1. First and foremost, study abroad. Spend 4 months in Prague, or 6 weeks in Florence. Do it while you’re young and while you have the chance. You’re never as free as you are in your early 20s, so go for it. You’ll be the envy of your friends, relatives, and total strangers. People you didn’t even know you were Facebook friends with will be stalking the crap out of you regularly. Every story that you tell that starts with “When I was studying abroad,” or “When I lived in Europe,” is guaranteed to be a good one.
2. Eat something that absolutely repulses you. Maybe you’ll love it, maybe you’ll spit it back onto your plate, maybe you’ll even puke in your mouth a little, but from the wise words of Wayne Gretzky, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Regardless of the outcome, saying you’ve tried escargots in Paris, or haggis in Scotland, makes for one hell of a good story.
3. Do something completely adventurous. Going abroad is adventurous in in itself, but I’m talking adrenaline pumping, boarder-line pee your pants, adventurous. I’m sure you know people who have skydived or bungee jumped, but how many people do you know who can say they’ve skydived over the Swiss Alps, or white water rafted in Croatia? Make sure you get the videos or pictures to prove it, or no one is going to believe you.
4. Make at least one great friend from another culture. Learn from them, teach them, teach other people what you learn from them, and most importantly, stay in touch with them. When you’re back home, wallowing in depression and self-pity because you miss your new found home away from home and your uncultured friends just don’t understand, you’ll have a way to stay connected. And let’s be honest, everything is funnier and more interesting with an accent, so imitating them once you’re back in the states is a real crowd pleaser.
5. Trace your roots. If your great grandparents came from Naples, go visit. Being abroad gives you the rare opportunity to explore your lineage and understand your background and share what your learn with your family. Your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles will be thrilled to hear that you visited the places where your family originated. Make sure you get souvenirs for your family members!