Traveling well, it’s something that is hard to do without tripping up a few times first, and spending last semester abroad definitely gave me plenty of opportunities to trip. Here’s my short list of issues you will most likely run into before, or during your time abroad- where things worked out great and not so great for me. Learn from my mistakes, young ones.
- ATM Fees: Paying for your own money?
Whenever you go abroad you are going to need money. Obviously. The good news is that most American bank cards work overseas! However, withdrawing from foreign ATM’s comes with interest fees and those suckers stack up FAST. So, to avoid blowing your budget without even realizing it, try withdrawing less frequently by taking out larger sums of money that will last you for a while (but don’t go running around with pockets full of cash; keep the majority of it back in your home/apartment). OR you can do what I did and skip those fees entirely by opening up a Charles Schwab account. I highly recommend this method because this card works with international travel in mind, they automatically refund you any withdrawal fees and can quickly send you a new card if yours is lost or stolen while abroad. But whichever method you go with, make sure you inform your bank of your travel plans ahead of time. Buying a pretzel in Germany looks like pretty shady behavior for someone who’s supposed to be in Lexington. Avoid a frozen account, call your bank.
- Booking Flights: Making bank accounts weep since 1914
Flights can end up being the single most expensive part of any travel endeavor—who knew being smashed into a flying sardine can could cost so much money, ugh. But you don’t always have to pay full price for them. Try using sites like StudentUniverse.com that give pretty decent discounts to college students through many well-known airlines like United and Delta. It is also always a good idea to try and use miles that you or your parents have accumulated, and make sure to join your airline’s reward system before flying out so you can cash in your study abroad miles for later trips.
- Layovers: DON’T LET THEM BREAK YOU
Once you have booked your flight, chances are, you might have one or two stops along the way. Layovers can sometime seem like the seventh layer of hell; being trapped in a building that is filled with uncomfortable chairs and seemingly void of electrical outlets. Where a sandwich costs $15.00, the cell reception is non-existent, and one hour free wifi reigns. *shudders*. But unless your layover is 10+ hours I would say forego booking a hotel room and rest up in the comfiest corner. However, you don’t always have to camp out. Some airports like Incheon in South Korea offer free tours of the city during lengthy stop overs. And some airports are just plain fantastic, like Changi International airport in Singapore. Where I was stuck for 14 hours and somehow failed to discover the movie theatre, swimming pool, arcade, and botanical garden. I instead spent my time playing with the bathroom touchscreen surveys. Only a little bit bitter about it.
- Phones—Don’t leave them at home
Going abroad doesn’t mean going completely “off the grid”. Your smartphone will work, maybe a little differently than at home, but yes you can still keep your Instagram followers obnoxiously up to date if you so choose. Since your phone becomes dependent on Wi-Fi overseas for pretty much everything, I recommend downloading a couple apps to make keeping in contact with friends back home easy and free. IMessage does work great, but if you don’t have an IPhone try WhatsApp for texting. Viber lets you make free calls when you have Wi-Fi, that is, as long as you set it up before leaving the country. Yea, I definitely messed that part up a bit. But when in doubt, FaceTime and Skype work well too.
Photos and written by Lizzy Southard
Lizzy Southard is an Education Abroad Peer Ambassador. She is a sophomore studying International Studies, and she participated in a UK Partner program (The Education Abroad Network) in Chiang Mai, Thailand.