Studying abroad was hands down the greatest time of my life so far. I studied abroad in the Spring of 2017 in London, as well as during January of 2018 in Rome, both with AIFS. So, as the kind global citizen that I am, here is are some tips on how to maximize your study abroad experience:
1. Take A LOT of pictures.
Whether it be your morning coffee, a historical site, or a picturesque Instagram moment featuring yourself; try to take a lot of pictures of what you are doing while abroad. Even if you don’t have a fancy Canon DSLR, I am guessing you will have a phone with you at all times, so use its amazing camera! When you come home you will appreciate taking the extra few seconds to snap what you were doing. NOTE: take the extra few seconds to make sure the camera is focused and GET THAT ANGLE!
2. Also, take videos!
If pictures are worth 1000 words, how much more is a video worth? Videos of the things you are doing truly do bring you back to the exact moment. Although you might not like the way you sound on video, having these moments to reminisce on later will be totally worth it. NOTE: turn your phones on their sides (horizontally) to take your videos!
** Check out the video I made from my J-Term experience in Rome!
3. Spend time with awesome people.
Your time abroad will go by faster than you think! My favorite part of studying abroad was that I was able to meet people from all over and build amazing friendships with people who I could be myself around, travel with, and who would push me to go for it. You are thousands of miles away from home and there are tons of incredible people out there — meet them and do amazing things.
4. Get cultured.
Studying abroad is THE most opportune time to learn about a new culture. It is my opinion that the best way to learn about life is to experience things and situations firsthand. That means to put yourself out there and sometimes be at the mercy of the country you are in. Travel to new places, get off your phone, take in the culture.
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller
5. Be spontaneous.
You’re done with class by noon? Get out and see the city you’re in! You’re in a city with thousands of restaurants? Try a new dish! My most memorable moment of my semester abroad was going to a random café for the first time one morning and no more than 10 minutes later David Beckham stopped in for a coffee, leading to this epic selfie.
6. Go for a walk every day.
Going for a daily walk is something I highly recommend doing, but really it is a metaphor for finding time every day to take a step back, enjoying where you at, and try to have somewhat of a daily routine amongst the whirlwind that studying abroad can be. Taking a walk is a great way to see the city you are in while giving you time to reflect on your experiences. Some of my favorite moments occurred during my daily (and sometimes nightly) walks around the neighborhood of Kensington and through Hyde Park.
7. Spend money on experiences.
If you’re like me, all the friends I made abroad, and basically every college kid ever, you have a tight budget. I hope I’m not the first person telling you to spend your money on experiences, but SPEND YOUR MONEY ON EXPERIENCES. An easy way to proactively spend less it to not buy as much while out at night, be mindful of your daily budget for food, and find joy in doing things that are free. I understand that each person is different, but you just have to trust me on this one.
8. Be smart when planning trips.
When you’re planning your weekend trips, do your research. Spend the time with your friends in the beginning of your trip to see where you want to go, how much it is going to cost, where you will be staying, when it is the best time to go, and so many other details that go into planning a trip. You don’t want to end up like my friends and me when we went to Amsterdam, where our Air B&B was half an hour drive outside of the city, resulting in a very high Uber bill by the end of the weekend.
9. When routine sets in, remind yourself of where you are.
After the initial shock that is living in a new place has worn off and you get to the point in your time abroad where it’s no big deal walking through Piazza Navona every day, trick yourself into pretending it’s still brand new to you. Sometimes sites just get stale after seeing them a lot or you will think you’re too culturally acclimated to do certain things, and that’s totally normal. My advice is to actively give yourself a reality and perspective check which will spark you to remember where you are, allowing yourself to appreciate where you are and make the most of your time.
10. “Just go for it.”
The most important tip in maximizing your study abroad experience. This quote was everything to me while abroad and still is. There will never be a time like studying abroad and it is important you make the most of your time overseas. Growing up in a smaller-sized suburb then studying abroad in the massive metropolitan city that is London, I realized that nobody in London really cared what I did, so why not just go for it? Once I realized that, I did everything I was too nervous to do before. It was immensely liberating not caring if I asked a stupid question, was singing and dancing while walking around, struck up conversations with locals, or took a video of something I thought was cool. Do things you love if you want to get the most out of life, be genuine, and just go for it.