If you are anxiously awaiting the day to go across the pond and start your education abroad program, you are not alone! I remember before I left to go abroad, it seemed like I was the only one running around trying to get last minute things done and documentations signed. I started to questions what I was getting myself into, and why I was doing it. Many students do not realize that education abroad will affect you before, during and after your experience, which may alter the quality of the overall time!
As cheesy as it sounds, I honestly had no idea how much my semester in Italy would change my life and shape me as a person. I learned that studying abroad gives you as much as you put into it. Based on mine and others’ personal stories, here are several key tools to help those who are currently abroad or about to be.
- Research: Research is something I didn’t do a great job of doing before I left and it would have helped to know what to bring and leave behind. Look into the neighborhood you will be living in, and where you will be geographically in your host city. There is so much to know and learn about your city, so it is good to have some background knowledge and goals on what you definitely want to see or do while you are there.
- Be yourself: If you are going by yourself or only know a couple people prior to going abroad, it can be really intimidating to think about who you will spend all of your time with and to travel. I didn’t realize how easy and natural it would be to make friends in my program right from the start! Most study abroad programs will have orientations or some kind of social at the beginning and you will soon find people with similar interests as you.
- Try new things: There is nothing better than having funny stories to come back to the U.S. with and usually these times correlate to when people went out of their comfort zones. Be open to new ideas and spontaneous trips because there is so much to see and experience around you.
- Get to know your host city: I spent four months in Rome and still couldn’t be able to tell you how to navigate the city. There is so much to see and explore within Rome, and I spent a significant amount of time there. Try to eat as much of the local food as you can, meet the residents, and understand the history and culture around you.
- Keep your friendships and don’t stop there: I can’t express the importance of investing in relationships with your study abroad friends during and after your program. I have been able to travel with my study abroad friends within the US more recently, and am so thankful to have new people that have similar interests as me.
Your study abroad experience doesn’t have to end when your program does! Try to embrace everything that you learned abroad and take it back home into your daily life. Bon Voyage!!!
Julie Lamagna is a Junior majoring in Communication Sciences and Disorders, and minoring in International Studies. She studied abroad during the 2016 Spring semester in Rome, Italy. She traveled to seven different countries during her time in Europe and learned more about her Italian Heritage. She loves to explore new places and is already trying to plan another trip!