Photography by Brianne Lee

Photography by Brianne Lee

Dear Future Study Abroaders...

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Dear future study abroaders,

WARNING: the trip you are about to go on will be life-changing.

First things first, when it comes to packing or trying to figure out what you’ll experience, everyone is going to tell you something different. I remember trying to talk to as many people as I could that had previously studied abroad and every one of them had some sort of insight as to what it would be like and what I should do to prepare. The first thing I’m going to tell you about coming abroad is that no one truly knows what it is going to be like. No one person can tell you every single thing that you’ll need, what your going to experience, or what you’ll miss. All I hope to do is inform you on some of the things I wished I had known or thought about before I left.

Don’t take everything you hear too seriously. I made that mistake once or twice. I panicked about sleeping in dirty hostels with sketchy people lurking and waiting for me to leave so they could steal all my stuff. I stressed about bringing too many of this or too little of that. Take the things your loved ones (and random advice you find on the internet) tell you, to heart, but don’t think that it’s all 100% true. It may be true for them, or for me, but not necessarily you. This semester will be about making mistakes and finding yourself in less than ideal situations. You'll find yourself having to rely on your intuition and gut feelings more than ever.

Keep an open mind. This is probably the most valuable piece of advice I can offer. In order to fully experience all that a country can offer, you must step outside of your comfort zone, let go of expectations, and try things that may seem weird or foreign to you.

Pack medicine! You will not find things like Advil and Nyquil and you ­will need it at one point or another. Trust me, when that cold or headache hits, you’ll be very happy you packed it!

Expect an emotional roller coast ride. There’s something about studying abroad that really intensifies your feelings and experiences. Between different time zones, missed flights, language barriers, money conversions, outlet conversions, pickpocketers, no wifi, jet lag, and a long time away from family and friends, studying abroad can get pretty stressful, but you will be OK! Consider every obstacle a challenge and face it head on with grace and confidence.

Enjoy your home base. Within the first week of classes, many were already off exploring Europe. Myself included. But try to make time to get to know your new home and explore your neighborhood

Call your family and friends. Or Skype, e-mail, facebook, blog, snail mail….anything to keep them up to date on what's going on in your new and exciting life. Do this sparingly though, if you are in touch with loved ones back home 24/7, it will be harder to fully immerse yourself in your present situation and may leave you feeling homesick or even wishing you could be back doing what your friends and family are doing.

Take in all you can from the people you meet along the way. Studying abroad exposes you to new places, foods, languages and most importantly, people. Whether it's the German/Polish photographer you meet at a bistro in Paris or a Brazilian hostel-mate in Ireland, everyone travels for different reasons, and everyone has something to share and something to teach, including you.

Travel!  Oh, I cannot stress this enough! Traveling around Europe is cheap and easy. Yes, I may have had to wake up at 4 am to catch an 8 am flight on occasion, but I wouldn’t take it back for anything. I was worried about how I was going to pay for my travels but if you do your research, you can spend a weekend in any city you want for a reasonable price. Book your flights early; find a decent hostel and go! That’s all there is to it. Explore that place you’ve always wanted to see – or pick some place completely random. Some of my favorite trips were the ones that were never on my radar before going abroad. So don’t worry about not knowing exactly how to get where you’re going because getting there is half the fun. Europe has a surplus of different things to offer, and I promise you, there will never be a dull moment.

Realize that you won’t ever be the same. By choosing to study abroad, you are inherently agreeing to step miles and miles outside your comfort zone in order to find something you feel is missing. Studying abroad is a personal journey both literally and figuratively that affects everyone differently at different times. When I returned to the States, it took a couple weeks for me to figure out how to fit my newly invigorated, adventurous and well-traveled self back into the life I left behind. Reverse culture shock is real, but keeping in touch with the people I traveled with and talking about my experiences with others definitely helps keep it alive.

I could sit here and go on and on about the do’s and don’ts of studying abroad but for me, learning all of those things turned out to be some of the best life lessons I’ve ever experienced. The bottom line is – your semester/year/summer/week abroad is going to be the most spectacular time of your life; that I can say with complete confidence for every single person. You will learn more than you could have ever imagined about yourself and the world. I truly don’t believe anyone could ever regret studying abroad. So if you’re going to take one thing from this post, I hope it's this; don’t spend too much time worrying because half of the things that you experience while abroad, good and bad, you’d never expect or be able to anticipate. So just make the best of every crazy situation and never regret a second of your time abroad because one day you’ll blink and you’ll only have a few weeks left.

P.S. If have any questions related to Study Abroad, any at all, please do not hesitate to message me via Facebook or shoot me an e-mail. I am more than happy to share advice, packing tips, recommendations on where to go , insight from experiences or really any thing related to travel!


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