Updated: Nov 25, 2020
Anxiety, what to pack, how to save money, leaving friends and family; I'm here to talk about all things I've learned while studying abroad.
Studying abroad is a tremendous privilege and an eye opening experience that I truly hope if you can do it, you will. It's hard to think about going to a completely different country, not knowing the language spoken or the city or maybe you've never traveled outside of your country before. I've studied in Vienna, Austria for Fall 2018 and now in Leiden, Netherlands for Spring 2020. Here are my tips for studying abroad!
When I first studied abroad my best friend decided to do it as well so that right there made the decision 10x easier. I recommend studying abroad sophomore or junior year, since you get to know people at your school and can make friends that will end up going as well. It's always easier having a familiar face around and hell, if it's your best friend you're in for a real treat.
My best friend, Sadija helped me SOOO much with home sickness. I mean I had a big part of my home right there with me, exploring the world. It was great because we could do things together, (always travel in pairs because it's just safer) and we traveled to nine different countries, NINE. That just blows my mind; all the different languages, amazing food, interesting cultures and sweet people we got to meet all in a semester of school which passed by in a second. That's the thing, studying abroad passes by so quickly you are back home with friends and family before you know it.
You will make friends
So let's say you don't have someone you know going with you. I'm telling you 100% you will make friends and meet people no matter if you're socially awkward or if you think you can't. Everyone at university is there to have fun (well to learn but besides that) and majority of people in Europe study in different countries from where they come from. That means they are just as new and alone to that country and they are looking for friends!!!
For my people with anxiety, we all know it's that demon nagging the back of our minds to not do it, to overthink, to panic, to hide and retreat back in your comfort zones. Coming from someone who suffers from anxiety attacks and panic disorder, YOU CAN DO IT. I'm not going to act like it's easy. This time going to Leiden, I cried for 4 hours at the airport and wanted to turn back every second. I thought I fucked up, made the wrong choice, felt alone because I didn't have Sadija with me, but guess what? The minute I landed in Amsterdam and took the train to Leiden I felt free. My anxiety demon (who I call Bullshit) was with me but turned quiet and I didn't even pay attention to bullshit. All I could look at was the canals filled with colorful boats and restaurants, the red and blue brick buildings, and the hundreds of Dutch people on bikes.
I think a big thing is to bring stuff that you know will help your anxiety, whether that's medication or your comfy blanket. I like to watch videos talking about anxiety and how you need to face it. With my years with anxiety and treatments, I've noticed there is no medication that can fully stop it or some electric shock that will rid you of them. It is up to you and facing your fears, facing your bullshit monster so you can realize panic is just adrenaline and there is no danger. That's the biggest thing; once you realize all those symptoms of a panic attack is just your fight or flight system, tell it there's no danger. Again harder said than done and after years with anxiety and months with panic disorder, I'm still training myself to do this.
Money and how to save
Oh money, the best and the worst thing. It's great because you can buy stuff, it sucks because it makes people greedy and it's hard to save it. I worked two jobs to save up money to spend both times. Depending on how fortunate you are, you'll probably have to do some saving which means you're working ALL THE TIME before study abroad. My biggest tip is open a savings account and DON'T EAT OUT ALL THE TIME. Eating out seriously costs so much when you're trying to save up. I took out loans and got scholarships so APPLY APPLY APPLY. There's nothing bad that can come from just trying and applying.
Cheap travel in Europe
The beauty of studying in Europe is travel is EASY & CHEAP. There's a bus called Flixbus that has super cheap tickets. For instance, from Vienna to Prague it was $40 round trip and a 5 hour bus ride which is nothing. I got tickets from Vienna to Dublin for $150 round trip using EasyJet airlines. There's awesome websites which can track days of cheap flights and again using cheaper airline companies like EasyJet and Eurowings helps. Pack light because most cheap airlines charge for a carry on suitcase or luggage so I just pack a backpack with like 1 or 2 outfits for a weekend trip. Airbnbs or hostels are the way to go, hotels are just too expensive. I prefer Airbnbs, especially with larger groups of people because you can stay for less than $20. Always try to get superhosts and read the reviews. I like to see comments saying how easy it was to get from the airbnb to the main part of the city and if they have wifi of course.
I'm gonna say something about packing that lots of people probably won't like, pack light. I bring a big suitcase (checked-in), a carry on luggage and my book bag for my personal item. If you decide to have two big checked in luggages, remember you have to haul that to the airport, back to your place, and you WILL GO SHOPPING. I threw away so much of my clothes because I went shopping in the places I visited. With heels, oh my god please don't even bring skinny heels. Go with chunky heels or cute boots for going out because you will walk a lot and the ground is cobble stones and your feet WILL HURT.
My top 5 things to pack are:
-combat boots because it's great for going out and for exploring, so a two in one.
-a good bookbag you can use for school and travel, nothing too big or too small.
-a fanny pack because it's always important to keep your documents on you because pick-pocketers are big in Europe and crowded tourist places.
-a portable charger
-all travel sized bottles for shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. I found that I used these for my trips and they came so much in handy. You can always buy the full sized when you arrive at your dorms or apartment.
Family and friends will always be there for you. It's hard to leave people but you gotta realize that you'll come back to your city or town and everything will be the same. Yeah you might miss out on some things but majority of it will be waiting for you when you come back. There's always aps like Whatsapp and Viber that you can download and talk to your family for free. The key is to have constant communication with them but don't lock yourself in your dorm or apartment talking to them because you will just get sad and homesick.
A hack I did for using my phone in Europe
I didn't have my phone paid off so I couldn't unlock it to use a sim card from Europe. So I took an old phone which was unlocked, bought a sim card just with lots of data, and I hotspot my actual phone. It might seem like a lot of work but it's not. Just grab any old phone or buy a really cheap one that at least has access to hotspotting and you can hotspot yourself!
I really hoped this helped and I truly recommend studying abroad for anyone who is able to. It is worth it. You will meet the most amazing souls and learn about lands far away. It helps you become open-minded and respectful about the world around you. There are so many treasures to see like the Colosseum in Rome and one of the oldest Cathedrals in Vienna, and castles in Budapest, that it would be a shame to go through life and not try. It's the most liberating feeling to leave a foreign country you just lived in for 5 months and think, "I just really did that." And you'll of course catch the travel bug and hopefully be able to do it again like I did!
Thanks for reading everyone! I appreciate each and everyone of you for taking the time out of your busy lives to read what I have to say. I pray my words can spark a thought, a lost hope, or a will to reach for the stars inside of you.
I'll link my book insta page which has short reviews, cute quotes, and giveaways.