Monday, January 6, 2014

19 Things to Know for the Best Semester Abroad

With so many of my friends going abroad this semester, I figured I'd write up a little list of things to know before seeing the world. Before I left my mum and I researched so much on the best ways to pack and things to bring for my semester in London, but it was still stressful. Hopefully this will help as you prepare for the best semester yet!


Packing Tips:

  1. Roll your clothes! You'll fit so much more in one suitcase. 
  2. Don't overpack on toiletries. I only brought a travel size shampoo and conditioner at first along with a travel size pack of make-up wipes and razor to start. I bought more toiletries when I got to London.
  3. Limit yourself to 5 pairs of shoes. I know this is really difficult, especially if you are interning  because you have more occasions for different style shoes BUT they take up space. Plus, I'm sure you'll find a cool new pair while you're abroad!
  4. Make friends with vacuum seal bags--for your bulkier items!
  5. Bring some foreign money with you. That way you won't have to worry about not having enough for your first week.
  6. FYI I brought one large, overweight suitcase, one carry-one suitcase and a backpack when I departed for London. I did the same when I returned, but luckily my parents took a small duffle bag of some of my stuff home so I had a little extra space. You can always ship things to and from your destination as well!

When You Arrive:

  1. Take an Advil; you will feel pretty awful I'm sorry to say.
  2. Avoid napping! My friends and I had bad jet lag, mostly because we barely slept on our flight. Try to stay awake so the next day you'll feel more comfortable with the time change.
  3. Grocery shop--make a list beforehand! This is one thing we did not do and it was not a pretty picture. Know what you're going to buy (if you have to cook for yourself) because unfamiliar grocery stores, especially in a foreign country, are overwhelming.
  4. Walk around your new 'home away from home' and explore the site around you! This will also help you stay awake and get acquainted.

Other necessities:

  1. Cell phones - I bought a cheap pay-as-you-go phone from my study abroad program to call my friends and work colleagues in London and occasionally to call home. Otherwise, I used my iPhone to FaceTime and iMessage family and friends at home.
  2. Credit cards/Money - If it's not already too late, get a Traveler Rewards Credit Card. There are no fees and you can get a chip on the card that allows you to swipe it in European settings. Most shops and restaurants can swipe American cards, too. The vendor may just look confused at first.

Traveling Tips:

  1. Make a list of all the places you want to go and discuss with friends and peers to see if anyone else wants to do the same trip. This way you'll have other people to plan with.
  2. Budget your money. Try to book as far in advance as possible; otherwise, flight rates will just keep rising. Traveling is easy, especially in Europe, but only if you plan ahead.
  3. Skip the suitcase. On all of my trips I lived out of a backpack--even my 5 day trip. At first I never thought I could fit everything I needed in just a backpack, but by packing as little as possible [while still remaining sanitary, of course] I was able to do it. It was actually a really good feeling. I felt more adventurous, and it was much easier to carry than a suitcase.
  4. Early bird catches the worm - take the early flight! My friends and I had class or our internship Monday through Friday, so we didn't have a lot of travel time. For our weekend trips we would get an early 7 AM flight on a Saturday, so we'd have two full days to explore. There's no need to arrive on a Friday night because you'll arrive late with little time to do anything, plus you'll spend extra money on another night in a hostel that you could be spending on better food or another purchase.
  5. Get a map. As soon as you arrive at your destination, get a map of the city either at the airport or your hostel. It will list all of the must-see tourist attractions.
  6. Ask questions. The hotel or hostel front desk is there to help you. If you don't have any recommendations on restaurants or bars from other friends, ask the hostel front desk. They almost always have a helpful opinion.
  7. Take lots of pictures. Looking back, they'll make you smile and remind you of everything you did--even the little things!
I hope these tips help! Most of all though, have the time of your life and be grateful every minute you're abroad. My time in London made me feel like the luckiest girl alive. Have lots of fun!
Bon Voyage!

3 comments:

  1. Oh man, great list! I agree with all of it!

    Re: living out of a backpack -- I backpacked for three weeks straight, so it can totally be done! I bought one of those kind of intense hiking backpacks, so it had great back support and a ton of room. And being able to say "oh yeah, I went backpacking" is just really cool! :) haha.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much! And wow your backpacking story is impressive. it's definitely a liberating experience to say the least! thanks for reading:)

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