Tips and tricks for studying abroad
Published: Monday, October 22, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 22, 2012 21:10
If you are a UConn student planning on going abroad next semester then I believe a congratulations is in order, as I am sure you got your acceptance letter last week. As cliché as this may sound, you are about to venture on a journey that will forever change your life. Investing four months in another country’s culture will be mildly shocking at first, but an amazing opportunity to culturally expand your worldview. Whether you are visiting Europe, Africa, South America or elsewhere in the world, here are some helpful tips to make sure your abroad experience is as optimal, and safe, as possible:
Educate yourself. Read up on books on your destination country and check online (try the state department at travel.state.gov). Nothing is trickier than adapting to a different culture than stepping into it blindfolded. But not only that, it is important to stay up to date on that country’s news, crime rates, alerts, etc. Read the newspaper and go online to get in touch with your location. Learn which areas to avoid, where crime is high and where you wouldn’t want to walk around alone.
Remember there is a currency exchange rate. It’s difficult to adjust to a new form of currency—there’s nothing more dangerous than wasting it all away in the first few weeks! Try setting a weekly budget to help adapt to the new exchange. This will help you avoid overspending and will limit unnecessary purchases. And on a side note, try to save the souvenir shopping for later on in your trip. Everything will seem a lot more exciting at first, but soon you will realize most of the available souvenirs are dumb. Yes, I am a victim of this.
Learn the Basics. Try to pick up small phrases or even just words before your travels, such as “bathroom,” “taxi” and common salutations such as “hello,” and “thanks.” If your program offers a class to help further your bi-lingual education, definitely take it.
Be careful around others. Sure, that guy you met at the club may seem cool, but don’t jump to make any rash decisions. A good way to avoid these sticky situations is by developing a buddy system. When you are going out at night, whether it is to a bar, club or even just a walk around town, make sure to stay with at least one other person. And I hate to say this, but especially if you are female. Girls typically appear more vulnerable than their male counterparts. As for traveling solo during the day, just use common sense. Be smart.
Get overseas insurance. Or at least make sure your existing insurance plan comes with overseas benefits. You never know when you will take a nasty fall or even if you catch a flu that lands you in the hospital. In any situation, it is always smarter to be covered, especially when your parents or guardians are across the globe.
Protect your personal information. Keep your passports (and copies of your passport, which you should have in case you lose the original) in a safe spot where no one but you can find them. In addition, while you are out and about, make sure to keep your bag or purse tight and close to you. I would suggest carrying it around your chest and at your side so to avoid pick pocketing. And I know it’s not the greatest example of high fashion, but a fanny pack works too.
Travel. Need I say more? Get out there and explore nearby cities, villages and even other countries. In most cases it will be relatively cheap, so get out there.
If available, take advantage of student discounts. These can save you money anywhere, from museums to tourist attractions to transportation to shopping outlets and even movie theaters. Many hostels work deals out too with ISIC (International Student Identity Card) holders. So make sure to do your research and purchase this financial life savor.
Bring your own food. I know I can’t live a day without a spoonful of Nutella or peanut butter. But in many other countries, you are going to have a hard time scoping out these American comfort foods. Make sure to bring a small supply of these to last you, just in case you don’t approve of your new country’s alternatives.
Act like a local. We’re not ignorant; we know most other countries think of Americans as loud and obnoxious. Of course, this is just a stereotype, but don’t add more fuel to the fire. Learn to blend into your abroad destination’s cultural and societal norms, adapt to their behavioral cues, and blend in with their fashions and mannerisms. You can even go as far as learn how to love their food (although that may be a difficult, albeit necessary, task.)