Advice for Students Studying Abroad (Or Planning To)

Coliseum panorama

Panorama from the inside of the Coliseum in Rome

I have several friends studying abroad next semester, and I’m equal parts jealous and excited. I’m excited because I plan to live vicariously through their adventures, and I’m excited because I know they’re all going to have the time of their lives. I’ve given a couple of them some tips – especially those participating in the Presidential Global Scholars program like I did. I figured I would write a post full of advice for students studying abroad since there’s more (hopefully) useful information than anyone would be able to remember, and since I can’t talk to everyone.

All of this is coming from someone who has only been to Europe, but I think most of it should be useful whether you’re going to Europe, New Zealand, or Australia. I know this is long, so skim it, read any that stick out to you, and hopefully you’ll walk away with something.

First off it’s all about the people.

You’ll miss friends and family back home, but you’re never again going to be living, traveling, eating, and hanging out every day with the people who are there with you. Make the absolute most of it.

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Leave So That You May Return

Shenandoah Valley sunset

A few weeks ago, before leaving the villa in Riva San Vitale, I wrote a post about what I thought I had learned during my semester abroad. I came up with the post after looking at my list of goals for the semester that I had written back in October, and thinking about which of them had been most fulfilled. After getting back into the normal routine of life, however, I have a slightly different perspective and a number of things have continued to stick with me that I’d like to share.

When I was driving down to Blacksburg, Virginia two weeks ago to move into my townhouse, I was reminded of something I heard this spring: we leave so that we may return. I don’t remember the exact words, nor do I remember who spoke them (I think it was Nikki Giovanni when she came to visit), but it hit me what that really meant. Traveling Europe and meeting interesting people is a great experience, but if all it becomes is a fond memory that has no effect on us once we get home, it’s hardly worth the thousands of dollars and delayed graduation that it cost to do it. We leave our surroundings so we can get a fresh perspective to bring back with us to our normal environment.

I started wondering what it was that I was bringing back with me to my life in Blacksburg, so I turned off the music, rolled up the windows, closed the sunroof, and reflected (something that I never would have done before last semester – so that’s one thing already.) Thankfully, my phone has voice transcription, so for the next couple hours I spoke my thoughts out loud to my phone so they would not be lost as life grew more hectic after I moved in and started working full-time. The rest of this blog post is made up of those thoughts and some explanations; you could say, as one friend of mine would put it, that this post is a series of epiphanies.

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Kronor, Kune, and Dirhams: Lessons from a semester of travel

Welcome to Slovakia (Bratislava train station)

Train station in Bratislava, Slovakia

I have had the exceptional opportunity of visiting 15 countries over the past four months, and I have become infinitely more comfortable exploring foreign cultures, practicing nonverbal communication, and constantly converting currencies in my head. As I reflect on what I’ve gained from this semester, I have realized that the most important lessons I have learned have come from various travel experiences, although even those experiences would not be what they were if they were not augmented by fantastic teaching modules led by faculty.

Last semester, we all had to draw up a list of goals for PGS, and most of mine have been met and greatly surpassed. Here are few of my biggest takeaways from the semester – particularly those that were gained by traveling all over Europe.

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Photo Journal: Second day in Morocco

Outskirts of the medina in Marrakech, Morocco

I was barely able to sum up my first day in Morocco in just 14 pictures in my last post, so I decided to show a bit more in this one.

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Photo Journal: First day in Morocco

DSCN3258

I was browsing through the list of PGS student blogs, and I across Tyler’s recent post that depicts Riva San Vitale and the surrounding area through photos. I realized that I have barely posted any pictures to my blog, which is a complete injustice to any readers considering the amount of places I’ve visited.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting quite a few countries (12 this semester, including Switzerland), so over the next week or so I’m planning to upload pictures from some of my trips. I don’t want to just post every decent photo without no explanations (which I am guilty of on Facebook), so instead I’ll upload some of my favorites and do my best to date them and explain the circumstances.

Morocco, however, was most unique and foreign to me, and because I wrote my travel essay for Paul Heilker’s module about Marrakech, I will be going into quite a bit more detail about this trip. Feel free to read it all, or just scroll through for the pictures – I won’t take offense. Also, if any images are too small you can click on them to get a better look. Enjoy the read and feel free to comment!

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