This spring semester I will be studying abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France. I have been dreaming of warm croissants near the Eiffel tower for about 21 years and it is about to become a reality. Throughout my research and time prepping for this once-in-a-lifetime experience, here are some of the tips I have found most helpful. It is a summation of what I have learned from others who have studied abroad and some of the key things they wish they would have known.
Social media is your friend. Go on every friend’s Facebook and Instagram page who has studied abroad. Pinterest is another great source to take advantage of and get some inspiration.
Ex or Ax?
I was stunned when I heard a student not know how to pronounce the city they were studying abroad in. This is the first question people ask so make sure you don’t come off naïve and clueless!
Map it Out
It’s important to be able to describe where you city is located. Get to know a couple of the big cities near the area you are going to so when family and friends ask you can give an appropriate response.
Timelines are your Friends
There is a lot to do before takeoff - visa paperwork, doctors’ appointments and checking your university and study abroad programs’ boxes. Take it one step at a time, and before you know it, you’ll will be done the only thing left to do is to go. All the hard stuff is done before you arrive on-site!
Take it from the Experts
Professors are your biggest resource. They love to help students especially during such an exciting time. Go into their office hours and pick their brains about how to best utilize study abroad on your resume and for your degree.
I tend to plan for every possible situation. Enroll in STEP, get an SOS card, make copies of everything, and know your emergency contact information. Yes, you will use a lot of paper, but better safe than sorry!
Learn the Lingo
Try to learn a few phrases in their language before you arrive. It shows you are considerate of your new home and you will beat the typical American stereotype. If nothing else, learn how to say, “Do you speak English?”
Keep Calm and Travel
I watched the film Americano and it was the best example of how to deal with conflict abroad. The actor, Joshua Jackson, displays the perfect attitude to best succeed when traveling abroad by staying calm and keeping an open mind. I definitely recommend adding that to your pre-departure checklist.
Nerves are Natural
Everyone gets nervous before their semester abroad; it would be pretty odd if you didn’t. Talk to others about how they settled their nerves and know your own personal coping methods.
Prepare to be Unprepared
I know I said to over-prepare earlier, but this by far has been the best advice I have gotten yet. No matter the amount of research or networking you do, you will never fully understand what you’re in for until you go. You’ll have to go with the flow and you’ll enjoy every part of it!
Shannon Egan is a Spring 2017 student with CEA Study Abroad, she is currently a student at University of Dayton and will study abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France.