Do's and Don'ts While Studying Abroad
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Do's and Don'ts While Studying Abroad

Take this advice, you may need it!

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!

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Why I Chose to Study Abroad My Freshman Year

No, I won't miss out on the one night stands.

When I tell people, "I'm studying in Florence, Italy for my freshman year of college", I often receive two general responses: "Why the fuck would you do that and miss out on your freshman year?" or "OMG that's so cool. You're going to have so much fun. I'm so jealous."

Even though the first response can be discouraging, it's my favorite to respond to.

Why did I decide to study abroad for my freshman year?

For one, not a lot of schools offer freshmen the opportunity to study abroad. Unlike schools that offer a study abroad program freshman year like Northeastern, Marist doesn't force you to study abroad for a semester due to a lack of space on campus; Marist allows freshmen the choice to. I chose to apply to Marist's Freshman in Florence Program (FFE) because I chose to have a unique freshman year.

After spending four years of high school at an elite all-girls prep school, I wanted to do something different. I've already lived in a dorm for four years, survived eating food in a dining hall for four years, and have understood the challenges of being an independent student over the course of four years. Why not up the stakes and be a student in a foreign country?

In addition, I don't feel like I'll be missing out on typical freshmen parties, one-night stands, and transition to living away from home because I've never gotten drunk or have the urge to go out during the week; I like to genuinely know and care about the person I sleep with. And, I've already experienced living away from home (including an extremely homesick freshman year).

Studying in Florence fits perfectly with my major: communications. I'll gain a global perspective as a comm major that I wouldn't in Poughkeepsie, NY as a freshman. Not that everything is about resumes, studying abroad freshman year will set me apart from other students when I apply for internships and jobs. Sure, thousands of juniors and seniors study abroad, but thousands of freshmen don't study abroad on a given year.

I've never been to Europe! Living in Florence for a year will give me access to a culturally rich city, country, and continent. I can't wait to learn Italian, study in a new environment, cook for myself in my apartment, dip into the Mediterranean Sea, taste wines at Italian vineyards, eat delicious food, and visit my relatives in Germany. It's much cheaper to travel in Europe, and I've already brainstormed places that will satisfy my craving for wanderlust.

Sure, there will be plenty of obstacles while I'm abroad and a challenging transition back to Marist's campus in Poughkeepsie sophomore year. But as students and young adults, we are constantly encouraged to take chances. For me, studying abroad my freshman year is one I don't want to miss. I hope you'll consider the same.

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Which Country Should You Study Abroad in? (Quiz)

Decisions are the worst, let this quiz decide for you!

Studying abroad is the hottest trend as of late. Seriously, everyone wants to study abroad. But, it can be hard to figure out where would be the best fit for you. If you're still trying to figure out where you should go, then take this quiz to find out!

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What Orientation is Like Abroad

It's not all about the beach.

For most, freshman orientation is the time to deal with homesickness, decorate your dorm, familiarize yourself with the campus, and go out with your soon-to-be friends. However, my freshman orientation has been a very different experience.

On Friday, I flew from JFK to Florence with 45 strangers to begin our freshman year of college in a unique fashion. From the Florence airport, we immediately hopped on a bus to a small town called Tarquinia. We've had a great time getting to know each other and exploring Tarquinia and Tuscania (coastal towns), but it hasn't been all fun and games.

While we have been here, we've had hours worth of orientation meetings. These meetings forced us to not sleep for more than 12 hours of travel or properly adjust to the six hour time change from New York. We suffered through awkward ice breakers, sat through long talks about academic policies and foundations, created roommate contracts, and struggled through full-immersion Italian classes.

In addition, we've had to eat pasta nearly at every meal! Although it's good and Italy's specialty, we've been wishing for salads, fruit, vegetables, and eggs for breakfast.

Other than the nitty gritty parts to orientation, we've had some memorable experiences. We did a scavenger hut in Tuscania. During it, we had a gelato server ask us if he could come clubbing with us, a non-English speaking stranger with a baby walked us to our next clue, and found ourselves at an espresso bar for an hour.

The other day, we saw a group of young Italians playing volleyball on the beach and decided to join them. They loved playing against a group of Americans, and it didn't matter that we didn't speak the same language.

Today we learned how to make pasta from scratch with an Italian chef. And when we go out to dinner, we drink wine with our professors. These are things we wouldn't have experienced on Marist's campus in Poughkeepsie, NY.

Even though we have had a mini "vacation" scattered with long, mandatory meetings, it has been hard only having one, small bag with us and limited food options. Our checked bags await us in our apartments that we don't move into until day five in Italy. Therefore, we haven't gotten to see what space we're going to live in, what city we'll be surrounded by, or where our classes will take place.

This has added stress and anxiety for some, but we can't complain about our freshman orientation. We've learned so much in a matter of days, even though we aren't in the classroom. We look forward to gaining a global perspective in the next nine months.

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College Life |  Source: @ElkinsEye

Nine Tips for Traveling Abroad

Because travel shouldn't be stressful.

College is the perfect time to travel abroad, while you are free from the responsibilities of a job or family, and have conveniently long breaks to do so. Here are some helpful hints to make your journey a little more fun and stress free.

1. Get a credit card that does not have fees for international transactions.
The fees are high and they add up, making for an unnecessarily expensive vacation.

2. Have cash!
There will be places you want to go and things you want to buy where credit cards are not accepted, and it can be difficult and expensive to withdraw cash from your bank while abroad. Many ATMs do not support foreign bank cards. Withdraw cash before you leave home, split it between a few safe spots (wallet, inner pocket, backpack) and go to a cash exchange once you arrive.

3. Research where you want to go ahead of time.
You are on vacation for a short time and should make the most of it by looking up the best things to do, see, and eat before arriving. Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google, to name a few, are excellent sources of reviews. Learn from other travelers' mistakes.

4. Double check your itinerary before leaving: rooms, planes, trains, reserved tours, and tickets.
Check the dates, times, and locations to ensure you don't end up stranded or having to pay a premium for last minute emergency booking.

5. Pack light and leave extra room.
You will almost always come back with more than you packed.

6. Check the 10-day weather forecast for your destination the day before leaving.
Don't let unseasonably hot, cold, or rainy weather ruin your vacation. Be prepared with the appropriate attire.

7. Make sure you have international cell service.
Even if you really don't want to pay the extra fee or just want to disconnect from reality during vacation, don't risk being in a position where you are lost in a foreign country where no one near you speaks your language and you have no data or call coverage to contact someone for help.

8. Along with having that phone, an external charger is a very convenient thing to have as well.
There are plenty available for less than $20 online. These are great insurance against your phone dying at the worst times, even after the longest day.

9. Last but certainly not least, stay safe.
Stay with your travel buddies; if you're travelling solo, make sure there is someone who always knows where you are and where you should be.

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College Life |  Source: @rebekah

Why It's Important to Explore Alone

It's adventurous, fulfilling, and empowering.

Doing things alone isn't anything to be ashamed of or to avoid. In fact, it's something to be extremely proud of.

I think being able to go places and do things by yourself should be a requirement of being a twenty-something. Family vacations and road trips with the girls are awesome, but you'll learn so much more exploring parts unknown on your own.

For me, the solo time I did was a summer in Los Angeles where I took on a couple internships. Since I was going to be there for an extended amount of time, I wanted to make sure I had some sort of income. Working these internships accomplished that, as well as giving me a place to make friends and build a network. Having a job isn't necessary, but in my case, it definitely helped.

Outside of the office, I made sure I had plenty of free time to explore and enjoy. Where do you even begin? For me, I had used Pinterest to make a bucket list of things I wanted to do and see. Other than the obvious tourist attractions that were necessary, I made sure to include cool little places off the beaten path. I lived in a place that was centrally located, so most of the time I could walk. If it was farther out, Ubers were easy to grab. I saw places that I normally may not see with a big group of my friends, places that inspired me.

One day, I made plans to get lost... on purpose. I took an Uber to a destination that I had previously planned, and decided to walk back home and get lost along the way. I stumbled upon some cool boutiques, adorable local neighborhoods, and walked into a random Vietnamese cafe to grab some lunch. What could have been an easy way home, I made into a fun adventure.

Lastly, don't be afraid to be alone. During my lunches alone, I enjoyed the flavorful food and had time to unwind. When grabbing a drink alone, you can talk to the bartender and find out more local fun to partake in. I took hikes by myself and felt my strength when I reached the top of the canyons. The best thing I ever did alone was sit on the rooftop of my apartment and write. That is where I found myself.

You may be traveling alone in a different city, but you are never truly alone. You are surrounded by a sea of people. You'll make new friends, get invited to parties, and learn what it's like to build a life for yourself from scratch. It's not lonely, sad, or pathetic. It's fulfilling, adventurous, and empowering.