The best decision I’ve made thus far in college? Studying abroad.
If we’re being honest, I was absolutely terrified to leave the country for an entire summer. I would constantly get asked, “How pumped are you to go live abroad for six weeks?” In my head I was thinking that a part of me didn’t even want to go, but aloud I always told them that I couldn’t wait. The idea of studying abroad was a daunting one to me, but also one that made me more anxiously excited than any other experience I could have had in these four years – and possibly my lifetime.
Flash forward to June 23, 2018 and I was boarding a 10-hour flight to London to study journalism for the next six weeks with some of my very best friends. Passport, 100 pounds of luggage and an abundance of nerves in hand, I was ready to go. Surprisingly, the flight wasn’t too miserable, which was great news for an anxious flyer like me. Best way to beat the jet lag? Try seven movies and an overnight flight. That way when arriving to your destination, you’ll have had a full night’s rest, fresh and ready for a full day in a new country.
Instead of writing about the entirety of my experience abroad (which could very well take up 20 pages) I figured I would give brief highlights from my European exposure to drive home the value of studying abroad.
Most weekend trips in Europe are a short one to three hour plane ride away. While studying in London, my friends and I took three different weekend trips, with each taking us no longer than two hours via plane. Barcelona is the prime spot for a beach getaway. Amsterdam is where you end up wanting to stay for months because of its utter tranquility. Prague is full of history and the beautiful views that extend across the entire city. So, travel! -Travel, travel, travel! Take advantage of the opportunity to hop on a plane and immerse yourself in the many cultures this world has to offer.
It goes without being said but the food. The wide range of cuisines you will encounter when traveling internationally will easily transform your outlook on food and what it really means to a culture. Hands down the best food was in Italy. Surprise, surprise, the best food was Italian, but it can’t get better than homemade pasta, pizza and bread.
The overall best advice I can give is to enjoy every moment. I never knew time could fly by so quickly until I traveled the world. Take time to soak up the moments and be present. Many opportunities only come around once and this is one that has the potential to change your life tragetory and world view.
Now enough about me. I asked friends who have traveled abroad for some top tips pulling out the most beneficial ones for future travelers.
Plan any excursions or outside trips ahead of time to save money and stress on flights and trains!
Planning ahead was the most common and most emphasized when asking for top recommendations from my peers. One of the most important aspects of traveling abroad is planning to ensure saving money as well as reducing stress and time spent looking for flights and arranging itineraries.
If you go to a non-English speaking country, know a few phrases in their language and downloading the Google Map of the area you’re in.
Download a translation application on your phone. Traveling to parts of the world where the first language isn’t English can be extremely stressful and difficult. Communicating with Uber or taxi drivers and navigating transportation in general seemed to prove the most difficult
Be open to adapting to new cultures., Be patient and understanding with people native to that country.
Let go of all expectations and ideas of what traveling abroad may be like. The best thing you can do is have an open mind to what might happen. Be flexible and remain calm in stressful situations.
Don’t use any of the exchange rate places if you’re exchanging small amounts of cash.
Being unaware of little tips or shortcuts while abroad can make a trip hard and frustrating. By all means, take out money when you need to use cash, however most exchange rate kiosks will try and scam you out of money, so always be on the look out for post offices and banks, which will give better rates.
Do the touristy stuff one day, but make sure to have a day to explore the city’s hidden spots!
Tourist spots are a must for many, as they’re hallmarks of particular countries and cities, but be sure to do the research ahead of time by reading blogs and boutique websites.That way you can see a city’s more authentic side. . Although famous restaurants and landmarks can make an incredible trip, finding hidden gems and hole in the wall places make for more unique experiences.
Ready to head abroad? Talk to the SOJC advising team and your faculty advisor to see how it fits into your academic track. Also visit the Global Education Oregon (GEO) to learn more about specific programs, scholarships, and general study abroad opportunities.