12 Tips for Studying Abroad

Hey guys, Account Exec Hannah here. It’s my second year working in the awesome organization we call CLAgency, and I’m thrilled to be writing my first blog post of the year. I hope you enjoy!

This summer I was fortunate enough to study and intern in Rome for two months. In this time, I had some of the most thrilling experiences of life. I learned a lot about myself, other cultures, and how to be a good traveler. Preparing for a study abroad can be overwhelming, so here are my travel tips that the Study Abroad Office might have forgotten to mention!

 

1. Buy Your Plane Ticket at the Right Time

They say when buying a big international plane ticket, you want to get it right in the sweet spot. Don’t buy your ticket more than 3 months in advance, because if a plane isn’t filling up they will drop the prices. But also, don’t wait too long. If you see a deal you feel comfortable purchasing in your budget range, just grab it. For all you know, it could go up or down 200 dollars, but waiting until the last second is simply too risky.

 

2. Buy Your Passport in Advance too!

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I wasn’t much of a “world traveler” before I studied abroad.

Okay, I didn’t even own a passport.

But what I definitely was (and still am), was a grade A procrastinator. The darn thing honestly came in the mail a few weeks before I was supposed to leave. Don’t be like me. Just get it ASAP. It sure would be a shame if you submitted all of your program fees and purchased a plane ticket, but missed your flight because you weren’t allowed to leave the country.

 

3. Make an Effort to Meet People in Your Program Before You Leave

I remember at the *only* informational meeting the Study Abroad office held before we left for Italy, I had one goal of getting some people’s numbers. In the end it made all the difference. A few of us were able to meet up for coffee before hand, talk about what we were going to pack, our expectations/anxieties, and make plans to meet at the airport. It took away the stress of not knowing anyone and helped me relax more before I left.

 

4. Make Sure You Have the Correct Outlet Adapters

In Europe alone, different regions have different outlet shapes. Be sure to bring the correct adapters for wherever you plan on traveling to. It was definitely a bummer when I arrived in Ireland and realized my phone charger wouldn’t work with their funky-shaped outlets.

 

5. Give Your Parents a Really, Really Long Hug at the Airport 

This was the honestly scariest part of my entire trip. Once those suitcases are out of the car and you have the plane ticket in your hand, there’s really no turning back. Whether you’re leaving for 2 weeks or 6 months, just make that hug a good one. It’s one of the best you’ll ever have in your life, I promise.

 

6. Pack A Sleeping Aid for the Plane

I honestly don’t remember much of the 9-hour flight. I ate the tiny airplane box dinner, turned on Big Hero 6, and the next thing I knew we were preparing for landing. Sleep is wonderful – I would recommend this trick.

 

7. Be Prepared and Adaptable to Whatever Living Space You’re Given 

In Italy, the apartments are much smaller and they don’t have air conditioning or blankets. Well, at least ours didn’t. Different cultures mean different styles of bathrooms, kitchens, bedrooms… you name it. Don’t be surprised if you have to close the shutters at night, dry yourself off with a tiny towel, and maybe even try a bidet (It’s really not that weird!).

 

8. Try to Befriend Locals

This is a big one. It’s extremely easy to get comfortable in your group of friends within your program, because you’re all bonding over the same traveling experience. But if there’s one thing I regret most about my time abroad, it would be not making more European friends. Locals have so much insight that you’d never be able to learn on a walking tour. Plus, then you have friends to visit whenever you return!

 

9. Travel Outside of your Program

My program only required us to be in class Monday-Thursday, which meant we had 3-day weekends to do what we pleased. Based on what I’ve gathered from other people, this is how many Study Abroad programs are. So, take advantage of your time! Go see The Eiffel tower, The Charles Bridge, or anything else that may be on your bucket list. Plane tickets within European countries are CHEAP (I’m talking $30), and so are hostels. Why wouldn’t you want to go?!

 

10. Remember to Get Friends and Family Souvenirs

Again, another regret of mine! I made a point to get everyone in my direct family something thoughtful, but I sucked in the friend department. If you see something you think your best friend would love, just get it. Too often, I found myself thinking I’d come back for it on a later day, but most of the time that didn’t happen. Nothing is cooler than getting a gift from a foreign country, so share the love and buy those tacky key-chains whenever you get the chance!

 

11. Don’t Forget to Take Pictures

When I first got to Rome, I was a bit self-conscious of asking strangers to take pictures of my friends and me. But then I quickly realized capturing the memory was much more important than feeling slightly out of my comfort zone. Looking back at all of the pictures from my trip brings back memories better than anything else can!

 

12. Most Importantly -- Let Yourself Feel Each Emotion

I remember walking home from class one day with my roommate Melissa, feeling extremely overwhelmed. We were finally feeling settled into our new lifestyle, and so far everything had been going great. I didn’t know why I was feeling upset, because I was in one of the most beautiful cities in the world with incredible opportunities at my fingertips. But in that moment, without knowing why, Melissa and I both started bawling in the middle of Ponte Sant'Angelo. Neither of us could explain why we were feeling so emotional, but it felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and I could finally breathe again. Traveling is an exhausting, overwhelming, completely amazing experience, and it’s important to acknowledge your emotions every day.

Looking out over the city walls in Dubrovnik, Croatia (aka King’s Landing from Game of Thrones!)

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Melissa and I exploring in Galway, Ireland

 

Sofia, Melissa, myself, and Becca in Piazzale Michelangelo atop Florence


Unintentionally stumbling upon the Colosseo 


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