Caleb Bradford was a First Generation College Student Scholarship recipient and attended the IFSA-Butler program at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland in Fall 2014. He attended Princeton University in New Jersey.
Study abroad is an unforgettable experience.
Since this is the case, it’s best to plan ahead and ensure that this unforgettable experience is a positive one (which it’s bound to be 99.9% of the time…give or take). In order to facilitate this process, I wanted to pass some wisdom along to future study abroad students based on my personal experiences and those that I’ve heard through the grapevine.
- Plan ahead. Be sure that you’ve packed all the essentials because you’ve only got one flight to ‘X’ location, and shipping costs overseas is a nightmare.
- Make a budget. Have a budget for food, for gifts and souvenirs, for travel, for partying, for that unforeseen thing that probably won’t happen but invariably happens to someone, etc. Be sure that no matter what happens your financial situation while abroad is secure…especially if you can’t request a “top-up” from your parents at the drop of a dime.
- Don’t plan everything. Allow room for spontaneity. Amazing opportunities can spring up at a moment’s notice, and you’ll want to have some free weekends to enjoy them.
- Have a contingency plan. Have your emergency contacts saved and on your person at all times. Have spare copies of all travel documents, passports, visas, etc., and leave a copy with your parents. Also, have a plan of action should a crisis arise, such as you get lost or you have an accident and need medical care.
- Travel. This is likely one of the main reasons why you came abroad. Be sure to enjoy it! There is a whole world out there to see! Be vigilant for travel deals and savings, and always make sure that someone back home knows where you’re traveling to, where you’ll be staying, and how long you’ll be staying there.
- Don’t travel too much. Leave some weekends free to explore the city and country that is hosting your study abroad experience. It’s great to travel around, but make sure you have enough time to delve into the culture of your chosen location.
- Don’t party too much. Nights spent out conquering the town with friends are fun, but you don’t want to party every night away. In between all the travel and partying and day-to-day activities, be sure to have time for deep conversations with friends. Get to know one another better. You may even find out some things about yourself that you hadn’t really thought to consider.
- Branch out. Try something new. Make friends with people other than from your study abroad or exchange program. One of the most beautiful parts about the study abroad experience is making connections with people from a different part of the world. And as they say, “variety is the spice of life!” This opportunity for cultural exchange and discourse is nearly impossible to simulate outside of study abroad.
- Take a class about the history or heritage from the country you’re living in. This is a great way to develop a greater appreciation for your home abroad, and to pick up some general knowledge about another part of the world as well. Everyone wants to be a cosmopolitan, right?
- Keep a blog or journal. Future you will thank present you for past reflections. Trust me.
One tale of myself following my study abroad rules number 3 and 5 was my recent trip to Oslo, Norway back near the end of March (18-21). One week, out of the blue, a friend approached me and said she found cheap tickets to Norway for the ensuing weekend. All I actually heard of our conversation was “cheap” and “Norway”. I was sold already. By not planning every weekend ahead of time, and by making a comprehensive budget, I was able to take advantage of the spontaneous opportunity to travel somewhere exotic with friends. And. It. Was. AWESOME! O$lo (spelled purposefully) is super expensive, teeming with statues, and full of gorgeous landscapes.