Passport? Check! Jar of peanut butter? Mais oui! That’s all, right?
Whether you’re leaving next week—or preparing to study abroad two semesters from now—here are five expert tips that will be helpful any time, courtesy of CEA alumni and team members.
Tip 1: Housing – Branch Out.
“On campus the other day, I ran into a friend who’s studying abroad in Barcelona with CEA next spring. He said he was going to live in an apartment with one of his good friends and I told him he might want to rethink that. Why?
Because once you arrive in your host city, you’ll realize that local culture impacts each individual differently. While you and your friend may have mostly the same interests here, it’s likely to be a different story when you add the influence of a new culture into the mix. In my opinion, it’s better to make new friends abroad (whether they’re in your program or not) whose interests while abroad align more closely with your own. It could make or break the entire experience.” Blake Dantzler, CEA Barcelona Alum
Tip 2: Walk it Out.
“Walk two miles on uneven surfaces (including cobblestones) in shoes before you decide they’re comfortable enough to bring when you study abroad. If your shoes aren't working for you, it is difficult for anything else to work. The tip I live by: when buying everyday shoes, never buy a pair that is less comfortable than the pair you wore into the store.” Alexandra Mitchell, CEA Director of International Programs France
Tip 3: Avoid Packing Panic!
“Do not leave packing until the last minute! Utilize CEA’s packing lists and for every item you’re considering bringing, ask yourself: ‘Will it be useful while abroad?’ Pack layers, pack lightly, and leave room to bring items home. Be sure to research the weather in your destination. Knowing average temperatures helps you pack appropriately!” Olivia Del Viscio, CEA Admissions Counselor
Tip 4: Get to Know Your Neighborhood.
“Take a tour of the city on Google Maps! This helped me learn about the narrow, winding streets of Sevilla and the many plazas and cafés throughout El Centro before I ever got to Spain. It was surreal being dropped off at my apartment, because it felt like I'd already been there. Google Maps can make your adjustment feel like seeing an old friend, rather than meeting someone completely new.” Chelsea Raschke, CEA Site Specialist & CEA Granada Alumna
Tip 5: Set Phone Home Realities.
“Tell your friends and family that you may not be available to Skype, Facetime, email, or Facebook as much as they'd like. Tell yourself that too! When you arrive in your new country, let yourself BE there...not somewhere else nine hours behind you. This will not only help adjust your body clock to local time, but also give you the space to take in everything that is going on around you and start to create your new life and community abroad. It's not easy, especially when homesickness hits, but just remind yourself, you've got this!” Devon DeRousseau, Director of Student Affairs, CEA Paris
Emily Sauey is the Site Specialist Supervisor at CEA Study Abroad, an organization that helps students spend a semester, a summer, or an academic year studying abroad in 12 countries. Where will your learning take you?