So you may have already compiled a long list of absolute must do’s for when that fateful semester abroad arrives. These six to-dos may not seem crucial but in reality each one of these tasks carry a higher value then meets the eye. Each item on this list truly embodies any abroad experience and adds to the experience culturally, intellectually, and spiritually.
1. If You Can Do It, Then Do It
Ever since I arrived to this new continent my daily motto has been, “When in Prague.” As an abroad student it is your duty to do everything you possibly can do, and I mean everything. I don’t care how tired, poor, or inverted you are! You owe it to your parents who shed out the doe to ship you away, all of your friends who couldn’t go abroad, and the underclassmen mentally preparing for their future abroad experiences through daily updated photo albums. So when you are sitting alone in your room why not buy that cheap bus ticket to Budapest or reserve tickets to the film festival downtown. At the end of the day you are setting the experience so it’s really going to be what you make of it. There should be no hesitation when it comes to booking a flight to see your best friend on the other side of Europe, making a dinner reservation at the best vegan place in town, and when taking out coins for the entry fee at the infamous five-story club. If you can do something, then you better do it!! No questions asked.
2. Go On An Impromptu Trip
The best thing about being abroad is the complete openness and lack of a schedule, going by daily with really no set plans (except classes). If you want to go grab a coffee with a good book, nothing is stopping you. The possibilities are endless. So lets say a friend invites you on a trip to Amsterdam and the bus leaves in an hour…GO! The uncertainty and spontaneity of being abroad is a huge part of why it is so popular among college students and TEFL teachers. It’s incredible to have the ability to randomly pack a bag and go anywhere just because class was canceled.
Yes reading an actual book for pleasure is an act that is truly taken for granted, I cannot describe how nice it is to sit down in a beautiful park and read a new book. I am not talking about a book assigned for class which is either skimmed through or the plot is carefully discovered through spark notes. I am talking about a real book, hand chosen at the local bookstore through a long careful examination of the contents on every shelf. Whether it’s an intellectual read or a cheesy romantic comedy, a book will clear your mind. Please just try it and you will see.
4. Visit A Friend From Home
Even if you’re not close with that person, if a friend is studying abroad in a different country that is an hour away (Europe is very small) then makes plans for a visit! This tactic is a great way to see a familiar face that provides a sense of home and all that you have to look forward too when returning. A bonus to this is the ability to travel to another country. And being a local, your friend can show you the best places that aren’t in the travel guides. So set a date, jump on a bus, and visit your ex-hall mate from freshman year or your childhood neighbor. It will defiantly be worth your while.
5. Speak With Everyone In Your Program
The initial meet and greet during study abroad orientation can go either two ways: A) you will fall in love with each other, instantly become bffs, and everything is perfect B) it’s a little awkward and takes time to develop close and lasting bonds. My advice for those in Group B is to really put an effort to spend time with everyone in the group. A great bonding tactic is to get a membership at the local gym. That’s where you will find a good percentage of your program. Just jump on an empty exercise bike and chat up the girls next to you who live down the hall. Another great bonding experience are the optional field trips offered by your program; if you have the option to attend one I highly recommend signing up. There are tons of other activities you can do to socialize with everyone, it really is a shame to miss out on a fantastic friendship because you never got to know the people in your program.
A handwritten postcard, who does that anymore? This method of communicating is outdated. The art of letter writing is slowly dying especially among the social media craze of our generation, now all it takes is a Facebook message or quick text to communicate with someone oceans away. A postcard is meaningful and extremely personal, its as though you are sharing a little piece of your new country with someone. Trust me this is a great way to show a loved one that they are truly missed them. And you will be in high graces with our founding ancestors by practicing the dying art of letter writing that was once our only method of communicating from far distances.
Take these tips and do what you may with them. I can personally recommend each and every task. These tips have shaped my abroad experience and I hope they do the same for you. Enjoy!
What do you think
Have you studied abroad? Where did you go? Where would you want to go?