You're about to embark on what could be one of the most life-changing experiences of your life. In the pre-departure briefing I had at my university, we were told that we might feel like we have changed by the time we come home. In short, I think they were right. Moving to a foreign country with only a couple of vaugely familiar faces and little idea for what kind of environment you are going to be living in is so intimidating. You will find yourself adapting like you have never adapted before. Eating mysterious foods, going on last minute trips to other countries, and participating in cultural exchanges is only the tip of the iceberg. There is no way I could fully explain the study-abroad experience to you but I can give some advice that will be sure to make your semester abroad a little bit easier.
Buy extra memory for your phone! All of the pictures you will take are going to consume the memory on your phone—so come prepared and upgrade your memory package. I did this before I came and I think it is one of the best decisions I made in terms of getting ready to study abroad. The extra $2 I pay a month for an additional terabyte of memory on my phone has allowed me to take pictures of everything my sentimental heart desires. I am really happy that I have been able to photograph my life and experiences here because they are personal souvenirs that I can keep for the rest of my life. The issue of running out of space and purging photographs is not worth the stress! The additional memory also comes in handy if you ever find yourself traveling on an overnight bus. The key to having a pleasant ten hour bus ride is definitely downloaded shows from Netflix.
Bring clothes that can adapt to different environments. (And good shoes!) I walk an average of five miles a day (thank you, Apple Health) in Vienna and it has really taken a toll on my clothing. I have gone through one pair of leggings, two pairs of shoes, three pairs of jeans, and a countless number of socks. Make sure to bring reliable clothing that can get you through all of the different environmental and social environments you will be thrown into. You might end up leaving class, going to meet a friend at a café, and accidentally finding yourself taking a swing dancing lesson. Speaking from experience, it is important to have a flexible wardrobe (and an ability to shop a bit once you get here.)
Shorten your daily routine. Regardless of how high-maintenance you are, your routine is going to change (and probably become more basic.) A couple months ago, I would wear makeup almost daily and rarely repeated outfits. That was not going to work here! I have noticed that most women do not wear makeup or only wear very light makeup. Fashion is extremely basic-based with neutral tones and comfortable fits. Less is truly more in Vienna. In terms of traveling, most hostels are flexible and will allow you to leave your luggage in a locked room but sometimes it is more convenient (and safe) to carry your belongings around the city you are visiting. If you are going to be living out of a backpack for a considerable amount of time, you need to have a short routine and attire that can mix-and-match.
Take time to focus on yourself and live in the moment. While abroad, it can be easy to get lost in planning. Instead of being in the moment you will find yourself scrambling to find the best café on Yelp or the right plane ticket for your next weekend getaway. Although planning is neccesary to an extent and can lead to really great experiences, sometimes it is best to follow your nose and find hidden gems. I have found some really great restaurants and cafés in Vienna that cannot be found on the internet. If you find yourself getting stressed about planning the “perfect” experience, it may be best to put your phone down, go for a walk, and allow yourself to stumble upon something great.
Pay attention to the academic side of studying abroad. IES Abroad’s attendance policy is rather strict, stricter than the policies at my home institution. Do not expect to have an abundance of free time and open weekends. The best way I have found to combat the academia versus adventure conflict is to mesh them together. Studying in a café is not the only way I experience Viennese culture while I study. Much of the content of my classes is relevant to the significant landmarks and museums in Vienna. This is the perfect time to be creative and intuitive and really put to use all of the resources you now have open to you!
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<p>A small town Florida girl, my passion for anthropology took me to the bustling hub that is Atlanta, Georgia and is now taking me to the antiquated and beautiful Vienna, Austria. Compelled to write anecdotes and real-life narratives, blogging will be my diary as I discover and embark on a caffeine fueled and culturally invigorating adventure far from any that I have experienced.</p>