By Becca Pilolla
Once you head abroad your mind instantly goes crazy! There’s so much you want to do, see, taste, and discover. But don’t go planning your whole semester just yet. There’s a lot to consider before you get your head wrapped around all the countries you want to go see, and events you want to make appearances at.
First, make sure you read through all your syllabi and mark in your calendar all the tests you have, field trips, and mandatory meetings. The worst is planning your weekend to Prague, or your weekend in the Amalfi coast with all your friends then having to cancel it because you have a huge test, paper, or field trip that overlaps with the trip.
Second, go through your budget. Make sure that you have enough for food come the last 3 weeks of the semester. The silliest call I’ve ever made was to my mom the day before I left to come home, because I didn’t have enough money to check my one bag on the flight home.
Another great tip is to make sure that you have time in your new home. Don’t go away every weekend except the last one you’re there. There’s a reason you chose to study abroad in this country, and in that particular city. Don’t waste it. Explore it and take day trips. Discover great things about it. Become an expert. The worst regret will not be that you didn’t travel too much, it will be that you didn’t stick around your ‘home town’ long enough to even know what it really is like. Try a cooking class if you’re in Italy, or head to one of the beach parties in Barcelona. Remember what made you chose to go here instead of there!
Lastly, think. Think of all the great places you want to go. Your top 10 places, countries, cities to visit. Then see if you could narrow it down to your top 5. As you think of those places, try and figure out what draws you to them. Why do you want to go to Prague so much? How did Budapest make the top 5? And once you have that think to yourself what it is that you want to do, experience, see, and taste while you’re there. It would just stink if you decided that you wanted to go to skiing in the Swiss Alps right after ski season. Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on something great just because your mind was somewhere else at the moment. After your content with your 5, think of all the other places and factor them into your semester abroad equation.
But more importantly, the best tip is to have fun. Enjoy the fact that you only have this class once a week. You’re able to get to go to a new country for cheaper than a round trip ticket from Chicago to New York. Learn the language, eat the food, drink the 3 euro wine, and just enjoy your fantasy life for the next 4 months, because that’s all it is, just 4 months.