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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Studying Abroad Changed Me And Here's Why

It is one of the craziest experiences life has to offer.

Everyone who has studied abroad typically arrives home fresh and excited, claiming how much it changed them. Most likely, being someone who perhaps never traveled, you hear those words and quickly disregard them. If you've never been abroad, let alone out of your state or town, you won't even remotely understand the mental and emotional rollercoaster that is studying abroad.

I have just returned from a four month stay in Twickenham, England which is a small residential town thirty minutes outside of Central London. And oh my gosh, it is everything.

When I packed up my suitcase in January and headed to this whole new world, I was incredibly scared and nervous. I thought it was a horrible idea. I mean, going outside of my comfort zone? Nope. Not even. Count me out.

But I knew, somehow, that if I skipped this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I would regret it. Every college graduate who did not choose the abroad route encouraged me to go, saying they wished they had taken the chance while they had it. So I followed my heart and ran with it.

I live in a very condensed residential town in the middle of South Jersey where people tend to spend their entire lives in one house with no intention of ever leaving. It's a bubble of the same people doing the same things every day. Essentially this town is a rut and I had to break out.

I have returned to this same town, four months later, and despite everything being the same, I am hanging onto those UK and European memories I made. My mindset changed immensely when I was far away from home. I went through rough times adjusting, and eventually realized I learned more about myself in those four months than any other time in my life.

I accomplished more than I ever would have if I stayed in that little town in New Jersey. I traveled to six different countries, explored twelve different towns and cities, uploaded 566 photos to my Facebook travel album, tanned on the beach in Barcelona, hiked an insane mountain in Switzerland, and got lost numerous amounts of time on the Underground in London. That's just a few of the things I did.

Incredible, blessed, life changing, and grateful are just a few of the words I could use to describe this experience.

Anyone who needs a change of pace, a fresh start, or even has the urge to see the world. Go. Now. And don't look back 'till you get there.

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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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The Do's and Don'ts of Your Freshman Roommate

It's a roommate, not a soulmate.

DO find each other on Facebook. The ability to choose my roommate in the spring and have the whole summer to get to know her, meet up for dinner, and coordinate our rooms took a huge stressor out of move-in day. I didn't have to worry about the awkward get-to-know-you silence that would otherwise inevitably ensue after our families left, wonder who I'd get my first meal with, or be nervous that I'd get a distasteful up-down every time I put on an outfit to go out. Of course, there are people who go random and end up perfectly happy...I've just yet to meet them.
DO make your own friends. The first week of school was great, I had a built in friend who was always around to talk, go to every meal with, go out, study, and chill with. But by day 10, we started to go a little stir crazy; we both needed out. When the way they chew their food, close the door, and pronounce their words starts to bother know you've reached that point where you need some space. When we branched off and became close with different people, the tension eased. It's nice to be friends with your roommate, but finding our own separate friends actually allowed us to be closer.
DO make a roommate agreement. It sounds silly to set rules when you've just been freed from any that used to confine you, but setting some living guidelines will save you from potential upsets down the road. Figure out some basic policies that you can agree on; when and what people can come in the room, quiet or study hours, sexile procedure. Get this over with as soon as possible, because when you roll over at 2 a.m. and find that there are two...or is that three...bodies in the opposite bed, it's too late to decide you don't want late night shenanigans going down in your room.

DON'T stew. My roommate and I made a pact on the first day to bring up anything that was bothering us as soon as it started, not after it built up and bubbled over. At our 10 day tipping point, I was nervous to bring up how I was feeling; I didn't even want to go home after going out so as to avoid the discussion. But as soon as everything was on the table, it was just as quickly cleared up. You can't fix a problem with someone if they don't know that it exists.
DO coordinate! The two of us spent all summer texting back and forth about colors, comforters, and carpeting, all to result in the cutest dorm on East (if I do say so myself). I love our room, and it's great having a place to come home to that makes you feel good. I take any and all compliments on the decor very personally and proudly.
DON'T put too much pressure on choosing a roommate. I tore through the Facebook page finding plenty of girls with whom I could easily coexist, but obsessed over finding The One. It literally became online dating. Accepting the fact that I was looking for a room-sharer rather than a soul mate made the search much less stressful.
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How Studying Abroad Changed My Life

If you haven't been, you can't really understand.

After completing a semester abroad in New Zealand, the school I "studied" at asked me if I would be interested in writing a testimonial to give potential future international students an idea what it would be like to study at Massey University. In those days, I was young and still fiery fresh off my first extended adventure outside of the U.S., and so this was what I submitted to the school's representative:

"There was a feeling that was building inside me, long before I left for my semester abroad, and it wasn't until just recently that I've been able to properly articulate that feeling.

When I returned from New Zealand, I was full of stories and I tried to fill my small town story-empty friends with them. And, sure, people were interested, but only for a while. And I started to realize it was because they didn't really understand my stories; they weren't there and they didn't know...

You see, my town breeds a kind of sheltered being that exists almost inhumanely. With no interest in seeing what is out there, never wanting to rest their soul on the cusp of the unknown, always too afraid to venture away from the lifestyle they've become accustomed to...

Before coming to New Zealand, the only things I was concerned about doing were skydiving and bungee jumping; neither of which I ended up doing, because by the end of the semester they seemed so insignificant compared to newer ambitions I had developed.

I had gone to New Zealand to study abroad for the abroad part, and not the studying part. And, when that semester was over, I was changed. I now wanted to understand myself better. I wanted to understand the world better. And I spent much of my time abroad teaching myself about these things.

In the five and a half months I was in New Zealand, I was able to reflect on the first 21 years of my life. I made brothers and sisters, not of blood, but from the fire of friendship. I smoked more cigarettes than I thought I would. I got another tattoo. I hitchhiked the North Island. I camped out with complete strangers. I jumped into the freezing water of the bay. I tanned on a beach during the winter. I dropped acid and went to town. I felt love for a girl again, a feeling I never imagined I could. I got something published.

When I reflect on time spent in New Zealand, I cannot skip over the fact that I did many things that my mother wouldn't have wanted me to. And yet, I regret nothing"

This wasn't exactly the testimony that Massey expected to receive, and I never saw it posted on any testimonial page for the school's previous international students...

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Five Things You Should Know About Studying Abroad

Pack light. Seriously.

Studying abroad in Italy may conjure an image of eating massive amounts of pasta and pizza, taking pictures holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and flirting with Europeans. While all these things may be parts of the study abroad experience, there is so much more to take away from a semester away. Here are some things I learned after my three months in Florence, Italy.

It's more than just taking classes. Having the chance to hop around to different countries on the weekend is not something that many 20-something college students have the chance to do, so take full advantage of it while you have the chance. Your semester abroad is the time to lighten your course load, if possible, and allow time for other things. Take every opportunity to travel and experience the culture of the area. You'll learn more from embracing other cultures than anything you can learn in a class. Also, taking classes specific to your abroad location can also be more rewarding and meaningful than taking a general course that you could take at home.

In some ways, it's like a freshman year do-over. Much like the beginning of freshman year, everyone is ready to meet new people and try new things. You're with a small-ish group of people with some predetermined commonalities (you all chose to study abroad, and in the same place), making it a great time to make friends. I made some of my best friends in college when I was studying abroad and really can't imagine college any other way.

Pack light. When you're deciding what you need for the semester abroad, lean towards the minimalist side. Make sure you have enough, but you'll appreciate having lighter luggage and more room for souvenirs on the way home. And if you feel you need more clothes, you'll have more fun purchasing new things abroad (that then become souvenirs) than lugging around extra items you may not even need/wear.

It's a resume line. It's not just about having a blast while you're there--studying abroad is also something you can put on your resume. It shows that you are well-rounded, sets you apart from the crowd, and makes it more believable that your your Italian skills are actually up to snuff if you've lived there for 3 months.

Just do it. Seriously. I mean this about studying abroad in general and all the experiences you'll be presented with while abroad. Go to that weird bug opera with your school program or try the seemingly unappetizing classic dish of the area. If college is the time to try new things and gain new experiences, studying abroad is ultimate time during college to be a yes-man/woman and completely jump in.