Preparing for a semester abroad can be daunting – you’ve literally got a world of options. Lucky for you, there is a network of people who have already gone through the entire process, and their knowledge can answer more of your questions than you probably realize. Don’t be afraid to ask when you come across something you’re not sure of. Chances are, we’ve all asked the same questions and had the same worries. I’ll address some of the big ones from my preparation, and a few things I picked up along the way.
- Choose somewhere you’ve never been before. Choosing somewhere familiar can make the idea of going abroad less scary, but being uncomfortable can be rewarding. One of the best moments in a study abroad experience when you stop being scared of where you are. This is your opportunity to make a home somewhere completely new, and there is nothing cooler than being able to say you made it completely on your own.
- Work as much as you can before you leave. Studying abroad is expensive, and it’s pretty hard to avoid that. Rake in as many paychecks as you can before you leave. Create a ‘Study Abroad Fund.’ I worked so much that I barely had a summer before my program, but it was worth it. Knowing that I was going to have the money to afford to take full advantage of my opportunity was a great comfort in the days leading up to my departure.
- Don’t be afraid to spend your money. No matter how much you have in the bank before you leave, it will probably not seem like enough. While budgeting isn’t a bad idea, don’t be too strict with yourself. Wait until you know what you want to do before you tell yourself you’re only going to spend X amount on this, that, or the other thing. You don’t want to blow it all in the first month of your program, but if you’re worrying about money from day one, chances are you’ll miss out on some really cool things.
- When you do spend your money, spend it on experiences. Buy the train tickets or plane tickets or tour buses before you buy a dinner out or another drink when you’re out. When you look at your receipts, which you will, you’ll be much less likely to bang your head into your desk if you’ve got the memories for each of those dollars that have vacated your account. The memories of trips to new places will last much longer, too.
- Go out alone. You’ll learn more about the place where you’re studying and about yourself this way. Don’t worry about getting lost. At best, your wandering will lead you to discover a wonderful place; at worst, you’ll have a story to tell.
- Find a favorite hangout and become a regular. This will make you feel more at home than anything else.
- Finally: Be selfish. This is your time. A once in a lifetime experience shouldn’t be spent doing things that you’re not 100% excited about. Find the things that are worth your time and your money and that will make you happiest. Don’t worry about anything else.
Amy Rubenstein is a junior journalism major in the Honors Tutorial College. She is currently studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland. Follow her travels on twitter @amyelisabethx.