Study abroad experiences are what turn many students into life long travelers. However, these experiences in high school and college studying in foreign lands do not come without mistakes. I tried to spend the majority of my collegiate years outside of the country, studying in some of Italy’s most idyllic locales of Sicily, Sorrento and Florence. And while each study abroad experience was enriching, life changing and meaningful, I made mistakes I easily could have avoided. As many college students gear up to spend their upcoming semester abroad or while others contemplate a spring spent studying abroad, don’t make these common mistakes.
Don’t Pack Several Suitcases: I was extremely naive in the packing department. I reasoned that showing up to Sicily with three suitcases wouldn’t be unreasonable. After all, I would be spending six months away without my entire wardrobe. I guess I wanted to bring said wardrobe with me, all the way to an island in the Mediterranean. This is one of the biggest mistakes I saw while studying abroad in others and myself. Now, I can’t believe I tried to handle three bags on my own.
Even though you are going away for a longer period of time than a vacation, you don’t need to bring your whole wardrobe. A good rule to follow is to only bring the number of bags that you have arms. A rolling suitcase or backpack and some sort of carry on bag will suffice. Surprisingly you can wash your clothes all around the world. Other countries do have detergent and washers. While you might be packing for multiple seasons, try to only bring items that have a dual purpose. If you can’t fit it in your bag, you can always buy what you need at your study abroad base in most cases.
Don’t Schedule All Weekends Away: On my study abroad semester in Florence, I remember the majority of students scheduled all of their weekends away from Florence. While they were all jetting off to Madrid and London, I was staying put. I wanted to get to know Florence, at least for a few weekends. When I talk to old study abroad friends, many lament that they didn’t spend enough time in the actual place they were studying abroad. While many schools offer packaged weekend trips away from the city, resist scheduling all of your weekends away. Otherwise you could risk seeing very little of the place you are studying. You did come to this spot for a reason.
Don’t Just Consider Living in Apartments With Other Students: When I studied abroad in Italy, on a few occasions I lived in apartments with other students. On the other study abroad stints, I lived with host families. While both experiences have their advantages, many study abroad students create their own collegiate lives abroad. They only socialize with other students of their background. They live with each other and sometimes don’t know a single local. If you are considering studying abroad, think beyond the normal living arrangements. A homestay is a great way to get to know the locals on a personal level and in some cases improve foreign language skills. If you can only live in student apartments, take advantage of school events like language exchanges and volunteer projects that allow you to get to know locals.
Don’t Treat Your Study Abroad Destination Like Home: Study abroad students can be a local’s worst nightmare at times. Many college students go abroad and treat these foreign destinations just like they would their homes. Just because you can stay out until all hours of the night back home doesn’t mean it is always the best thing to do in certain places. Many students are targets for thieves as they can let down their inhibitions while abroad. From how you dress to how you behave in public, you shouldn’t treat your study abroad base as you would your home. It is different culturally from where you are coming from and should be approached accordingly in order to avoid sour relationships with locals, unsafe scenarios and cultural insults.
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