sized bottles with a clear bag for traveling- Easier to carry than big bottles and can be carried onto a plane. 
  • A camera- Better quality pictures and a good way to save your phone battery as well. 
  • An External Battery- So helpful. Especially when you're lost and your phone is about to die. 
  • Headphones- You'll be walking and traveling a bunch so these are a must. 
  • An Empty Carry On- You may not need it in the beginning, but you will need it later on (trust me).
  • Ebooks- If you can get your text books on a tablet do it! That was one of the best decisions for me because I would've had to carry that around all the time.
  • Clothes that you like, but can be easily donated to make space later. This is what I did and I think it was a really good decision for me. I just thought which is more important, a snow globe or this sweater that I have worn 15,000 times here in London and will probably never wear again back home?
My last piece of advice is to plan ahead and pack light. No doubt that being in another place you will wind up buying new clothes and you don't want to be hit with that $150 overweight charge on the way back. Think logically about what you pack and it'll all work out.
I hope I covered everything that was necessary and that this list helps you out! I really did have an amazing time studying abroad and I hope that if you decide or have already decided to, that you have a just as amazing time as I did.