Student to Student
What Your Study Abroad Adviser Will Not Tell You
There are some things you might want to know before you go abroad that your schools study abroad office is not going to tell you. Its not that theyre trying to keep you in the darkfar from it! Youll be bombarded with information until you feel you know more about your destination than Colin Powell does. But thats just the tip of the iceberg.
Clothes. Youll have this rule driven into you: dont bring too many clothes because they take up space in your luggage and youll find you dont really wear them all that much. This is misleading, to say the least. Its possible to bring too much stuff, but its equally possible to underpack, especially if youre going to Europe. Americans tend to dress casually most of the time: jeans and T-shirts are standard on college campuses across the nation. Europeans, however, will dress up at the drop of a hat. Talk to students who have been to your destination and ask them what youll need.
Relationships are one of the biggest problems for those who study abroad. If youre in one, be aware that it might not survive your trip. Its very hard to keep things going over long distances. Moreover, it detracts from your study abroad experience; youll miss out on a lot of terrific things if you spend all your time pining for your significant other. So, before you go, consider cooling things off. It doesnt have to be permanent; if you return and decide to reunite, the relationship will be that much stronger for it.
Sex, too, is something you should put some thought into. Come prepared with condoms or birth control pills and dont take any really stupid risks. Dont feel you have to live up to the easy American stereotype.
And dont be surprised if your preconceived notions about sexual manners are totally off. England, for example, is often thought of by Americans (read me) as a nation of prudesstiff upper lip and all that, right? Its not. And if youre a young woman in France, dont be shocked if you get propositioned in a grocery store. (Its still a shock even if youve been forewarned. I mean, American women dont expect to hear, I will let you use my body any way zat you want! I cannot wait to see you lie on my satin sheets! from a total stranger in the produce aisle. I didnt anyway.)
One other thing youll want to consider welleven if youve heard plenty about this from your adviseris finances. Do whatever you have to before you go to be able to cover every conceivable expense: work overtime, take out student loans, whatever it takes. And though your adviser might tell you its a bad idea, look into taking a part-time job while youre overseas; at the very least, theres no harm in checking the visa requirements before you go. Many students find it a great way to see another side of the culture . . . and the extra cash doesnt hurt.
Finally, readjusting to life in the U.S. is tricky. (If you havent heard that from your adviser yet, get a new one.) But youll get past it, and youll find you have a much greater sense of your place in the world than you did before you left.