“I travel a lot, I hate having my life disrupted by routine.”
– Caskie Stinnett, Travel Writer
First awf – Happy New Year!
It’s already mid-January and school is most definitely right around the corner for my homies back in the States. This post is dedicated to those who are embarking on a journey of a lifetime: study abroad. Whether you are studying for a semester, 3-week session, or a year in a tourist hotspot or a lowkey, petite city, below are some life-changing tips that will help you out in the long-run during your study:
I can’t stress this enough – being open-minded will get you very, very, very far. You’re already open-minded just by taking a huge risk of traveling out of the country to study. Based on my previous post, risk can be a blessing in disguise. Be open to your new surroundings, culture, and people and watch your world adjust at your fingertips.
Be Wise Financially
Listen, lmao. Europe is like that 99 cent store that doesn’t exceed over $1 and doesn’t charge you tax. As a broke college student coming from America, I was in awe when I saw the prices at the grocery store – I nearly cried when I bought a whole 2-weeks worth of groceries for 30€. Nonetheless, entertainment, food, and travel costs are so much cheaper in Europe than America, but be mindful of the conversion rates whenever you purchase something. Not gonna lie, the first couple months I felt like I was on a permanent shopping spree hahaha.
Take Advantage of Travel Opportunities
When was the last time you bought flight tickets for $50 from New York to Chicago?
Oh right, neva.
If you’re studying in Europe, traveling is accessible and affordable and since you’re under 26, it’s even cheaper because they offer student discounts (unlike America that likes to charge you for the air you breathe). Take advantage of this opportunity and be young. And if you can’t find anyone to travel with, consider traveling by yourself – it’s not as bad as you may think it is. Solo travel might just be for you; ya never know.
The drinking age in America is absurd and it’s the only country with the age requirement of 21. Keep in mind that most students at your study abroad university may have been drinking since between 14-15, so they have more experience with alcohol. Unlike America, Europeans don’t excessively binge-drink; they pace themselves, so keep that in mind.
Do Your Research – It’ll pay off
You can never be too prepared. But if you’ve never stepped foot in the country you’re studying in, it would be best to do a little research on the country, language, culture, etc. You’ll save a lot more money on various occasions and look awkward when amongst new foreign friends. Just sayin’, save yourself the trouble.
Language is Not a Barrier
Many people say you should at least attempt to learn the language of the country you’re studying in – lies. Although it’ll be very beneficial to do so, you don’t necessarily have to learn the language if you don’t want to. Dutch is the main language here in Leuven and I get by just fine with English, so don’t worry if you believe language might be a barrier for you during your studies abroad.
Go to Class
Before I embarked on my semester abroad, my friends who previously studied in Europe told me stories about their experiences, which were nice, but they didn’t put vital emphasis on the school curriculum in their country-of-choice. I don’t care if you’re studying abroad in Fiji or Spain: go to class. Your grades matter and you don’t want to retake a class that you failed because you were too busy either partying, drinking, or traveling. At the end of the day, you are there to “study.”
Take Advantage of Every Opportunity
Look, studying abroad is your only opportunity to live your best life. You’ll probably never get another chance to be a hoe (yeah I said it), to take risks, to buy that return plane ticket for 12,99€, to spend your money recklessly, and the list goes on. If you have an opportunity to go places or get involved in your new community, DO IT. And to be honest, the craziest stories are the best ones, just sayin’ haha.
Hang Out With People That Aren’t From Your Country
This is vital. Once you’re abroad, you subconsciously tend to cling on to people that are from the same country as you but try your best to be open and make friends from different backgrounds/countries. Think about it: you have plenty of chances to make American friends in America. It is nice to keep those friends around that “know where you’re coming from” as well but maintain a balance. Another tip: While planning your trips with friends is both entertaining and fun, planning solo trips can be a much better experience than you may anticipate. You don’t have to be obligated to travel with people if you don’t want to.
Studying abroad in a different country isn’t easy but that doesn’t mean it’s isn’t possible. Enjoy your time in your country-of-choice, be open to new experiences, document your memories, and live, honey, live. An opportunity of a lifetime to get know yourself is one of life’s greatest gifts – so take advantage, be youthful, and prosper!