Do you ever get the urge to catch the next flight out of America and live overseas for a semester?
The thought of an oceanfront school in Greece can be intoxicating, as is the idea of sharing a pint of Guinness with some friends in Ireland.
Well, it's all fun and games until a gypsy steals your wallet and you are left without proper identification in a foreign country.
So, before you go booking your flight to an exotic destination for foreign education, check out these few helpful tips, tricks and suggestions for surviving your time away from your homeland:
Step outside your comfort zone.
You’re in a new place. The culinary delicacy in your new country most likely doesn’t consist of deep fried Oreos and barbecue sauce. While it may make you uncomfortable, remember that you chose to be here for four months and you should immerse yourself in as much as you can.
Honestly, who else can admit to having eaten duck eyeballs while studying history in France?
Explore your host country.
Don’t jet off to another place every weekend. Whether you picked this country because of your heritage or because it was the first place your finger landed on the spinning globe, spend the time traversing your “home” for the next few months.
There’s no greater feeling than being able to give someone directions and actually know what you’re talking about. There will be plenty of time for weekend trips to other places, so spend a decent amount of time getting to know your home away from home.
With all the trips you’ll be making, you’ll undoubtedly acquire some new swag and souvenirs to bring home. Suddenly, that human-sized suitcase isn't as roomy as it was after you factor in the 18 Spanish scarves, Italian leather boots and the 46 pint glasses you've liberated from the bars during your nightlife travels. Leave extra room on the way over to accommodate for your impulse buys on the way back.
Research your school.
You’ll be spending a semester at this institution. There’s nothing like thinking you’ll be transplanted in the city center of a bustling European metropolis only to show up at your dorm room five miles outside the city and limited bus access, to boot. Do your research and make sure you know where you’ll be spending most of your time.
Find a good group of friends.
You’re oceans away from Mom and Dad, and while this is a great time to grow personally, culturally and academically, be aware of your surroundings and find a group of people you can trust.
Not only will this provide you with people who can watch your back when traveling, but you’ll also have a group of friends with whom you can share firsthand experiences and establish a lifelong bond.
Talk to locals.
I’m not suggesting you go strike up conversations with every stranger that catches your eye, but when out at a bar, don’t hesitate to talk to the natives. Assuming the language barrier doesn't leave you completely helpless, locals are your best bet for avoiding those costly tourist traps and finding the hidden gems of the city.
Keep a blog or a journal.
If you’re like me, you’ll want to hit every pub in Dublin, every vineyard in Florence and every club in Barcelona. The amount of alcohol you consume directly correlates to how much you won’t remember, so jotting things down will likely help you recount memories. Also, keeping an up-to-date blog is a great way to let your parents know you’re alive and not the subject of the "Taken 3" plotline.
Cook at home.
You may think you’re getting the best bang for your buck by eating at McDonald's, but when you wake up from your grease hangover, you’ll realize that even fast food is costing the equivalent of about $15 for a happy meal.
Sorry to say, but eating restaurant-sized portions six days a week will also likely lead you surpass the Freshman 15 and go straight to the Abroad 20. Instead, save your money for traveling and cook at home. Your waistline and your bank account will thank you.
Free is always fun.
It doesn't matter if it’s a walking tour of the city or a stalk of celery from the food court; free is fun. When you’re balling on a budget overseas, money will be one of your primary concerns for everything you do.
Check with friends in other programs to see what events are going on around the city or on campus. See if the university you’re attending has special events for international students.
Above all, remember to be safe, have fun and create memories that will last forever.
Photo via We Heart It