The following two lists were jotted down during a road trip with my program to a remote village in the Middle Atlas. That trip and several others and a mysterious illness that *spoiler alert*did not end in an appendectomy, will be the topic of my following blog post, so stay tuned. But since I already had this one mostly written and it’s almost midnight, dear readers, you will have to settle for this one first instead.
Top tips for study abroad (not including the other top tips that are hammered into your head by your school/program/the internet before the start)
1. Pick up a hobby, or practice an old one. This doesn’t take away from the quality time you get to experience in the country, rather gives you a specific lens you can see it through. Example: sketching, photography, knitting, reading, journaling. Go to parks in the city, be out and about while still doing something comfortable/familiar to you.
2. If you download Netflix shows or movies to watch on bus or train rides for longer trips, challenge yourself to also watch them in your host language/with subtitles. Then you can at least claim productivity.
3. Get to know your IES (or whoever) staff members. Chances are they are pretty close to your age and can offer a local mentor perspective on things.
4. Come in clutch with an aux cord or Bluetooth speaker. Best paired with a diverse and inoffensive playlist that will placate, if not please, the masses. Bonus points: popular songs in the local language/area.
5. I want there to be five things but I can’t decide on the fifth right now so anticipate an addendum later on
Next is my personal list of what to do when bored or feeling sorry for yourself or both. There’s nothing worse (actually there are a lot worse things like animal abuse and sneezing in an interview to name a few) than being abroad for a semester and knowing in the same moment that you are having a “once in a lifetime” experience and yet you also can’t make yourself leave your bedroom or your student center and do something about the fact that you feel like you’re wasting this chance. I’m not gonna lie and say I haven’t felt this way a few times, and maybe even sank to googling what I should do… That’s why on a recent road trip I brainstormed a list of what I wish google had provided me with as answers.
- Grab journal and pencil and go to park
Plan meal from home to cook for host family
- Call a family member/friend that you normally wouldn’t talk to
- Buy postcards and send to friends and family
- Go through photos and caption/purge them
- Buy a souvenir for someone back home that you’ve been meaning to
- Watch a movie/listen to music from your host city/in target language
- Read up on the destination for your next trip and impress everyone with a hidden cache of facts
- Talk to your host mom about her childhood or something else meaningful and random
- Write lists (like I’m doing right now…)
- Do your homework. Even if you say you don’t have any, you definitely have something you could/ought to do
- Make a playlist (see above 5 tips for study abroad)
- Go buy a journal or a treat for yourself (for example, I would get a panache and maybe some knock off sneakers)
- Go for a run/exercise even if just an exercises in your bedroom
- Make cards for your friends/classmates in the program with upcoming birthdays
- Look up/learn a good party/road trip type game
- If it’s your type of thing, pray or meditate. Just as relaxing as a nap and you can justify it better.
- Email a favorite professor from school just to check in/make something up about something that reminded you of a class/you learned something useful
- Plan a few activities to do when you get home (warning, may make you homesick)
- Plan theoretical trips to visit your new friends!