If I learned anything from studying abroad, it’s that when you travel to 7 different countries within a time span of 3 months, there is a very good chance that not everything will go smoothly. Whether it be a cancelled flight, freak weather, or lost credit cards/phones/passports, you should always have a plan B.
Always always ALWAYS plan ahead
While it might be fun to do something spontaneous every once in a while, it will make your life a whole lot easier if you have a plan for your time spent in different countries. You will waste a lot of time wandering around and arguing over what to do if you haven’t figured it out ahead of time. My suggestion is to sit down with your travel group and make a list of everything you want to do on each trip. Then, organize the list based on which excursions are nearest each other and then separate the list into different days. As I just mentioned, not everything will go exactly as planned, but having any plan at all is better than losing time and getting frustrated over your figuring out the next activity.
It helps to have cash on hand when you’re in different countries
Credit cards are a must when you travel to countries that don’t have the same currency as you, but you should also take out at least $20 worth of their currency just in case. Many taxis in foreign countries don’t take credit cards and there is a good chance you will end up at a farmers market or some other sort of trinket stand where they only accept cash. Many of the less touristy restaurants also operate on a cash-only structure and splitting bills with your travel group is much easier to do with cash.
You do actually have to do work when studying abroad
Going into study abroad, I totally assumed that the teachers would know I was an international student that would spend a lot of time traveling and would therefore not assign as much work. Boy was I wrong. While I’m not in class as often as I am back home, I am still expected to do just as much reading for class and most of my final assignments are essays ranging from 1,500-3,000 words. Most of these assignments are given to you pretty early on in the semester so take advantage of any down time you have and get a head start so you don’t end up spending your last two weeks abroad in the library.
Traveling with a group of friends is more fun than traveling alone
It is very easy to make a great group of friends when you’re studying abroad and planning trips together makes the time much more enjoyable. Not only will you have the memories from your time abroad, but chances are you’ll establish long-lasting friendships with the people you spend your time with.
But taking a trip by yourself is incredibly freeing
While traveling in a pack is definitely enjoyable, I would recommend taking at least one trip by yourself or with one other person. This way, you have the freedom to do what you want, you don’t have to worry about compromising with others, and you really do become more independent.
Don’t be cheap
When will you ever have an experience like this again? Go ahead, buy that decadent dessert, that t-shirt you’ll wear only once, and that boat cruise that takes you around the island. Don’t limit yourself because you’re trying to save money.
But don’t over-do it
Yes, this is a once in a lifetime experience, but going home broke is definitely not ideal. Sometimes there is such a thing as over-indulgence. Before making an on-a-whim-purchase, ask yourself if what you’re buying is really worth it, or if you just got caught up in the moment.
Don’t obsess over “must-see’s”
This is your trip and no one else’s. While looking through websites like ours can help you to plan your trip, don’t believe that you have to see everything on the top ten lists in order for your trip to be worthwhile. Don’t have any interest in seeing the Eiffel Tower? Don’t! Spend your time drinking wine at a riverside café instead if that is what you would rather be doing. The only must-sees that exist are the ones that you actually do want to see.
Thank the ones who made studying abroad possible
It is very easy to get caught up in the whirlwind that is studying abroad, but make sure you take time to thank those who made it all possible. Whether it be your parents, your guidance counselors, your friends, or anyone else, don’t forget to give them a giant thank you to show how much you appreciated this remarkable opportunity you were given.