When I went to college I had many goals and aspirations. I wanted to join the College Republicans (did do), become a frat bro (didn’t do), and graduate with honors (working on it). Studying abroad was never part of my plan.
When my parents entertained the idea of living a foreign country over the summer, however, I decided to look into it. After grabbing a dozen flyers at my university’s Study Abroad Fair and two weeks of thinking and changing my mind and then changing my mind again, I decided to attend a study abroad program that would take me to Fiji and then Australia.
Needless to say, my month abroad in Oceania was one of the greatest experiences of my life. As studying abroad in its deepest roots is supposed to be educational, there was a lot I learned not only about the countries I visited but the science of making your trip a memorable one.
1.Don’t Let your Major Dictate your Trip
Often times, students will attend Study Abroad trips predicated on their major. While your major is something to keep in mind when picking your trip, don’t let it be the only thing. When I was considering where I would study abroad in, the last thing Ithought of is rather they would be teaching Criminal Justice courses.
In the end, I picked a study abroad trip that focused on tourism and sustainability. I had never taken a tourism course prior to the trip and displayed little interest in the subject. Rather I picked my trip because I wanted to see animals and spend my trip exploring a foreign country rather than sitting in a classroom in all day.
When I finally studied abroad, I was surprised to learn that half the class was annoyed by the activities the professor made up. They didn’t want to spend their trip hiking, seeing poisonous snakes, and camping at a very cold lodge without any Wi-Fi. So why did they pick the trip then? Because tourism and sustainability was their major of course!
2. Keep Some Money in the Piggy Bank
Travelling is very expensive. Travelling with a money hungry public university is even more expensive. The tuition fee alone was six thousand dollars and that didn’t cover other traveling essentials such as airfare, vaccination shots, and spending money. When I asked my father how much the trip costed overall, he estimated at least $10,000. Sorry, Dad.
Therefore, if you want to study abroad: save money, try to get to a scholarship, if you’re not working now then get a job. Do whatever you can to make sure this trip doesn’t drain your bank account.
3.Understand the “Little Things” about the Country You’re Visiting
I arrived in my Fijian hotel a day before “classes” started (we didn’t really have any) at approximately 4:30 P.M. Oceania time. After a 16 hour flight and then another two hour flight, I was exhausted, hungry, and really needed a shower in a very foreign country that couldn’t be any more different than the United States.
I had to wake up early the next day and I wanted my parents to know that my plane didn’t crash in the South Pacific. As such a fully charged phone was imperative; but as I attempted to plug in my adapter to the wall, I noticed the outlets were slanted. After about an entire day of me dropping every curse word you can think of before falling asleep teeth still clenched in anger, I eventually learned that power outlets were shaped differently not only in Fiji but around the world to prevent electrical surges.
It wasn’t until about a week later when we were flying to Australia, that I finally got my hands on a universal charger. In other words, don’t be stupid like me and not do any research on the country you’re visiting. Learning the littlest things about your study abroad destination will save you a ton of grief.
I’m sorry I had to include politics — I am a writer for Hypeline after all. Having discussions about politics often goes one of two ways: either it’s a harmonious circle jerk with your like-minded friends or it’s a vicious argument amongst another person who also think they know everything that usually leads to blocking each other on Facebook.
Being the vice president of my university’s College Republican club and the fact that I (correctly) assumed my fellow classmates would be liberal, I made a pointed effort to not talk politics during the trip or even let people know I was a Republican. About a week in to the trip, two of my very liberal classmates asked if I was voting for Hillary or Trump. After repeated attempts at dodging the question and not one to sell out my beliefs, I admitted I was a Donald Trump supporter.
After a very brief yet civil discussion, neither of them unfriended me on Facebook and I still keep in touch with one of them albeit infrequently. So if a classmate wants to talk politics with you, be honest but at the same time be tactful. College liberals can be a lot more tolerant of your views than you think.
5.You Will Get Homesick
Being a college student and especially one who lives out of state, you kind of get used to your nomadic lifestyle. If you think this same kind of desensitization is going to be following you abroad; think again. You won’t necessarily miss home but you’ll miss America. Even the most similar countries to the United States like Australia have their subtle yet annoying differences whether it be different power outlets (see above), food and portion sizes, and of course cultural and belief systems.
The worst part about this homesick feeling is that when you finally return to U.S. soil, you spend the next year or so wishing the trip was longer. You find yourself missing your classmates, going on adventures, and myself personally, pre-made bottles of Jack Daniels and Coke.
If you think these symptoms won’t happen to you, trust me they will. That being said don’t let negative or insecure emotions dissuade you or if you are already there, ruin the trip for you. Getting to study abroad is a once in a lifetime experience that will impact your life and college experience in a positive way.