If you're one of the thousands of lucky students who get to study abroad spring semester, get ready to have one of the best experiences of your life. When you are abroad, you meet lifelong friends, create unforgettable memories, learn more about yourself than you ever have, and will experience the freshman 15 all over again.
I was fortunate enough to spend my first semester of college in Florence, and I am proud to say that I will be here for another semester! I couldn't be more excited.
As fun as studying abroad is and sounds, it is also stressful. Packing, adjusting to somewhere with a different culture and language, figuring out how to live as an expat is truly exhausting.
Here are some helpful dos and don'ts to keep in mind when you're studying abroad.
Go to class.
Study abroad students have the rep that they don't go to school. Instead, they party, travel, and spend too much money. Help people understand that studying is the first thing that should come to mind when one hears "study abroad."
Go to class, do your homework, study for tests. It is school after all whether you are taking pass/fail or bullshit elective classes.
Make a budget.
Make a weekly budget for groceries, eating out, living essentials, and travel. I saw so many students blow through their money in one semester because they didn't think cautiously about their spending.
Have fun responsibly.
Most study abroad destinations have a lower drinking age than the U.S., so many study abroad students take advantage of being able to drink legally and go to bars and clubs. All I can say is to be responsible. You are representing not only your school but also your country.
Take advantage of the opportunity to travel.
Traveling, especially in Europe, is very manageable time-wise and budget-wise. Take advantage of it and travel! Go on weekend trips, day trips, and somewhere exotic for your spring break.
Plan thoroughly, and remember that it's easier to plan in small groups rather than big groups. Before you book a trip through a travel agency geared for study abroad students, research how you can spend less money by planning it yourself.
Start a blog or keep a journal.
I can't say how important it is to record your study abroad experience. Write in a journal or start a blog for friends and family to keep up on your global adventures. Who knows, you could be the next Jay Alvarez or Alexis Ren.
Get to know the place you're studying.
Although traveling is important, don't spend every weekend away from the place you are traveling. Many students regret that they didn't get to know the place they were studying because they were always traveling. Balance is key!
Don't be an obnoxious American.
In Florence, American students have a rep of being loud, obnoxious, teenagers who spend too many early mornings walking back drunk from the club. To be frank, it's truly embarrassing because they're right. Try and make it a point to act appropriate on the streets after a late night.
Don't speak English all the time.
Part of studying abroad is immersing yourself in a different culture. I can't get over how many students I have witnessed order simple things in English.
Is "Vorrei un cappuccino per favore" really much harder to say than "Can I get a cappuccino?" Didn't think so. You don't have to become fluent, but try and learn the basics. You'd be surprised by how much you can scrape by with them!
Don't brag about all the fun things you're experiencing.
You should share your abroad experiences with friends and family. But remember that they are living their normal lives back in the States. If you brag too much about all the fun you're having, you might find that people get annoyed. Just keep perspective in mind.
Don't splurge on making your apartment or room look like one found on Urban.
Trying to make your place feel like home by buying unnecessary things is the last thing your abroad budget needs. You will be home soon enough to decorate however you'd like.
Don't compare everything to America.
You're in a new country where people have a different way of life. I get so tired of hearing people complain about the slower wifi, how the grocery stores are set up, city sights and smells, in addition to subtle and drastic changes. If you aren't open to being somewhere new and different, then why are you studying abroad?
Don't stress about the weight gain.
Weight gain when you're abroad is a thing. Indulge in the native food of your study abroad destination, exercise as much as you can, and utilize summer 2017 to get back in shape.
Studying abroad has been one of the most rewarding experiences, and I can only hope it's a positive experience for everyone who is brave enough to do it!