Everything You Need to Know About Study Abroad

This past semester (fall 2018) I decided to accept an offer to study abroad in Budapest, Hungary. I have been here for just over two months, and I can truly say it is one of the most amazing and changing decisions I have ever made. Immersing yourself in a different culture can be so rewarding if you let it be. That being said, I see many people not allowing this to be their experience! This is truly heartbreaking because like I said, this experience can teach you so much about yourself but you just have to let it. Below you’ll find everything you need to know about studying abroad!

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The number one, and I mean NUMBER ONE PRIORITY thing I can recommend to abroad students is to honestly linger away from people from your home country. You are going abroad for a reason, if you wanted to just be with the same people from your school you probably should’ve just stayed home. Now, I’m not saying you need to cut off all your friends studying abroad with you. What I AM saying is that you should really try to branch out and meet people from new countries! You can get such a unique cultural perspective if you push your comfort zone a bit and talk to someone from somewhere else. Luckily, most study abroad programs will make this process super easy for you. In my experience, the first two weeks of school were really just about acquainting us with other people. We had events, bar nights, pub crawls, dances, dinners…. like so many different opportunities to meet people. Even now, we still have weekly events to bring everyone together that have been coordinated by our program. Use this time to get out of your normal box of comfort and meet some new people.  Not entirely sure about other places, but if you are in Europe this is a CAKE WALK. Not to generalize but honestly…Europeans are some of the most open and welcoming people I have ever met, so don’t be shy!

Next, pack accordingly! I know, it seems all like “woah I’m studying abroad I’m going to bring all these cool clothes that I never wear at home, cause I’ll definitely wear them here.” Wrong. I promise you, your desire to wear sweatpants and a v-neck every single day is not going to change just because you are in a foreign country. Chances are when you are packing you will have one checked bag, your carry-on, and your personal item. In your head this feels like a lot of space, but when you realize you are trying to pack for 4+ months it really isn’t much at all. What I can say is most important is to bring pieces you can wear in multiple ways. I packed my must-have’s, but I also made sure I packed a lo of basics and things I could layer like sweatshirts, v-necks, and cardigans. Also, research the weather of the area you are in before you come. Don’t bring only summer clothes if it’s only going to be warm two months (ok, me.) I was lucky to have my dad bring my coat when he was on business in Europe and got to see me, but most people don’t get this lucky.

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Another thing to remember is that this is not going to be your home country. Everything is about to be so different, and that’s not a bad thing. The food will more than likely be different, as will the culture, the way people act, and maybe even the way people dress. Even though this may feel off and a bit uncomfortable at first, I promise it will be what makes your experience. Also, it’s important to remember that if you don’t adjust automatically, then that’s okay. I know so many people who had serious culture shock for the first couple of weeks and now they are having the time of their lives.

Last, and most importantly. Do every spontaneous thing, follow every crazy dream, do every bucket list item you want, and take in every single moment. I feel as if I have blinked and now I’m down to only one month left. This has truly been the craziest and most eye-opening three months of my life, and I don’t know how to handle leaving this beautiful city I love so dearly. Fall in love with your abroad city. Spend weekends exploring new spots and find your favorite places. Have Wednesday wine nights by the bridge, or take a weekend trip to Croatia to see that waterfall you’ve always wanted to see. Stay up too late, go out too much, ignore your parents asking if you are “actually” studying, spend all your money, and never blink an eye because it’s over before you know it.

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40 thoughts on “Everything You Need to Know About Study Abroad

  1. I have always wanted to live abroad – and to study abroad would be incredible. I would love to do this. Thank you for inspiring me to take a chance on this 🙂

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  2. I can imagine it can be really interesting getting to travel and study abroad. But at times can be quite stressful and perhaps lonely. These sound like some great hints and tips for people looking to start off on this adventure.

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  3. I’m sure to study abroad in different country is challenging because of culture, language and different than being in home that you need to adjust in many things. But I’m sure in Budapest, Hungary is absolutely beautiful place to have memorable school year.

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  4. I wish I could have studied abroad during my uni years. I had the chance but I didn’t take it unfortunately. I do live abroad now and whilst it is a different experience, I still love it to bits!

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  5. Studying abroad gives you more wider perspective. This is also a growing trend in many Asian countries, particularly in China where parents send their kids to boarding school – apparently, education is a huge investment.

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  6. I regret not studying abroad when I was younger. I think it would have changed a few things about me. These are some great pointers for those thinking of going.

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  7. I’m no longer a student, but I always wanted to experience how it looks like to study abroad. Unfortunately, I was too scared to do that when I was at the university. I’m happy to hear that there are some more courageous people than me. 🙂

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  8. I always wanted to study abroad. I have traveled extensively since college, but I never have gone for longer than 11 weeks. Now that I am a mom, I can’t really go for long times, but I still love to travel. My goal is to hit 50 countries in my lifetime. So far, I am at 25.

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  9. I love this. I somewhat did this when I was in college. I studied in the Philippines when I was in college. Although I am Filipino, I was born in the US so it living in a completely different country for me but I was familiar with some things. Nevertheless, the experience was enriching and in so many ways, life-changing!

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  10. Well, this is encouraging for us parents. But I wonder though if Europeans would be as open to Asians? We haven’t been to Europe at all but eventually, we hope that our children would be able to study abroad. I wonder how things would be.

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    1. Obviously I’m not Asian so I can’t speak on this personally, but a lot of my Asian friends here have really enjoyed their time. Some are Asian-American, but others are from China, Korea, etc.

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  11. I am so showing this to my daughter who is about to go off to college next year. I am always stressing the importance of study abroad and the life experience it gives you.

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  12. What an inspiring experience. If I had ever had this chance I would hope to have done as you have and been spontaneous with every chance.

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  13. You are right about mingling with other people outside your own circle. I’ve got Thai friends who are studying in the UK, and they themselves could attest that they never improve their English because they live together and speak their own language.

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  14. I actually studied abroad last year in Panama and I agree to many of your list. I will always tell people to wear plain clothes and not too much going on because you probably wont be wearing all of these stylish clothes like you think, especially if you go to a more laid back country.

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  15. I have finally made time to read this entry, Lauren, and my morning is all the happier for having done so! Great advice, I think. 🙂

    Your clothing advice was spot on, but, it was this bit that sang to my heart, “Everything is about to be so different,… it will be what makes your experience.” If it were all the same, we might as well have stayed home, right? I think it is the differences that we end up treasuring most.

    You know that we lived in Ireland for six months; it was a study abroad program through Decker’s residency program that took us there. We came home with new lifelong friends, an appreciation for a different attitude toward healthcare and dying, and a hearty love for European butter! Six months is such a short time, but, it had an impact that made the time feel much bigger than it was. I’m so glad that you have made the most of your time away, too!

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