Hello All — I am currently on my flight back to the U.S.A. after spending three incredible weeks in London, England. As I am reflecting on my whole study abroad experience, both before departing and the actual time spent overseas, there are many things that I wish I would have known before I left—things I wish I would have better prepared for. I hope by publishing this I can help enlighten future travelers and maybe prevent some heartache and stress down the road. Feel free to peruse the list:
1. Plan! Plan! Plan!
This is something that I did very little of and I regret! Please, get to know the area before you go. Study maps and look up popular attractions, etc. While the AIFS team in London was very helpful in showing their students the city and making them aware of events and such, you certainly do not want to get home and realize there was something you were dying to see back in the country in which you just studied. Do your research before hand!
Do not forget websites such as Groupon, which they have in the UK! This is where someone in my group found our trip to Stonehenge and Bath—it included transportation and admissions and was totally cheap and worth it. I am now a Groupon fanatic. (http://www.groupon.co.uk/)
2. Electrical Outlets
As most travelers know, you must buy converters to use electrical appliances in foreign countries. My biggest tip here is to buy universal adapters and buy multiples—you’ll be thankful when you want to charge your phone, computer, and camera at the same time.
Also ladies, if you’re only going to be studying for a short time like me, don’t bother with the straightener, curling iron, etc. It’s too much of a hassle to worry about voltage differences. Luckily my hairdryer had a voltage switch on it and worked just fine.
3. Cash/ Credit Cards
Make sure you have cash on you at all times (but don’t carry obscene amounts). I got mine converted at the bank back home for each country I was visiting in advanced. This helped relieve stress for me and I’m glad I didn’t have to make ATM runs like many kids in my group. Also, contact your credit card/debit card companies in advance about where you will be traveling. It will save you trouble in the long run. For instance my credit card company sent me a new card with an electronic chip like they use in England, but because I waited so long to call them, it did not make it to me in time. It wasn’t a big deal, but the card with a chip is more convenient in England.
4. Journal, Journal each day!
One of the best things that I purchased for my trip was a Moleskine City Notebook for the city of London. This thing was great because it had helpful maps and bus routes, sections to write about the museums, theatres, and attractions I visited, sections for the restaurants I ate at and even sections for the people I encountered. There were also plenty of free pages, which I used each night to write a brief recount of my day. This journal is an exact record of what I did each day on my trip and is something I will treasure forever! It also helps me remember and really grasp all of the experiences I had abroad.
5. Have fun!
Gosh I cannot stress this enough. I mean, how many other chances will you have to be in another country with so much downtime and so few responsibilities?! My advice? Never go back to your room during the day—always explore, there is always more to see. Studying abroad should be an enlightening and enjoyable experience!
I hope you have found these tips helpful and hope that you pursue your own trip and have just as great of a time as I did. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.