When I started doing my research for my study abroad, which was only three years ago, there wasn't a whole lot of information on experiences or what to expect when you study abroad. I mostly based all of my "what to do" on what people had written for when the traveled there, not studied and traveled. Don't get me wrong, they were extremely helpful, but it seemed like they were missing a certain element and explanation to them. I wanted to know more about being submersed the culture rather than just passing through. Here are a few of my top tips to help ease you into your study abroad and help you along the way:
1. Culture Shock –
It’s real. Everyone gets it.
When you study abroad for a semester, it’s completely different than traveling to a new place for a shorter period of time. You aren’t really on a “vacation”, you are living within your new culture. It takes a while to adjust to your surroundings and your new home away from home.
Tips: Walk around your campus and get familiar with the local area. Find a grocery store or local food market. Food is your best friend and you want to know where is at all times. Make friends with the people in you building, classes, or program. Chances are someone else is studying abroad and are feeling the culture shock too. And when in doubt, call or Face Time family or friends at home.
2. Student Discounts –
This is probably one of my favorites (being a broke college student) is student discounts. Always have your Student ID with you from the university you are studying abroad with when you go out shopping, go out to dinner, or go to an event just in case! Especially in Europe, most museums and attractions will give students a discount or access for free.
Tip: When you are traveling and want to use the discount, have a copy of your passport and student visa. They will ask to see that along with your Student ID.
In France, as a student of the EU you can go to any National museum/monument for free. YES FREE.
In Prague they have a reduced rate, so you can go to the top of the Astronomical Clock Tower and see all of Prague for a cheaper price.
Have a copy of your passport, student ID, and visa with you accessible at all times! I can't stress that enough.
3. Avoiding Pickpocketing –
“Once it happens to you, it will never happen again.” It’s sad, but it is true. Once you have been pickpocketed, you are determined to never let it happen to you or anyone else again. One of best ways to avoid pickpocketing is to use either travel neck wallet or a waist security pouch that go under your clothes. These are great to keep extra money, credit cards, your passport, tickets, and any other important documents. Always keep a little bit of money in a front pocket of your jeans or an inside pocket of a coat. Locks for your backpack, carry-on, luggage, and even purse are also a must. It may seem over the top to lock everything, taking a few extra precautions to lock you belongs might detour a pickpocketer.
Tip: If the weather is ideal, wear two coats, a lighter one with zipper-pockets under your main jacket. That way you can put you money in the lighter jacket underneath so your money and phone are not exposed for easy pickings.
4. Travel Photography // Journaling –
The best part about traveling is the new experiences, the people you meet, and documenting every beautiful thing along the way. People will live vicariously through your photos and want to know what you are up to. It’s a great way to keep people back home informed on what you are doing and you will have an amazing documentation of your study abroad to keep forever with your photographs. (And the geo-tag feature on iPhone for your photo library is the greatest invention on the planet).
Also, as I'm sure everyone will tell you, keep a journal!!! I can't stress how important this is. You will go to so many amazing places, see things you never thought were imaginable, and try some pretty crazy things. WRITE IT DOWN. You don't have to go crazy and put every little detail of your day in the journal, but put important events, funny things that happened, and collect little memorabilia: recites, stickers, flyers, ticket stubs, coasters from bars, anything that stands out to you... Journal it.
Tips: You only live abroad for so long, so photograph everything! The food, the architecture around you, the cars, the people, the fashion, and everything that inspires you. Look up the local instagram accounts to see what areas are trending, what local photographers are doing in the area, or go to iconic landmarks and have a photoshoot with friends.
A cute house in Notting Hill, UK // Little gold lettering in Marylebone, UK
5. Explore the City –
Never let a day go by that you do not go out and just wander through the city. The best way to learn the city is to just walk around for with no plans and go in ay direction that looks interesting. You will find the best-hidden secrets by getting lost and have the greatest time. Always have your street smarts with you, but wander aimlessly till you know the city like a local.
Tip: Most cities have rental bikes at a fairly good price or offer a deal for the first thirty minutes free. Try a bike out a see how much more of the city you can cover.
I hope these tips help you when you are packing, inspire your creative side, and help you stay safe for your next adventure!
xx A Traveler's Bliss
(hey - hey you. click the bliss above... do it.)