7 Things I Wish I Had Realized Before Studying Abroad

Rachel Torralba Lancaster University, England


November 6, 2017

I’m exactly half-way through my study abroad experience and I still have no idea what I’m doing. Some days, it feels like I just got here; other days, it feels like I’ll be leaving tomorrow.

While I am most definitely not an expert at study abroad, here are a few things I wish I had realized before studying abroad:

  • 7. You don’t need that many clothes

The temptation to bring all of my clothes was strong but I tried to resist. I did end up bringing some “just in case” outfits but it’s been very helpful (who knew we’d have a ball?). I brought about two weeks’ worth of clothes and it’s been perfectly fine. I do laundry every other week (it costs money, which is annoying but I’ll get through it). I brought clothes I could layer and some dresses in addition to some lounge clothes. I also bought liquid detergent and have been hand washing my clothes sometimes.

  • 6. It’s not a bad idea to bring toiletries

This is definitely a topic of debate. Personally, I brought most of my toiletries. I found advice that said to bring about a week’s worth of toiletries and I did that with some things but I brought about three months’ worth of most things. Yes, my luggage was a little heavier and I didn’t have as much room but now I have the room and weight for the way back. And I didn’t have to spend forever trying to find a specific brand of shampoo I’ll never find here. Plus, it’s a little aspect of home in case I get homesick.

  • 5. Bring something to remind you of home

Most people who are away from home for long periods of time will get homesick at some point. Do yourself a favor and bring something to help when that time comes. Personally, I brought pictures to remind me of friends and family.

  • 4. Plan and book trips very early in the semester

Or just come early or plan to stay late, it’s really hard to travel on just the weekends when you have to worry about school work the whole time. We ended up planning most of our trips for the last weeks of the semester, when papers are due and we have a ton of reading to catch up on. I also didn’t realize how much there is to think about when planning a trip until we spent four hours figuring out our trip to Scotland. And get a rail card, if you can. Arcadia provided ours but they’re very helpful to get cheaper train tickets.

  • 3. Research politics and some famous people

I didn’t do any research on politics or famous people before coming to England so I had no idea who anyone was. Everyone seems to know everything about the United States in terms of politics and famous people. It’s not a bad idea to brush up on United States history too. One of my lecturers tends to ask me questions about U.S. history, and sometimes, I can’t remember.

  • 2. Learn some of the customs / traditions before leaving

It’s strange to be an International student. I don’t always remember to use the “British” version of words. It does make for a good story when you look at your flat mate oddly after being asked if you’re making tea (aka dinner) when you’re clearly making pasta. I have finally gotten used to them driving on the wrong side of the road but I still can’t figure out which side to walk on, they seem to walk wherever they want! It’s a good idea to learn a few of the customs of your host country before leaving to study abroad.

  • 1. You’ll meet a lot of new people

There are so many people here and they’re super nice. I can literally stand in Sainsbury’s (a grocery store) and complain about the expiration date on the milk (3 days? Are you kidding?) and like five British people will stop and complain with me. I’ve made a ton of new friends, mostly from the U.S., but it’s great to branch out and meet new people.

No matter what, it’s going to be a great experience but I would definitely tell my past self to do these things before packing up to study abroad.