Everyone and their mother is going to give you advice before your big trip, so get used to it. You’re about to embark on one of the greatest journeys of your life, so make sure that you’re well prepared.
1. Go Alone.
This past semester I shipped off to Spain solo. On the ride over I was petrified. I was completely alone and it seemed like every other study-abroad-looking kid was in a group with their best friends. I’m not going to lie—at first it definitely sucked being alone, but it forced me to step out of my shell and make friends. Remember, going with people you know is just having a security blanket, and you probably won’t branch away from them once you land. One of the best parts about going abroad is all of the crazy people you meet; don’t hinder that by dragging along a blanket.
2. Live with a host family.
If you still have a chance to pick your living arrangements, choose to live with another family. This was by far one of the best decisions that I made; it helped me feel less homesick, improve my Spanish, and get a deeper understanding of their culture. My host mom did my and my roommate’s laundry, cleaned our rooms, and cooked us full-course lunches and dinners. I didn’t have a curfew and could come and go as I pleased, which was something that I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do. Apartments are definitely fun but doing your laundry, cooking, and paying for every meal gets expensive, especially abroad. I highly advise you not to choose living in a dorm. Meal plans don’t exist in a lot of universities and you’ll be forced to do all of your cooking on a hot plate.
3. Make a list of all the countries or places you want to visit before you leave.
This was something that I wish I did because you don’t want to realize that it’s actually your long-lost dream to visit *random place* the week you leave. Side note: Take full advantage of TripAdvisor. It’s perfect if you’re going to a place you’ve never been and want a little advice on cheap places to eat, what to do, etc.
4. Make a budget.
I’m sorry. Nobody wants to talk about it or think about making one. It can be stressful and annoying, but if you don’t, you’re going to find yourself stranded in the south of France with an empty savings account (or ordering water when you really want that pricy drink with the umbrella).
5. Bring a water bottle.
This is a small but very useful piece of advice. European restaurants don’t believe in free water—or even free tap water—so this water bottle will not only save you money, it will also slowly become your best friend.
6. Make the most of your time.
This might be the only time in your entire life where you have an opportunity like this, so cherish every moment. Time abroad goes by faster than you can imagine, so don’t be afraid to take risks, stay out late, and step out of your comfort zone.