I know it sounds cliche, but studying abroad really did change my life. I made friends that will last a lifetime, I explored countries I’d only dreamed of visiting, and, most importantly, I met and fell in love with my now husband, David.
Did I expect all of this to happen in 4 months? Absolutely not! Does everyone who studies abroad meet their future husband? No. But, would I recommend that everyone study abroad? YES.
Studying abroad takes you out of your comfort zone and encourages you to try new things and meet new people. College is already an incredible time of self-discovery, so it is the absolute best time to explore the world and push yourself that one step further. Studying abroad also allows you to travel safely and easily with a group of supportive and like-minded people. Need I say more?
If you’re in high school or college and you’re considering studying abroad, here are some of my best tips
1. Don’t Take “No” For An Answer
The first time I applied for the Dublin study abroad program, my application was rejected. They claimed I didn’t have enough PR (public relations) credits and it could affect my major. I was heartbroken. But, my Mom, being the badass that she is, told me to dispute it. And, it all worked out! Fight for what you want!
This can also be applied to friends that are nay-sayers. Just because your friends aren’t interested in studying abroad or they want to go on a different trip than you doesn’t mean you should change your plans. Trust your gut, choose your own happiness, and go where you can make lasting memories.
2. Do Some Research
Before you head off on the trip of your dreams, make sure to do some research on the place you’ll be living in for the next few months. What are some cultural taboos you should avoid? What do they eat? How much are groceries? What’s the conversion rate? These are all things that can help you avoid culture shock moments when you’re there. This also helps you appear less like a tourist and can help prevent you from offending locals.
3. Pack Lightly
You’re going to be doing a lot when you’re abroad, so you’ll be tempted to bring a dozen party outfits and several pairs of shoes, but, BELIEVE ME, you’ll only need half of what you think you’ll need.
Packing lightly saves you from lugging a huge suitcase around with you all the time and from overcrowding your dorm room or host’s house.
You’re not leaving the planet. There will be laundry machines there and you can always buy a few new things locally as needed. Do some research on what the weather’s like where you’re studying and where you’re interested in visiting and go from there.
4. Say “Yes” As Much As Possible
This may be the most important tip on this list! As I mentioned before, you’re going to be pushed outside of your comfort zone. You’re going to try foods you’ve never heard of, or take on challenges that feel completely unfamiliar, but, that’s the beauty of the whole experience! Push yourself and embrace the uncertainty. You’re more likely to regret the things you didn’t do than the things you did.
Take this as an opportunity to go for it! Have fun and try things you wouldn’t normally try at home.
5. Make An Effort To Meet Locals
Put in an extra effort to make friends from where you’re studying! Go to the student pub or talk to locals that are in your class. The best kinds of friends are friends who have something new and interesting to bring to the table. These are people you can learn from. Learn about how they live, what their views are on the world, learn what they like to do, and share your experiences with them too.
These kinds of friends can also be the best tour guides! They live in the city and know all the cool spots.
6. Travel Over The Breaks And Weekends
Yes, you’re already in a foreign location, but take advantage of where you are in the world. What cities are nearby? What countries have cheap flights from where you’re located? Make it your mission to go to at least 1 or 2 other countries while you’re abroad.
While I was in Ireland, I also traveled to Spain, Greece, and Italy, all places I’d been dying to go my whole life. I went with a couple girls from my study abroad group and we had an amazing time! We flew Ryanair (super cheap airline) and we stayed in hostels to save money.
It’s also important to explore other cities in the country you’re studying in. Just because you’ve seen one place certainly doesn’t mean you’ve seen it all!
7. Don’t Forget To Budget
Speaking of money, don’t forget to keep track of how much you’re spending. I knew people on my trip who completely ran out of money in the last few weeks of the semester and it really put a damper on their experience. BUDGET. Write things down. Make sure you don’t spend beyond your means. If you’re going on a trip that weekend, maybe don’t go out to eat at all that week. Or, go to cheap pubs rather than expensive clubs. Be smart and don’t be reckless.
8. Embrace The Awkwardness
Without a doubt, there are going to be moments where you come off as foolish or you make mistakes when you’re traveling, but laugh it off and move forward. You’re learning. Embrace that you don’t know everything and that there’s a whole big world out there that does things differently than you do. If it wasn’t for awkward moments, you wouldn’t learn!
I hope these tips help make your study abroad experience unforgettable! Deep down from the bottom of my heart, I encourage you to get out there and experience the world for yourself. You’ll thank yourself later!