Studying abroad is a phenomenal opportunity - it allows you to travel the world, experience different cultures, meet new people, and learn more about yourself. But it can also be a little scary, especially if you’ve never traveled outside of the country before. Prior to my semester abroad, I was constantly worried about whether I was packing the right things, whether I had all of the documents I needed, and a plethora of other things. Now that I’ve returned from my study abroad experience, there are a few things I would do differently to enhance my experience. Below are five things I wish someone had told me before my semester abroad:
1. Interact with international and exchange students at UA.
One of the best parts of my particular study abroad experience was that it was an exchange program, which meant that students from the university where I was planning to study were studying at UA before I left. The Education Abroad office holds events to facilitate interactions between students from the US and abroad, and it’s a great way to get advice on the country you’re traveling to in a comfortable and relaxed setting.
2. You do not need to pack that much clothing.
Seriously. My mom tried to tell me I was bringing too many pairs of jeans (I brought five), but I wouldn’t admit that I had overdone it until I was packing to come home and realized there were multiple things in my closet that I hadn’t worn a single time while abroad. Unless you have a passion for fashion, you’ll more than likely settle for simple outfits that incorporate the same pieces over and over. This way you can also pack lighter and save space in your closet for any clothes you might buy while you’re abroad.
3. Take advantage of student discounts.
This is something that students are already told all the time anyway, but there are lots of options in different countries that I didn’t even think about until I was already abroad. If you’re studying at a foreign university you’ll likely have a new email address, which makes it super easy to sign up for a free trial of Amazon Prime. In many countries, students get discounts on public transportation, museums, and many other things. Looking into these options will save you money and help you find new ways to interact with the country where you’re studying!
4. Have a plan for cooking.
This is especially important if you’re taking part in a longer program where your meals aren’t provided. Some universities offer meal plans, but they’re often more expensive and less conducive to socializing with your roommates. If you’re like me and cannot cook to save your life, practice making some staple meals before you leave home and don’t be afraid to ask your friends or roommates (or parents) for advice once you’re abroad. While I wish I had prepared better for this aspect of studying abroad, I actually found that I became a better cook while I was away, and cooking with my friends quickly became one of my favorite parts of my experience!
5. Put yourself first.
I can’t stress this one enough - this is your experience! Studying abroad requires you to put in your time, energy, and money, so make sure to prioritize what you want out of the experience. If you’re someone who enjoys going out, do that. If you would rather stay in and have movie nights with your roommates, do that. If you want to travel, find friends who also want to do that. Everyone has different visions and goals for their study abroad experience, and it’s okay if yours doesn’t perfectly line up with what others are doing.