Now, we have excellent pre-departure services, but there are some things you just learn on your own, either while abroad or once you return and you have the time to reflect. But Caroline is here to give you the inside scoop! She studied with us in Cannes, she is one of our Alumni Ambassadors, and a journalism major who writes excellent, funny, informational blog posts. What do you need to know? Read on
Looking back on my four months in France, I realize I often glamorize it. After all, I left the city of Cannes on a particularly glamorous note – our last few weeks were filled with fancy red carpet premieres and spotting James Franco across the street.
Alas, it wasn’t always glamorous and there were certainly a few times when I thought, hey, a bit of useful advice could have saved me from this situation.
So that’s why I’m here, to offer my elder statesman, Mr. Miyagi, been-there-done-that travel advice.
1. Pack for any type of weather -ANY-
I don’t care if you’re going to the desert or the Arctic. Pack for both. You never know what’s going to happen or when the weather is going to turn. Case in point: one of our first weekends in the south of France, it snowed. We were ill prepared.
2. Don’t forget your umbrella.
Yeah, sure, you can buy one wherever you’re going, but you might forget. Then you’ll be put in a place where you’ll buy a 10 dollar one on the fly from a street vendor, and your umbrella will end up like this after just a couple of hours.
Don’t do this to yourself:
Elise: 0 Umbrella: 1
3. Don’t promise to buy souvenirs for all your friends/co-workers/distant family relations
You’ll realize sometime around the very last week of your trip that you’ve forgotten to get said gifts. This will incite a frantic gift-finding scavenger hunt throughout the city when you should really just be enjoying the last few days of your international adventure.
At that point, you’ll end up buying everyone the same Big Ben magnet that they really don’t need. Don’t put yourself in this situation – just stick to giving gifts to your closest friends and family.
Living abroad can be difficult on the wallet. Too many things are going to present themselves: delicious restaurants, beautiful boutiques, spring break cruises to Greece… you get the picture. If you’re not careful, you’ll spend all of your savings in a couple of weeks.
That’s why before leaving for your destination, you should go ahead and line up a decent budget. Figure out what you should be spending per week/per month, and keep track of it. You’ll thank yourself later (and so will your parents).
5. Know how to say the name of the place you’re going
No one expects you to be a fluent Russian speaker or know every in and out of South African culture before you go abroad. But you should at least be able to pronounce the name of your home city. Google it, just to be safe.
I get it, you’re going to be homesick. You’ll want to talk to mom, dad, your best friend, your dog, etc. But fight the urge to end up Skype every night with your loved ones back home. You can’t be in two places at once, and you’re missing out on everything abroad when you spend every night skyping your boyfriend. Don’t worry, they’ll be there when you get back.
7. Being nervous is okay! It’s normal!
I spent my seven-hour plane ride from Atlanta to London mostly with my head in between my knees. Now part of that was due to some rather terrifying turbulence; however, I don’t think my bout of nervousness helped either. I was scared about being gone from my family, fiancé, and dog for months. What if I couldn’t understand anyone in France? What if I couldn’t make any friends? Was there really no peanut butter in France…?
There was a lot to be nervous about. But as I found out within my first few days, everyone was nervous. That quickly goes, and you quickly settle in wherever you are. Soon enough, it’ll feel like home. Your worries and concerns? Gone and forgotten.