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Top 10 Things to Know About Studying Abroad from A London Alumni

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at C of C chapter.

As the fall school semester is underway, many of you have already found your favorite study spot, figured out how much time you must get from class to class, and what your weekly routine is starting to look like. But some of you are about to board a plane and embark on an adventure in a new country with no idea what to expect. So here are some tips I would like to share from my experience studying abroad in the heart of London.


The amount of packing YouTube videos I combed before my departure is insane. From what to pack to how to pack, I felt like I knew everything. Instead, I arrived in London with two suitcases full of clothes I never ended up wearing and not enough socks. What I recommend is:

         Pack. Almost. Nothing. (Clothing-wise)

Instead of packing all twenty of your favorite sweaters, pack three. Instead of five pairs of boots, bring one. Think about clothing you can layer and see yourself realistically wearing every day. Before leaving, try to make as many combinations of outfits as you can and even take reference photos for yourself in the future. Limiting yourself to the basics will give you room to explore your taste in fashion in a new country and allow you to have more space to bring necessities the country you will be living in may not have. 

Aside from clothing, I would also recommend thinking about your day-to-day necessities. Do you really need more than one purse or backpack? Do you need all your electronics? Is bringing every book you own a good idea? (The answer is no). When packing, thinking about your daily routine and what is necessary is a really good way to limit what you pack. If you don’t use it daily here in the states, chances are you won’t need it there either. When thinking about hygiene, plan on buying most of what you need overseas. In many countries, this is cheaper to do. Overall, the less you pack, the more room you must bring new things back, and the less you have to carry.

Solo Traveling and exploring are not to be frowned upon

My worst fear before studying abroad was doing anything by myself. However, once you throw yourself into a new country with no friends, you get over that fear quickly. Remember, this experience is for you! If there is somewhere you are dying to go or a site you want to see so badly, do it. Don’t limit yourself to not exploring out of fear. This experience will make you much more in tune with yourself and you will become comfortable with your needs and wants. Book that solo day trip, go sit and drink coffee in the park, and go to events that interest you. It is inevitable that you will meet other people with common interests and that may even say yes to the trips you want to take, which is great! But if they say no or aren’t interested, do not limit yourself.

It’s Time to get out of your comfort zone

Your experience studying abroad falls on the choices you make! If you decide to sit inside and not go out or talk to new people, that will be your choice. But what I would recommend is not that. Instead, try to put yourself in as many social situations as possible! Explore the local bars and restaurants, talk to classmates, and make group chats for possible school or outside-of-school activities. Ask questions when visiting museums or galleries. If you overhear a conversation on public transportation and feel comfortable commenting, do it! Get out of your comfort zone when it comes to making connections with others. When my friends and I would go to a bar near our school, we would play a game to get to know other people. Here are the rules:

  1. Find at least two or three people (girls or boys) with that you would like to start a conversation.
  2. You and your friends must come up with a topic to guess about those people. For us, this was their major. You can also guess their favorite animal, food, or color. 
  3. Play rock paper scissors with your friends. Whoever loses must go up to the people you were guessing and deliver your guesses. 

By the end of the game, you have been able to not only meet new people but make a connection with your friends as well. And I must say without fail, this has worked for us every single time. Everyone we did this with was very receptive and interested in getting to know us. Even if you are not studying abroad, this is still a great game to play!

Money, and how to make the most of it

Money is the hardest thing to keep track of during your experience. The currency change may be a bit difficult to keep track of it. THE MONEY YOU SPEND IS NOT THE SAME AMOUNT IN US DOLLARS. What helped me the most was documenting the amount of money I was spending each month and on what. Before I left, my parents and I sat down and mapped out a spending chart based on the amount of money I would spend on average while at school in the states. We allocated funds for different categories such as food, dining out, clothes, and experience-based spending. From here I was able to track my spending and for the most part, stay within my budget. While budgeting, make sure you prioritize what you plan on spending the most amount of money on. If it’s travel, try to buy and book your travels ahead of time. If it’s food or shopping, try to plan out what restaurants or stores you want to visit. Tracking your spending is very important when abroad, so make sure to watch it carefully!

School still exists!

I’m sorry you must hear this, but yes. School is just as important as everything else you plan on doing while abroad. Every country has its methods of teaching and assigning work. In most cases, the workload will be lighter than in the US. That does NOT mean it does not exist. Make sure to attend all your classes, some programs have this as a requirement. And stay on top of your work and readings. It is very beneficial to understand your university and the policies in place. Get to know your new campus and explore the different buildings. This is your school now, so be proud and involved!

Try to get out of the country you are staying in

If you study abroad in a European country, I highly recommend taking advantage of the ease of travel between countries. Not only is it far less expensive, but it is an opportunity you may never have again. For many abroad programs, your classes will end before the program, so use that extra time for travel.

Be a local

Trust me, knowing the London Eye and Buckingham Palace were only a 20-minute tube ride away was the coolest thing ever. But I also started to appreciate and seek out cool spots in the neighborhoods surrounding my campus. Learning how to adapt and live your life organically in a new country is one of the most rewarding aspects of this opportunity. Try to speak the language, support small businesses, take public transportation, and avoid touristy areas once you have explored them! 

Souvenirs and when to get them

Souvenirs are such a cool way to remember your travels. In my experience getting a tattoo was the best way to remember my time abroad, but that is not for everyone. I would recommend keeping your tokens of travel small, or as items that you will use daily. If you are also looking to create a scrapbook upon your return (highly recommend) hold onto tickets or small items that would fit! Pieces that are specific to your area of travel are great investments to remember your trip but be wary of how much space you have in your suitcase. Also, this was your experience so do not feel any pressure to spend money on souvenirs for family and friends. Purchasing souvenirs can be done at any time, but I would recommend near the end of your stay just so you don’t lose them or overpack.

Stay connected

You will meet so many people from all over the world during this experience! Universities are meccas for international students. You will be exposed to many different cultures and types of people, and you will meet other American students in your program. Keeping these relationships is up to you, but there are so many ways to do this! WhatsApp is a texting app you will be using primarily while abroad, but also a great way to keep in contact with friends from other countries once you leave. Social media makes it very easy to stay in touch as well! Once you come back, having a support system of other study abroad friends will make coming back a much easier process.

Post-Abroad Depression is a real thing

During your time abroad, you will have to adapt quickly to a new environment and then learn how to readapt to American life. To put it easily, you will not feel fully yourself for a bit of time when you return. In the country you study abroad in, you are given the opportunity to be authentic and explore yourself without any baggage from your normal life. Returning to that normal life can be hard, especially when how you left it is not how it is when you return. Be kind to yourself upon returning home and know that it is normal to feel overwhelmed. 

Studying Abroad is the most rewarding experience I can recommend, and I hope to those of you who are on your way or even considering it, go for it and enjoy every moment!

Katie Kressen is a senior at the College of Charleston, studying Arts Management with a concentration in the music industry. She loves anything to do with live music and music in general, and she most definitely will talk your ear off about her semester abroad in London! When not in class, she loves to explore the city of Charleston and catch some sun out on the beach. Katie is so excited to share her experiences and love for music with everyone!