Studying abroad twice during the Summer of 2018 was the best decision of my life. I studying first in Florence, Italy and then in London, England. While I was abroad for 75 days, I went to fifteen different countries and countless cities. I learned so much about myself, traveling, and the world. Here are my ten tips to studying abroad!
1. Do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone
Part of my reasoning for wanting to study abroad was I feel like I was stuck in my shell at school. I love my friends and activities I am involved in, but I felt like I wanted to branch out of my comfort zone. So I figured, what better way to do that than moving across the world with no one I know? Sounds crazy that that was part of my motivation for studying abroad, but it truly did help me become more outgoing and independent. I traveled to countries such as Germany and Scotland by myself, and other places such as France and Holland with strangers. I learned that it is okay to feel uncomfortable in certain situations because you will look back at that time and realize you overcame an adversity, and know you can face whatever is coming next. Never doubt yourself and do not be afraid to try something new because trust me, you do not want to look back at your time abroad and regret not doing something because it was not in your comfort zone.
2. Do not pack too much in your suitcase
While you are abroad something you will want to do is shop. Whether it is for yourself or for your loved ones back home, you will definitely want to buy new things. It’s fun to look back at little trinkets or a comfy sweatshirt that you bought while in a different country. On top of that, if you are going for a long term program or even a short one, you will probably get sick of your clothes, and you’ll want to buy a cute outfit from a little French boutique down the street. So, do not over pack because you will definitely want to have room to bring these memories home.
3. Try to learn the language of whatever place you are in
While I was abroad, I took Italian when I was in Italy. Although I am definitely not fluent, nor was I when I was there (I took intro to Italian), the things I learned from that class helped me so much. The locals of whatever place you are in will appreciate it if you even try to speak their language. Simply saying “ciao” instead of “hello” can make your waiter’s day. Also, you will be able to blend in with the locals more if you can communicate with them.
4. Learn as much as you can from your classes
Studying abroad is definitely about traveling and seeing the world. However, do not forget that there is still “studying” in “studying abroad!” You probably won’t be taking incredibly hard classes while you are abroad, but you never know. So, do not go into the classes you are taking thinking that you do not have to put any work in. The classes I took abroad were easy, but also I made sure that I allocated time to get my work done. Also, you will learn so much about the place you are in from these classes, so take advantage of learning about the local culture from your professors!
5. Take pictures and write in a journal
Before I left to go abroad, my best friend gave me a journal. She told me that her older sister who studied abroad said a journal was the one thing everyone should have when they travel. I made it a mission of mine to write down the memories of what happened everyday. Whether it was just walking to class or cliff-jumping in Croatia, I made sure to write down everything I knew I would not want to forget. Pictures are worth a thousand words, and they are great to look back on, but remember that you will not always have your phone on you, so try to capture memories in whatever way you can!
6. Know that however hard you try, you will always stick out as an American
I thought because I am Italian, and I look Italian that I would be able to blend in easily with the locals. However, Americans stick out like a sore thumb while they are abroad. This can be a good characteristic, but also it is just something to be aware of. Safety is a huge priority while you are studying abroad, so make sure you are always making good decisions and are with people you trust. Two things that I learned make Americans stick out are jean shorts and open-toed shoes, so if you are in places such as Italy or France, and you want to try and blend in, then I would avoid wearing those.
7. Travel, Travel, Travel
I am twenty years old and I have been to more countries than my mom (who used to travel out of the country for work)! Going abroad is amazing because not only do you get to live in a foreign country, but it is so cheap to travel as a student. There are plenty of student discount sites that have trips for college students to go on weekends, so take advantage of that. I credit those discount sites and my parents visiting (and paying) for traveling to so many different places. It is so crazy to think that I went to fifteen countries, and I traveled to a lot of them on my own. The world is a really amazing place, so I would recommend seeing as much of it as you possibly can!
8. Make new friends
I went abroad by myself, and I am so happy I did. In my first program in Florence, I met my roommate named Liv (picture on the left). She is a year older than me and goes to Appalachian State in North Carolina. Her and I became inseparable and traveled from Monaco to Slovenia together. During my second program, I met Jess, Claire, and Hayley (picture on the right). Jess is from Pennsylvania, Claire is from Michigan, and Hayley is from North Carolina. When Hayley and I first met, I found out that not only does she know Liv, but they grew up together, and go to college together. This summer I am going to Hayley’s wedding where I will get to see my four best friends from abroad in one place. It is crazy to think that this will be the first time we are hanging out in America. But it just goes to show how small the world is, and how you will meet the best people when you go abroad!
9. Have the time of your life
It has almost been a year since I left to go to Florence. Words cannot describe how much I miss walking past the Duomo fours days a week to go to class or dancing on tables in France with my roommates or going to Shrek’s adventure in London with my friends and being the oldest people there or waking up from a twelve hour bus ride and ending up in a country I have never been before. When I say the Summer of 2018 was the best time of my life, I truly mean it. I met some of my best friends, I tried some crazy food, I attempted to learn several languages, and I crossed a lot of things off my bucket list! I really did have the time of my life, and I hope everyone who studies abroad feels the same way.
10. Never stop talking about your experiences abroad
When I came back from studying abroad I thought people would be asking me a million questions. However, most people would just say “How was abroad?!,” and I would reply “Amazing!,” and then that was that. The people that I enjoy talking about studying abroad with the most are other people who have studied abroad because you can relate to each other and share experiences, but not everyone has/will study abroad, but do not let that stop you from talking about it. Studying abroad is one of the most amazing experiences I think I will ever have in my life, and I will never forget doing it. However, when some people ask me questions about it, I forget everything that I did. I have learned that the more I talk about my time abroad, the more I can recall and elaborate on it. So, just remember that you DO have bragging rights and never stop telling people about the incredible time, friends, and experiences that you had.
Katy Novak, a Mathematical Sciences major and Global Studies minor, studied abroad twice in summer 2018. First at Lorenzo de Medici in Florence, Italy and then at Kingston University in London, England.