As my time in London is coming to an end, (trying not to think about it) I feel that over the past four months I have been able to adapt to life abroad pretty well. However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t have my fair share of slip ups along the day. Studying abroad is such an experiential learning opportunity, so I felt it would be keen to share my advice of the “do’s and don'ts” of studying abroad.
Make time for school.
I said this in my last post, but sometimes we forget about the “study” part of study abroad. I’m not saying stay in your room all day and decline all social plans while abroad, but definitely manage your time wisely and take advantage of the educational opportunities of study abroad. There are many fun classes and field trips that you will not be able to do anywhere else, so take advantage of it now. Plus, when midterms roll around or the end of the semester hits, you won’t be overloaded in all of the assignments you’ve been avoiding for the past 3 months.
When I was packing for abroad, I was SO stressed about fitting my life away in only two suitcases. I’m from California and initially felt like I needed to buy a whole new wardrobe not only to fit in with the “London style” but to make sure I had the right clothes for London weather. I really had to take a step back and tell myself that four months is really not a long time. London isn’t some vortex in the depths of the galaxy. There are PLENTY of stores here to shop at, not to mention online stores, and believe me you WILL shop. There’s no need to pack every single article of clothing that you own. I recommend packing the basics and items that can be layered. You can definitely fill in the gaps along the way.
Explore your area.
Out of all of the programs, countries, and cities that exist out there, you chose your specific city and program for one reason or another, whether it be the culture, history, language, food, or weather, there is some allure that drew you into studying there. Definitely take advantage of exploring as much of the city as you can. While weekend trips to other countries are fun and can be easy, you shouldn’t neglect the city that you’re studying in. There are so many advantages to studying abroad in that you get an experience where you truly get to immerse yourself in your city, not as a tourist. There are far more things to do than you may think, so do your research, and value your time as a local.
Neglect your mental health.
Part of the reason I had such a valuable experience my whole time abroad is because I made my mental health a priority. Sometimes, it is definitely hard to say “no” when it comes to activities abroad. Many of us suffer from the dreaded FOMO and don’t want to look back on their program with any regrets. However, going out when you’re mentally exhausted, going places that don’t appeal to you, or following the rest of the group just because you feel obligated to will slowly start to drain you. Having a Netflix night in your flat alone, ordering takeaway, or hitting the gym is just as important as the many things that you can do while abroad. Listen to your body, stay in touch with yourself, and never push yourself to do things that you don’t want to do.
Step out of your comfort zone.
This advice is so cliché, and I’m sure you’ve heard it about a million times already so I won’t pound it much longer. The opportunity that is at your fingertips is truly one of a kind—try new things, explore new places, and take (safe) leaps to learn and discover.
Compare your abroad journey to others.
Everyone will experience studying abroad differently. Some will do more traveling than others, do different activities, have different classes, and different schedules. It's tempting to look on Instagram and feel that everyone is having such an amazing time, and you can’t help but compare your journeys. Remember, social media is an illusion. Do what you want to do, don’t get caught up too much in how you are perceiving others, as it takes away from what you should be focusing on the most during your time abroad—YOU!
There you have it, just a few do’s and don'ts that might help you navigate your study abroad experience. Remember that everyone’s journey is unique. Take advantage of this amazing opportunity and make the best of whatever best suits you.
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<p>Zoe Rodriguez-Willie is a senior at California Lutheran University, majoring in Communications with a minor in Sports Management. She is a Southern California native who is a connoisseur of European soccer and a major proponent of women’s sports. When she is not cheering on Barcelona or the USWNT, you may find her at Disneyland, the beach, or with her cat, Willow.</p>