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10 Helpful Tips For Study Abroad

10 Helpful Tips For Study Abroad

As the summer comes to a close, some of you might be getting ready to study abroad. Before you embark on your adventures abroad, it’s important to be prepared. Take it from me, a college senior who just came back from a semester in London. You don’t want to enter a new country without knowing how to act. Here are ten tips you should keep in mind for study abroad:

1. Pack Smarter, Not More

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If you’re flying to your study abroad destination, you should be extra conscious of what to pack. You don’t want to lug heavy suitcases around all day or get charged for overweight baggage. I’ve made both of those errors on account of overpacking. Most of the clothes I packed were ones I didn’t even end up wearing. My advice is to pack two larger suitcases and one carry on. It may be hard to whittle down what you want to pack, so here’s another tip: ask yourself how regularly you use whatever you’re unsure about. Have you worn this sweater in the past three months? If the answer is no, you don’t need it. 


I also highly recommend using packing cubes. My packing cubes compressed whatever clothing I put in, making heavy pieces instantly lighter. Not only do packing cubes clear up a lot of space in your luggage, but they’ll make it just a tad bit easier to carry. For pieces of clothing that are too small to fit in packing cubes, roll them instead of folding them. Again, this tactic will free up room in your bag. 

2. Create Checklists

You need to have a checklist for your departure and arrival days. Without mine, I would’ve been completely lost. A week prior to my flight to London, I created a master document on my phone, listing all of the information I need to know for the journey. This included reference numbers, a step-by-step breakdown of what to do at the airport, where to get my SIM card, and what methods of transportation I can take from the airport to my school. 

Checklists can be fun, too. (Wow…I’m really showing my Type A colors). For each country that I traveled to, I would compile a list of all the landmarks, museums, restaurants, etc. that interested me. Doing so gave my days more structure; instead of spending hours brainstorming what to do, I had plenty of ideas right in front of me. 


3. Don’t Carry Tons Of Cash

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This might be specific only to London, but I never found myself in a cash-only situation. I carried some pounds with me for the first few weeks there, but once I spent it, I didn’t feel the need to deposit more. That said, I recommend taking out around $200 worth of pounds/euros/francs/yen/what have you. Since tipping isn’t big in Europe—assuming that you’re studying abroad there—you won’t need a lot of money for that reason. I mostly spent my pounds on food (a.k.a. Nando’s). Was that a wise financial decision? Not really. But hey, I never went broke or hungry.

4. Ask Around

Advice from a friend is more reliable than advice found online. I realize that negates the purpose of this article, so let me clarify. You can find a ton of great tips online, but no one knows what you like more than your friends. If you know someone who’s traveled to your study abroad destination, hit them up for recommendations. It doesn’t even have to be someone you’re close to; if they’re around your age, they’ll probably have some good suggestions for restaurants, night life, etc. Bonus points for if they studied abroad where you will! You can learn ahead of time where to get your groceries, what classes to take on campus, and so much more.


Step outside of your comfort zone and ask locals for tips. When I was flying to Rome, I sat next to a young woman who lives there. She was kind enough to text me a list of her favorite places to eat, shop, and visit for sightseeing. I have her to thank for such a memorable trip!

5. Don’t Slack Off

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Don’t go into study abroad with the mindset that school will be easier. While I had less classes than I typically do in the US, the work was more challenging. Most of my friends who went abroad agreed: your professors will not “go easy on you” for being an associate student. They’ll evaluate you as they would a full-time student. With that in mind, prepare to work hard. Sometimes it can be difficult balancing classes and traveling, but don’t let that take away from your experience. If you have to do homework in another country, so be it. 


6. Experience Life Abroad On Your Own

I’m not saying you should put yourself in dangerous situations. There are some things you might want to do that your friends have no interest in. As a massive bookworm, I always wanted to go to bookshops. I recognized that my friends didn’t like going in them, so I would take myself there on my own. I treated my time alone as a self-date: I would buy myself a book, enjoy some coffee and a scone, and write on my laptop. Taking myself on little self-dates gave me a deeper appreciation for London. I could envision myself living there, frequenting bookshops and eating scones on the daily.

When my friends were in class, I would often go for a walk on my own. I was fortunate enough to have a campus by Regent’s Canal and Victoria Park. There was nothing more peaceful than walking along the water and through the gardens of Victoria. To be safe, you should share your location with your friends before going anywhere alone. 

7. Save As Much $$ As You Can

I saved up $3,500 for study abroad, thinking that would last me five months. Spoiler: it did not. Not only was London extremely expensive, but traveling fees added up, too. That includes airline tickets and public transportation. My Oyster card took a serious hit each week, thanks to the growing rates of the Underground. Though it’s easier said than done, save as much money as you can. Or, if this is an option for you, get a part-time job while abroad. I know some people that tutored kids in English while they studied in Rome, and they loved it. 


8. Know Where To Book Flights

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As I just mentioned, flights can get pricy. You need to know the right places to search for easy and affordable flights. In my experience, is the way to go. I’ve scored some great deals using that app, like a flight to Ibiza that was around $20 roundtrip. The planes that they recommend might not be first class, but my philosophy is, “If it can get me there, that’s all I need.” You may not travel comfortably, but at least you’ll be at ease knowing you saved on dough. 


9. Hit The Books

Before you travel anywhere, you should brush up on the culture’s customs and language. Even if you aren’t comfortable in your linguistic skills, at least make an attempt to speak the language. I owe everything to Duolingo and Conjugemos when I tried to re-learn French. Most of the time, people can tell that you’re American and automatically switch to speaking English. If this occurs, the polite thing to do is to continue the conversation in English. 

My parents left me with a collection of Rick Steve’s travel books when I went to England. At first I thought to myself, I’m never going to read these. Turns out, they were incredibly helpful. Those books taught me about different cultural norms, sites to visit, and more. 10/10 recommend!

10. Collect Everything

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I became quite the hoarder during my time abroad. I collected everything, from airline tickets to cheap prints, wristbands to Oyster cards. These trinkets were later put into use. When I returned to the US, I started a scrapbook for study abroad. I was able to preserve everything I collected in there, reminding me of my time in London. As long as it doesn’t take up too much space in your luggage, throw it in. That’s my motto. 

Hopefully, my advice was more helpful than the typical, “Have fun! Travel!”. In all seriousness, study abroad is about having fun and traveling. Good luck and bon voyage—you’ll have the time of your life!

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