One of the best things I have ever experienced in college was studying abroad. To step on foreign land and enjoy, first-hand, a culture so diverse from your own is surreal and can be one of your fondest memories.
I am an undergraduate at Arcadia University and, at my school, freshman and transfers are offered Preview; this is a two-credit, spring semester course that offers an international week long trip during Spring Break. I was lucky enough to take part in this program and spent my Spring Break in Seoul, South Korea studying art and culture.
Needless to say, it will be one of my greatest memories of college. I met new people, ate new food, and discovered a new world.
However, while I had a good time, I wasn't fully prepared for my trip abroad and could have made the most of it if I was equipped with what I needed.
Now, not everyone’s list is the same, but after talking with other kids who have also studied abroad, here are the most important things you are going to need when you travel overseas for school:
1. These shoes are made for walking!
While most countries have public transportation and vehicles, it is common for people to walk to the places they need to go to. How much you travel on foot depends from place to place, but it’s always a good idea to bring a new pair of sneakers with you.
No matter how reliable your lucky flats/heel/moccasins/Jordan’s are, by the second day, they will be trashed and you will be sporting a new pair of blisters.
2. A picture’s worth a thousand words
A camera is one thing you should never forget at home. This may be the only time you will ever get to be in this country, so take the opportunity and take as many photos (not to mention Snapchats, and Instagram pictures) as you can.
Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to immerse yourself in a culture that’s a 180 from your own. Don’t be afraid of looking like a tourist- nobody will recognize you anyway!
Pictures will be the triggers to the moments that made your college years memorable, so get as many as you can and cherish them.
3. I would walk 500 miles (but I REALLY don’t want to)
You can (will) get lost when you’re abroad (because it is inevitable and it happens to the best of us). You may not understand the street signs and posts in a foreign country but you can navigate an image, like a map.
Study the map before and during your trip to a country and have a strategy, because once you get lost, it’s good to have a back-up plan (and not break down, crying).
4. Knowledge is power!
Going abroad is a learning experience, so bringing notes is highly recommended. Most of the time, students don’t know much about the country they are going to, so it’s necessary to do research before you head overseas.
This includes maps, customs, currency exchange and some of the language you will need to survive if something happens.
You may not be trying to offend someone, but without the proper knowledge of the culture, it can happen (and it gives the country you’re from a bad rep. Yikes).
5. Show me the money!
Learn the currency exchange before you leave, because the US dollar is valued differently in every country.
Always have a budget for how much you are going to spend on food, souvenirs, emergency, and other things you might need.
You can find currency exchange machines in airports and attractions, so make sure you hit those up.
Plus, banks sometimes have fees for international purchases and withdrawals, so touch base with your bank (before you end up with an enormous statement waiting for you when you get home).
Also, if you’re going to be using your debit or credit card abroad, make sure to notify your bank or credit card
company prior to leaving the country. If you don’t do this, they will notice foreign charges and likely put a hold on your card, leaving you without usage of your card. You don’t want to be stranded abroad without the use of your account!
6. Dress for success
So often, for trips, we like to go out and buy nice, new clothes so we could make an impression, Which is fine, but don’t be that person who wore shorts and a tank when it’s 40 degree Fahrenheit.
Look up the weather and climate for that area and dress appropriately. It’s also okay to bring emergency clothing just in case something happens.
As a last resort, just go shopping in the area you are in. Bonus: you will have awesome clothes from a different country to show off when you come back home!
7. An open mind
Like I said before, Fastweb users who go abroad for a semester may never have this chance again, so don’t be afraid to try new things.
The world is full of too many opportunities and experiences for you to miss because you didn’t feel like stepping out of your comfort zone.
Yes, going abroad can make you feel intimidated and small, but all you need is that “YOLO” mindset to take a ride on the wild side.
So as long as you’re being safe, go into that new restaurant and try that thing you can’t pronounce. Climb that mountain and enjoy the view on the way up. Take a shortcut through the side streets and find a new world.
Make your abroad experience one that you’ll never forget.