I feel old. Seven years have already flown by since I studied abroad during my junior year at University of Denver. In my mind, it feels like yesterday that I
got lost arrived on campus in Aix-en-Provence, France.
Now my journey has come full circle – the chance to share some ‘wisdom’ and a business I’ve launched because of that important semester. So here we go….7 Tips for Study Abroad 7 Years Later:
1. Soak up Every Single Second
The summer before I left my aunt sent me an email saying, ‘what I wouldn’t give to sit in a French café and do nothing but read for hours on end.’ Weird, I thought. But now I understand how time just seems to stop in those cafes yet real life is too busy for a 30-minute lunch.
2. Step outside your comfort zone. Then take two more steps.
The best times I had were the adventures that made me a bit nervous. And I can’t remember a single Skype session with friends from home, nor do I wish I’d spent more time using wifi. Get off your computer and into the world.
3. Buy a local flag.
I can’t take credit for this idea, but it’s priceless. Buy a flag from your city or local soccer club and have all your friends from your program sign it. Last night of the semester, everyone can jot down a note or memory.
4. Follow your heart.
Americans tend to be very logical or follow the rules. Your semester abroad is a great time to live it up and roam free. Buy that plane ticket to Morocco. Stay out late. Squeeze in one more excursion. Besides, spring semester you’re probably one short year away from graduation.
5. Lean into the language.
If English isn’t the primary language in your city, don’t fight it and lean into it. It’s hard when you can’t read everything or keep up and express yourself. But the sooner you embrace the challenge, the easier it’ll become. Make a note to write down words you don’t know; try the native language first with locals, not English; focus on progress, not perfection.
6. Appreciate student living abroad.
So your dorm room might be small and your budget is never big enough? There’s a huge difference between living in a city for months and all the graces that come with being a student, versus every other time you’ll travel. The next time, you’ll be rushed to cram everything into 2 weeks. Or you’ll have work emails to answer. Or you won’t know the city like a local. Or you’ll be too old for late nights and too accustomed to the finer things like nice hotels.
7. Take care of your passport with The Passport Protector!
Luckily my incident that lead to creating The Passport Protector happened after college when I had an income and savings. During study abroad, those thousands of dollars spent replacing my passport and rearranging a trip would have depleted my spending budget right away. Not to mention all the memories lost and getting to my program late. SO, take care of your most important travel document, your passport, during study abroad as you fill it up with stamps!