by Hannah Schultz, Executive Editor
Studying abroad may seem like a daunting prospect to some — living in another country for months, sometimes with people you don’t know, often overcoming a language barrier in addition to culture shock — and to others, it’s the adventure of a lifetime. However, it’s important to be prepared before you go abroad no matter your ability to adjust to change, as there are some things that even the Cross-Cultural Experience orientations don’t cover. Here are some tips on surviving that semester abroad from someone who (mostly) survived a semester in Oxford, England:
Whether introverted or extroverted, navigationally challenged or a human-map, internationally affluent or a first-time traveler, confidence is what you’ll need to survive almost every aspect of your life abroad. Confidence can be used to avoid pickpockets, who are more likely to pounce on an American who looks unsure of their surroundings, or gypsies, who will swoop in if you have to stop and consult Google Maps every two minutes. It will also make your overall experience more enjoyable if you don’t allow yourself to be consumed by anxiety during your travels.
Be prepared to spend money.
While you shouldn’t spend your life savings on every whim while you’re abroad, go into the experience with the expectation that you’ll be spending a good chunk of change. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and you shouldn’t spend your day in Paris without 20 euros’ worth of crêpes and macarons, or deny yourself an escapade to Bath to save £15 on a train ticket. Budget your stay — especially the money you spend on groceries — but allow some wiggle room for travel and spontaneous adventures.
Don’t neglect your studies.
It’s easy to get caught up in the culture of the new country you’re in — traveling every weekend, getting involved with activities at your new university, making cool international friends, eating exotic cuisine — but don’t forget that you’re returning to real life in five months. Your GPA won’t thank you if you get a C because you decided to skip class in exchange for a long weekend touring the English countryside.
Be a traveler — not a tourist.
Don’t eat at only McDonald’s, staunchly refuse to speak anything aside from English and take selfies with the Mona Lisa instead of looking at the Mona Lisa. Allow yourself to be immersed in the culture by eating the food — even if it’s gammon and smells like a sweaty foot — speaking the language or walking on the wrong side of the road. You’ll have more fun and as a bonus, you won’t get on the locals’ bad side.