Summer is one of the best times to study abroad. You don’t have to take a break from your normal school schedule and miss out on seeing your college friends, the weather is almost always beautiful, and you get to spend your summer exploring different cultures, languages, and cuisines. Use these tips to make your study abroad as memorable and fulfilling as possible!
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1. Plan in advance
A summer abroad is a huge commitment, and the thought of departing to a new place for a few months can be very scary! Try booking your flights for your trip and any other travel accommodations you might need well in advance. This will not only be cheaper, but will give you more peace of mind. If you know that there are certain places in your host city that might require reservations (e.g., a really famous restaurant, a super busy museum, etc.), it might not hurt to go ahead and make those arrangements, too.
2. Travel to neighboring cities and countries
Traveling when you’re abroad is often much cheaper and much faster outside of the USA. Many places in Europe or Southeast Asia are easily reachable by super-fast trains or budget airlines. Take advantage of the cheaper prices and the shorter travel time, and map out a few cities near your home base to explore when you have time on the weekends or a break in your program.
3. Make friends with other students in your program
Going abroad is fun all in itself – but making friends who can share the experience with you makes it all the better! Even if you do not know anyone coming in to your program, try and form connections by going to dinner as a group or planning outings to museums, beaches, parks, or other fun spots. You may even meet some of your new best friends.
4. Take pictures
Taking photos is one of the best ways to look back on your study abroad. If you do this in combination with a journal, you will be able to keep some great memories of your trip! Your phone camera is a good place to start, and try buying a few cheap disposable cameras as well. You are sure to have some fun surprises when you develop the film, and this method is better than having your super fancy camera lost or stolen in the streets of a big city.
5. Dive into the local flavors
Being abroad gives you the perfect chance to explore local traditions and specialties. When you can, try to avoid tourist traps – these will usually be in the main shopping areas (like the Champs-Élysées in Paris or Las Ramblas in Barcelona). The food is usually overpriced and doesn’t taste as great as some of the food you could find in other parts of your host city. If you are going to a city whose primary language isn’t English, avoid eating at places with English signage or menus – this is a sure sign of a tourist trap! Finding authentic local places will leave you with a better taste of how locals act and eat on a daily basis, and you can really immerse yourself into your new home’s culture.
6. Look for student discounts
There are all kinds of discounts for students travelling abroad, even in the summer. Most museums and attractions will have marked down ticket prices if you show your school ID. You can also look into student ID and travel cards like the ISE or ISIC card if you will be abroad for a while. Some rail lines will offer student discounts as well if you’re trying to travel cheaply. Even if there is not an advertised discount at a place you want to go, it doesn’t hurt to ask! You never know if that answer will be a yes.
7. Remember the reason you came in the first place
If you are doing a summer study abroad, then that means you need to study– at least a little bit! Use the summer away from the stresses of the regular semester and allow yourself to really invest in your schoolwork. If you’re learning a new language, practice with your friends or host family. If you’re learning about history, take time in museums to read and understand your host city’s past. You will appreciate your surroundings so much more as you begin to know more about them.
A summer abroad can be one of the most challenging and exciting experiences – these memories will last you a lifetime! Refer to these tips when planning your time abroad and you’ll be sure to learn a ton all while documenting the experience and diving into your host city’s culture.
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