Tips on studying abroad:
Pack smart. Bring clothes and shoes that you will actually wear and limit yourself. You’re going to buy things there. Carrying around three large suitcases is difficult and you look pretentious.
Spend time with your suitemates. Ask to sit on their beds. Talk about how surprisingly good the bread on this pre-made store-bought sandwich is. Bond.
Don’t be afraid to be a tourist. Your roommate might be too cool for iPhone photos or selfies, but you do you. Take all the pictures you want—of the scenery, of yourself, of the funny things you see on the street. You only get this particular experience once.
Be selfish with your time. Go to lunch with kids from your class. Travel with your best friend. Take a walk on your own. Don’t be tied down by the others in this experience. Go to the places you want to see, do what you want to do there.
Keep in touch. With your family, your friends from home, your friends from New York. Distance is hard. People worry more when they’re away, so do something about it. Facebook Messenger will become your best friend.
Leave your drama in New York. Nobody here knows about the boy that’s been playing with your heart for months—leave them out of it. Take some time to know them, let them know you. Build new relationships and keep the toxicity out.
Eat. Your clean-eating and paleo diets are fine in New York but such a big part of traveling and experiencing cultures is food. Take a four-month hiatus from MyFitnessPal and love yourself. Go for a run, sure, but eat all the goulash and dumplings.
Let your parents visit you. They might cramp your style for a couple days but there’s nothing better than a weekend where you can be spoiled in Europe. Plus they’ll force you to do all the tourist things that you—a true local—would never be caught doing.
Plan your trips. Don’t assume you’ll find the perfect bath house in Budapest on a whim an hour before you want to be there. Don’t assume you’ll find the perfect Viennese breakfast just walking through the streets near your hostel.
Go to office hours. Your professors will probably make you tea and talk about their personal experiences dissenting from the communist regime.
Establish routines. A run through the dog park in front of your dorm every Tuesday morning. Your favorite café to spend hours working on Thursdays. Half-price margaritas and Mexican food with your suitemates on Wednesdays. Routines feel like home and they’re the best way to make study abroad feel more like living than vacationing.
Let yourself be photographed. Your parents will appreciate it, first and foremost, but you’ll be glad to have the memories eventually too.
Do your work. You’re still in school—and it’s real. Grades still matter, deadlines still matter, and getting behind still feels bad. Work with your professors—they know you’ve been thrown into a new world full of cheap beer and new experiences, they’ll understand and help you.
Bring these tips and ways of living back to your life in New York. They’re pretty applicable across the board but sometimes we need new experiences to show us exactly what we need in our everyday.
- Cotton Candy Prague Skies: Phoebe Walsh