If you ever speak to anyone who studied abroad in college, the first thing you’ll learn is that studying abroad has VERY little to do with actual studying. Most of the time, the study abroad students will just regale you with stories of how they got drunk in every country in Europe.
Here’s the kicker, as one of those students, I’ll tell you that I learned more in those four months about being an independent person than at any other time in my life. To this day, I always think about and use lessons that I learned while I was studying abroad.
But I’m not here to sell you on studying abroad, I am here to share some wisdom I learned while I was at it…
DO – Ask questions. People for some reason decide that they know everything and never ask questions committing to this stupid idea of figuring things out themselves. That is just about pride, and you are in a new culture, with different rules that you might not understand much less have even considered existing… so just ask. People are generally very friendly, and someone will have an answer to your question… you just need to find it.
DON’T – Walk around flaunting all of your cash. Keep your valuables covered and secure. Just like in the wild, animals not native to the habitat are vulnerable. You are out of your home turd and there are people who will take advantage of you. Tourists are prime targets for pickpockets because they’re loaded with vacation money and rarely paying attention to what they’re doing.
DO – Bring a WiFi Hotspot. You might be able to just turn your phone into one, but I would recommend a dedicated version like this Solis. Unlike America, some countries aren’t as vigilant about providing free public WiFi. You don’t want to get stuck without the internet… especially if you need to translate something or look up directions.
DON’T – Wait until the last minute to book your hotel or hostel. As fun as it sounds to just show up to a city and just find a place to stay when you get there, logistically speaking that doesn’t always work. You don’t know all of the celebrations and holidays everywhere you go and when the major visiting times are, so you might find yourself homeless in a city because you didn’t realize you came on a holiday and all of the rooms are booked.
DO – Check out a sports game. You’ve been to a baseball game or football game here… and we have tons of those teams all over the country. Imagine when you are cheering not just for your hometown but for your country! It’s like the Olympics! This is an exhilarating experience, I highly recommend it… however…
DON’T – Get in a fight at one of those games. You will not walk out in one piece.
There you go, you’re at least somewhat armed to take on the world. Just remember, all you really need is money and a cellphone to survive, other than that, just embrace the chaos and ask lots of questions… you’ll be just fine!