Study Abroad Tips

 

Hello!

 

Even though my study abroad experience did not exactly go as planned, I do want to share some tips and tricks that I picked up for anyone who may be planning to study abroad in the future, keeping in mind that some policies/practices may have changed due to the pandemic since my experience was pre-covid. Some of these will be UK/England specific, and others will be more universal.

 

  1. Order local currency at least a month before you plan to leave.

Most US banks do not necessarily carry foreign currencies in-stock, but they can order them for you and will notify you when the currency is ready to be picked up. This is what I did, and it was so much easier than trying to use an airport exchange kiosk, as well as being free from some of the additional fees that these kiosks charge. You can technically also just bring a debit card (as long as you’ve notified your bank that you’re travelling, of course), and withdraw from a bank’s ATM, which I did when I spent a month in Italy in the summer of 2019, but this will come with foreign transaction fees. Also, I just think it is better to already have at least some local currency in case one ends up needing to pay for a taxi from the airport or a similar expense.

 

2. When you get to your destination, try to resist the temptation to nap.

Trust me, you will be exhausted after an international flight, regardless of whether you slept on the plane or not, and jet lag is a real thing. However, especially since you will need to adjust to being in a different time zone (or clock-land, as Jason Mendoza on The Good Place would call it), try to power through, otherwise you may wake up with it dark outside at around 4 pm with little to nothing open because it’s Sunday and everything closes early. This did not happen to me, but it did to someone else I talked to before my trip.

 

3. Make SURE that you have your bank(s) put a travel alert on your account for the duration of your trip.

Again, I personally did not have any issues with this, as I knew other who had traveled that gave me this advice, but you do not want to be trying to buy food or something somewhere and have your card get declined because your bank flagged it even though you did tell them you were going to be traveling. This is also another reason that keeping local currency on hand is important, so that you still have a payment method in case there are credit card troubles.

 

4. If there are live experiences you may want to do, start looking at them before you depart.

This is more applicable to a long-term experience (semester or academic year vs. summer), but if you’re like me and might want to try to catch a gig or two, start paying attention to things that get announced even before you arrive, and potentially buy tickets ahead of time, too. Otherwise, you might hear that a band you love is going to be close enough where you could feasibly travel to the gig, but by the time you hear about it it’s sold out already. 

 

5. Research local customs for the area you are visiting.

This should be a no-brainer, but find out information about local laws, customs, wardrobe expectations, etc. of the area you are going to be visiting. Obviously you should be yourself, but it is also important to be respectful of the local culture, whether that means not getting loud, drunk, and/or obnoxious in public, being willing to cover up if entering a sacred space (not really a UK thing but common in Italy, especially when entering churches/basilicas), familiarizing oneself with the area’s tipping culture or lack thereof, and other things of that nature. It won’t be expected that you will be an expert, but respect of locals is one of the most important things. Dressing more like a local is also helpful in not immediately seeming like a tourist, because especially if you are alone, seeming like a tourist can potentially make one an easier target for pick-pocketing and such.

 

6. HAVE FUN!

Obviously your school work is important, because you are doing a study abroad experience, not just taking a vacation. However, as much as you can, make sure that you are also making time to explore your surroundings and do things that you can’t do back home, whether that is checking out local restaurants, even if they are chains that they don’t have back home (looking at you Nando’s), or going to the nightclub on campus, or even just making time to hang out with your flatmates in the flat playing games or watching movies. Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I wish that I would have prioritized fun time a little more, especially since study abroad work just comes back as pass/fail, at least at OU, so getting straight A’s does not matter in the slightest.

 

My flatmates and I in our flat.

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