Studying abroad is an amazing opportunity that I believe everybody should take if they can. As I experience it I’ve been reflecting on what I wish I’d done better or what I’m glad I did. Some of these might be obvious suggestions, but it’s good to have a collected list of things to prepare for.
- Research the program and how it’ll affect your degree progress – Are you just getting electives? Will the classes work for your major? If you can only get electives from it, will you be able to graduate on time and complete your major requirements? You don’t want to study abroad just to travel and realize you messed up on the studying part.
- English speaking or no? – Villanova requires you to take a class taught in the country’s spoken language so if you study in Italy you have to take Italian 1 or something. If it’s an English speaking country, you don’t have to worry. This goes back to #1 because if you have to take French in France it takes up a class and credits. This can be fine if you’re studying Spanish and you study in Spain, but I take Latin and so it would’ve been worthless credits for me to have to take another language class.
- Pack lightly – So many people pack two huge bags to take abroad with them. I know somebody who had a box shipped to them in addition to their two checked bags! You don’t need that much stuff. If you pack yourself to the brim on the way there, how are you going to bring back your souvenirs? I know another person who on her way back from studying abroad had to pay $600 in baggage fees. Don’t be that person! You don’t need more than 5 pairs of shoes realistically and two-three weeks worth of clothes is plenty.
- Don’t get obsessed with decorating your room or apartment – You’re there for a semester. Don’t spend money on decorating to have a picture perfect room. You have to throw it all away at the end and that money can go towards traveling!
- How much do you want to travel? – This is super important for choosing where you want to study abroad. Europe allows you to travel to many different countries while it’s much harder to do so in Australia. Also, if you want to travel a lot access to an international airport is a must. My friend studying at St. Andrews has to drive or take the train for an hour and a half to get to Edinburgh airport. It just makes it more difficult to travel.
- Budget in travel to and from airport costs – This is something I never considered and I never found on other people’s blogs. Even in Edinburgh I have to pay £7.50 for a return trip to the airport. In Paris it was 16€ for a return plus metro costs of 1,90€ to get you closer to your hotel, hostel, or airbnb. These add up! Public transportation will be much cheaper than taking an uber or taxi, but it is an expense that adds up.
- If you want to travel a lot, plan early! – Before I’d even left the states for Edinburgh, I had my first flight booked. Flights will usually be cheaper if you buy them in advance and accommodation can book up quickly. You don’t have to plan every step of your trip, but I’ve been so grateful that I planned early on where I wanted to visit. Get a rough idea of how many places you want to visit and how many weekends you have during your time there. That way you can see how early you need to start traveling to hit your top places.
- If you want to travel a lot, be willing to go alone – My group of friends here has not wanted to travel as much as I do. I’ve not allowed that to stop me though. If you do, you won’t be able to visit everywhere you want to and you’ll regret it. Traveling alone is not bad and maybe you’ll learn something about yourself!
- Save up before you go!!! – The more money you have, the better. Chances are you won’t be allowed to work in the country you visit and so you won’t have an income. I can also almost guarantee that you’ll go over your budget. Studying abroad is primarily about the experience and you don’t want to limit yourself too much. You’ll want to get a coffee and croissant when you’re in Paris. I spent more in that city than I expected on food and I could’ve cut out the treats, but I would’ve lost part of the experience if I didn’t allow myself to buy macaroons. Overestimate your budget as much as possible so you don’t have to limit yourself. Go out to dinner occasionally with your friends in the city you’re based in! You don’t want to miss out on these experiences, but you also don’t want to indulge in them too much and run out of money while abroad. I enjoyed doing the Spring semester because it was right after Christmas and I only asked for cash, it has really helped.
- If you have prescriptions or health conditions, know your country’s health care system – I require a shot every three months and in the US I can have pretty much any clinic do it without issue, but in the U.K. I had to register with a doctor. I didn’t know this until pretty close to the deadline and there was a whole process. I managed to get it, but I wish I’d known I had to register so I could do it ahead of time. Thankfully mine wasn’t super serious either where if I did miss it, it would’ve been okay. But some people have much more important health needs, know how to manage those before you go.
Alright, that’s all for now! I might make another post about tips when it comes to the end of my study abroad experience, but I hope these helped!
Do you have any tips you want to share? What was the greatest challenge for you? What was your biggest study abroad mistake?