My Top 5 Pieces of Advice

I’ve learned a lot over the course of my time abroad and of all the tips, tricks, and advice I got before leaving, these were some of my favorites and some of the most helpful;

  1. Keep a journal or sketchbook.

Bring a small journal to record some of your favorite memories while abroad. It’s easy to forget some of the special little moments, so having something to look back on later to remind you of all the amazing memories you made is the perfect little keepsake. I have a little sketchbook where I draw some of the places I’ve visited, write song lyrics I listened to that day, and keep ticket stubs and plane tickets in between the pages. 

Sketch and journal entry from my trip to Dublin

2. Don’t spend every weekend traveling. 

This one is hard, especially in a place like Europe where all of these incredible cities and countries are so close and relatively cheap to get to. That being said, all of that travel takes a lot out of you, so set aside weekends where you have no plans other than to relax and be with friends. Make sure to spend time getting to know your city and exploring things you might’ve otherwise never explored. Spend time getting to know as many people as possible in your program too (take advantage of the fact that you are in an incredible place with people from all around the world!). 

3. Don’t be afraid to do things alone. 

This is another hard one. You’re in a new place with a new group of people and obviously you want to get to know them and spend time with them too. But remember that it’s important to take time for yourself too. If that means taking a couple hours to explore a local museum or market or even just treat yourself to some ice cream and a walk around your city, make sure to take time to do the things you want, even if it means doing it solo. Some of my friends have even taken solo trips on the weekends and have said that it was one of their favorite experiences. 

Solo breakfast in a cafe near my school

4. Ask questions.

Whether you live in a residence hall or a homestay, ask questions about the culture and the things people like to do. My roommate and I ended up exploring a lot of really cool places near our city because of this! We found some gorgeous beaches that were only 30 minutes away and this incredible hike just outside the city. You can even ask your program staff or people who previously went abroad to the same place as you. We even learned about a lot of things to do just by talking with other students in our program about what they did on their weekends.  

Nerja, a beach not too far from my city

5. Make a budget and try to stick to it, but remember not to stress too much if you don’t. 

I saved up money over the summer and worked the semester before going abroad so that I could be prepared and have money for things like going out with friends, traveling, and clothes and souvenirs. I had an idea in mind of how much I wanted to spend per week and what I thought was important to spend it on. That being said though, if I go slightly over budget one week or spend money on something I didn’t necessarily need, I try to remember that I’m going to remember these experiences more than how much I’ve spent or the guilty feeling I get after going off of my budget. I just adjust for the next week and pick my priorities.