1. Learn how to use the city’s public transportation.
Every city has their own unique method of transportation; some are clear and easy to understand while others may take a while to get used to. Since you won’t have a car abroad, it is important to know and become familiar with the closest station to your housing. Get to know the different lines and zones your city’s public transportation system runs on and pick a monthly package that best suits your estimated travel needs. Whether it’s trains, buses, taxis, or bikes – know your route and time your journey correctly.
2. Take advantage of free weekends to travel.
Most programs do not schedule classes on the weekend, and possibly even Fridays, to allow students to plan trips and travel. It’s smart to wait a couple of weeks after you arrive to settle into your new city before you jet across Europe. Weekend travels are most affordable when they are done in a group, on a budget airline, and properly planned. If you want to have authentic spaghetti in Italy, do it. If you want to go to Iceland to look for the Northern Lights, go. If you want to skydive through the Alps in Switzerland, you’ve got the time. Take advantage of your semester abroad to see part of the world most students don’t get to see.
3. If you don’t change your cell phone plan, buy a pay-as-you-go phone once you’re abroad.
Purchasing a pay-as-you-go phone is a great option for students who don’t buy an international cell phone through their carrier at home. This cost-effective option allows students to communicate through text and phone calls with anyone in the country the phone is bought in. For a small amount of money, you can purchase international minutes and apply them to your pay-as-you-go phone to keep in touch with family and friends at home. Most pay-as-you-go phones can be bought at grocery stores.
4. Don’t be afraid of hostels when traveling.
Hollywood has primed us through films to think that hostels are dangerous places where horrible things happen. Although it’s true that a small percentage of hostels are risky, most hostels are safe and filled with students who are traveling. Hostels are a cheap way to make traveling every weekend affordable. It is important to spend a great amount of time looking for hostels and to pick the one that is highly rated through online reviews, is in the best location, and suits the number of people you are traveling with.
5. Try to live like the locals.
Although the McDonald’s next to the bus stop may sound like a good idea when you’re missing home, don’t eat there. One of the most important things while studying abroad is to immerse yourself into the new culture you are in. You shouldn’t change who you are for a semester, but you should learn and appreciate what it’s like to live in a different part of the world. An easy way to feel like you fit in is to make local friends. Stray away from touristy areas of the city and find a part of town that makes you feel at home. Whether it’s a club, a Bible study, or an independent coffee-house, there is a community to be found anywhere you go.
6. Spend your money wisely.
Managing money in a foreign country can be difficult. There are going to be expensive, attractive options along with student-friendly options everywhere you go. It’s sometimes hard to put down your 7th new pair of shoes or walk away from the restaurant offering an appetizing meal and wine list, but it will be worth it at the end of the semester. An important habit to get into is giving yourself a weekly budget. By sticking to a budget, you will have more spending money for weekend travels and souvenirs for yourself and others.
7. Don’t think you must have plans every day.
One of the worst things you can do while studying abroad is to stick to a strict schedule everyday. You should understand that things won’t always go the way you hoped, and that’s okay. Waking up in the morning with no plans opens the door to uncertainty which leads to new adventures. Although it is safe to have structure, if you restrict yourself to a planned list of activities each and everyday, you will not feel fulfilled. Taking walks is a great way to get up and into the city. You will learn to love randomly stumbling upon quaint coffee shops, small boutiques and beautiful parks.
8. Take advantage of the arts your city has to offer.
Now that you’ll be in a foreign city, you’ll be surrounded by an abundance of rich, artistic culture that your college campus at home could never offer you. Utilize your new space and learn about its history. There are countless modern outlets for you to be creative in a foreign city. Free museums, an eclectic choice of theater performances, and fashion week events are all at your fingertips to let your creativity flow and gain inspiration from. Fall in love with your city’s past and present.
9. Write letters and send postcards to friends and family at home.
Although Skype and FaceTime are great ways to stay in touch with your family and friends, sending and receiving mail is a timeless tradition that you will value while studying abroad. A handwritten letter is a personal gesture that makes you feel much closer to your loved ones at home than you actually are. Postcards are great as they make for good memories and can give your family and friends a visual of where you were. You will thank yourself that you sent letters and postcards when your semester is over as they will act as a diary of all the places you went to and your thoughts while being there.
10. Remember that you are there for school.
The most obvious is often the one that is most forgotten. It’s easy to get caught up in a semester full of new experiences, but you must set aside time for your classes. Professors understand that studying abroad is an exciting time in a student’s life, but you need to remember to respect them and value their knowledge. It’s not enough to just attend lectures and participate in a class discussion, but put effort into your classes and apply yourself to the material. It’s also helpful to remember that some of your best resources and study tools are right outside your door for you to explore.
Be sure to share these tips with your friends who are about to embark on their new and exciting study abroad experience!