Section of the Berlin Wall that read, “Time isn’t passing. It’s you passing.”
I leave Europe in 10 days. The time has flown, as it always does when you’re having fun. I remember when I only had 10 days until I boarded my flight for London. At the time I was stressed, excited, nervous, happy, sad, anxious, anticipatory, eager, and so many more things. Mostly I was very impatient to find out how drastically my life was going to change. I didn’t know what to expect or how I’d cope. Here are 10 tips for future study abroad students for coping with a drastically changing life:
- Step out of your comfort zone.
By signing up to do a study abroad program, you’re likely already stepping out of your comfort zone, but you will find yourself doing it more and more as you travel. Eventually your comfort zone will be the size of the whole, wide world. Wow, that was easy!
- Don’t over pack.
This is common advice, but it can’t be stressed enough. Try to stick to one checked bag and one carry on. I haven’t begun packing for home, but I imagine it’ll be much like Tetris. And I was always bad at Tetris…
- Adopt local traditions.
Once you arrive, you’ll observe that people in your destination act “weird”. Let me save you some time and tell you they’re not weird, just different. Embrace their lingo, jokes, songs, holidays, and other traditions. If you end up in Ireland, like me, ask, “What’s the craic?” and shout Irish ballads late into the night. The neighbors don’t mind…they might just join in!
- Just go with it.
Sometimes let other people make decisions, and just go with it! For those of you who don’t know me, I like to be in charge and make all decisions, but then my roommate said, “Do you want to go to Croatia?” I’m embarrassed to say it, but at the time I couldn’t have pointed to this country on a map. When our plane began descending I saw the beautiful Adriatic Sea and mountains, I knew I made a good decision to just go with it.
- Do something on your own.
This can be as small as going to a museum by yourself or as adventurous as visiting a new country on your own. Going new places on your own forces you to make decisions and it allows you to do what you want without worrying about other people in your group. You also meet more people and get to know yourself a little better.
- Take vitamins.
This sounds boring, but it is just as important as anything else on this list. It’s easy to “let yourself go” when abroad. You have so much fun, stay up late, eat poorly, and before you know it, you’re missing out on a beautiful day in France because you’re sick. This happened to me. Don’t let it happen to you. Take your vitamins.
- Get lost.
Don’t look at your map; just wander. Go down that gorgeous side-street. Stumble into that beautiful park. Dive into that magnificent cathedral. Stroll into that unique museum. And when you become lost beyond the point of figuring out your way back, scurry into a café or pub to pour over that map until you can trace your way back.
- Meet locals everywhere you go.
In my opinion locals make your experience. Locals are amazing because they know all the best places to be, things to eat, drinks to try, and sites to experience. They also will get you out of the tourist traps and onto experiencing the city as it truly exists!
- Make mistakes.
This goes for studying abroad and life in general. You live, you learn. In the end you’ll just laugh. Order something unfamiliar on the menu and end up with something completely unappetizing; get to the airport just a little too late and sprint to your terminal; state your opinion and defend it until people dislike you; lose your phone from dancing too intensely, get in an argument with a cab driver and accidently leave your bags in his car; refuse to ask for directions and get even more lost. Yes, all of these things have happened to a friend or I. We lived, we learned, and now it’s hilarious.
10. Take a ton of pictures.