Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Studying Abroad

Just about a year ago, I left for my first Study Abroad trip. It was also the first time I was traveling to a different continent. Most of the trip was spent in London, England, although for parts of the trip we went to Scotland, Wales, and I went to Dublin, Ireland while the rest of the group was in Paris, France.  I wanted to share some wisdom that I picked up along the way.

1. Unpack your daily luggage every day. I took my backpack with me everywhere, including our weekend excursions. On the first day I packed some sunscreen and forgot about it. When I went through security, I got stopped and had no idea why. Turns out the sunscreen was more than six ounces. The security guard had to unpack my entire backpack to find it and then throw it out. Luckily it was almost empty so I didn't loose anything, but it could have been a huge waste.

2. Pack lightly during the days. If you are with a group, you can plan ahead so not everyone has to bring everything. Since a lot of the places you'll go have security and bag checks, taking a purse instead of a backpack can save you a lot of time. Some places might not even let you bring in bags bigger than a certain size so you could end up having to rent a locker.

3. Don't take anything personally. All places have a different sense of decorum and what's acceptable. One day I lost my purse and when the security guard returned it, she lectured me about  keeping track of myself. A few times I had to remind myself that these were people with stressful jobs, who dealt with tourists every day and that I just needed to relax and not take anything that was said personally.

4. Take your student I.D. Many places, including restaurants, had discounts if you were a student, it didn't matter where. But it was only good if you had your I.D. Bring it, just in case.

4. Go with a group. Being in a foreign country can be tough, but it's even harder when you're by yourself. It also makes planning easier. My group's chaperon had organized this trip for many years, so he knew a lot of people. He could also get group prices on tickets. So even if it seems expensive, you're saving quite a bit of money. It also takes a load off your shoulders. When I was in Dublin by myself, I was stressed, and didn't enjoy it as much as I expected to. I also made a mistake in ordering my plane ticket.

Studying Abroad, even for the relatively short period I was there, was and experience that I wouldn't trade for anything. I've always enjoyed European history, and this trip helped me connect to the stories that I've read, in a way that I couldn't before. It also teaches about cultural differences. You find yourself explaining things you never thought you would.

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