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So, you decided to study abroad. First off, I can assure you that no matter how nervous or excited you are, you made the right choice (I mean, it is a “global” college after all).
If you’re reading this, you probably want to know exactly what you just got yourself into. If you’re on the fence about going abroad, I’ll try my best to get you off that fence and onto a plane. For proof of my credibility: I studied abroad in London through Arcadia’s First-Year Study Abroad Experience (FYSAE) last fall, which was the best decision I’ve ever made. I could not imagine what my freshman year would have been like if I did go (probably a little less exciting). But that's enough about me.
Not going to lie, I was insanely nervous about going to London. But before I knew it, I was on my way to Arcadia University to move in. If you’re part of FYSAE, you will notice your summer orientation is different than the rest—get used to it, it is even more different in the fall. The FYSAE kids move in at a different time and into several rooms in Oak Summit, where upperclassmen live.
Just because you are leaving soon does not mean you should stay in your room and do nothing during orientation—in fact, it’s even more important for you to get out there and make sure everyone remembers your beautiful face (But if you are more comfortable staying inside, by all means lounge away!). I can tell you that everyone on that campus remembered me and my blonde afro—I even made Arcadia’s Instagram a few times during orientation. And I know you all have Instagram, Snapchat, or both, so get some usernames and create some connections on campus, so you aren’t just contained within the FYSAE group when you come back.
Flying abroad anywhere is very long. If you are like me, who had never traveled longer than two hours to Disney World, it is going to seem even longer. Just sit back, relax, put on a movie, pop in your headphones and listen to music, sleep, or people-watch for 8+ hours. Once the plane lands, you’ll meet up with the lovely Arcadia staff members who will take you to the dorm. Please, please do not forget anything. Chances are you will not get it back.
Once you get to the dorm and are assigned a room and roommate—or score a single, if you are lucky like me—the first thing you’ll probably want to do is sleep. NO! Not only do you have another orientation to complete, you have to adjust to the new time zone. So ask for some coffee or splash your face with cold water—you have to at least make it to sundown.
When night hits, you and everyone else will likely have the same idea: go out. But you should set up your sleep schedule by going to bed. It is gonna take a few days to adjust to it, and honestly the pubs will always be there. But if you are a party animal, by all means get out there and tear it up! Just make sure you are always with someone else—you are in uncharted territory now. And remember, you are there on behalf of Arcadia University; behave responsibly, and try not to get arrested.
Once you get settled and start classes, you’ll realize it is basically just like a normal school. You get tests, presentations, and essays—lots and lots of essays. Do not skip class, as most of them take you out to explore your destination. You’ll have a whole bunch of different sights to see and things to discover, so leave the hooky for America (kidding). Keep on top of your grades—they do count toward your GPA. Ask your teachers for help if you need it, but also meet up with them outside of class—go to lunch, dinner, whatever! They are real people with unique stories and tons of knowledge they would love to share. You never know what they might say; it could help you in deciding what to do with your life.
While studying in another country seems like a 24/7 blast, you have to realize what you are leaving behind and how long you are leaving it for. This could be your best friend(s), your family, your pet(s), your lover(s), and even your car(s). Most people only go abroad for a semester, which is a few months. Whether you think that’s a small amount of time or a really long time, just know things are going to change during the time you’re gone. Maybe your friends split up, maybe you break up with someone, maybe there’s a milestone in your family.
Now I’m not telling you to stay home and hug your parents the whole time, I’m saying you need to be prepared to deal with the fact that you might not be there when something major happens. Just make sure you communicate with those you are closest with. The biggest problem for me was someone having to drive my Jeep Wrangler. It’s a manual transmission (yes, people still drive them), so my mom couldn’t do it, and I had to have my friend come and drive it around once a week so the battery didn’t die.
A big thing to keep track of is money. You have to keep in mind there is a currency exchange rate, since some currencies are worth more than others. You will be spending a lot of money, whether it be on food, entertainment, clothes, or something else. Speaking of clothes, pack less because you will be buying more clothes than you think and you really do not want to have to leave anything behind because you could not fit it. I recommend using a debit/credit card or Apple Pay while abroad. Just talk to your bank about international transaction fees—they will add up. If you go cash, bring it home; it might be worth more than our money.
Have fun and enjoy it! Many people never get to travel, let alone study abroad, so make the most of it. Go see things you would never see otherwise, and take lots of pictures. It will be a time you will never forget. I hope this guide helps, and I wish you all the best in your travels and studies!