I spent the fall semester of this year studying abroad in London and it was an experience I will never forget! I, like so many other students who choose to study abroad, could write a list of 100 reasons why it was such a great experience. However, it was not perfect and there are some things I would’ve changed knowing what I know now.
Here is a list of things I wish I’d done differently:
1. Get to know more locals
The program I was enrolled in was almost entirely made up of American students. While I met people that I now consider some of my best friends, I do wish I’d branched out a little bit more. Our program offered ways to get involved in clubs and organizations at other universities in the area and I wish I’d taken advantage of that opportunity.
2. Plan trips as soon as I got my class schedule
As much as I loved exploring London, a big part of studying abroad is traveling around to different countries throughout Europe. I think I did a good job of balancing my time between London and traveling around, but making those travel arrangements as soon as I got my schedule would have saved me a lot of time and money.
3. Travel off the beaten path
As much as I enjoyed traveling to places like Paris, Barcelona, and Amsterdam, I think it would’ve been cool to travel somewhere a lot of study abroad students typically don’t, like Copenhagen or Iceland.
4. Pack Less
I think almost everyone who has studied abroad would advise this! I heard it ~a lot~ before I left. Bring a big suit case but don’t fill it, so you have room to bring home gifts and souvenirs!
5. Keep up with my journal
Keeping some kind of record of what you do every day or every week while abroad is something you will cherish forever. I started strong with journaling but eventually I got lazy and fell behind, and its one of my biggest regrets. Whether it’s journaling, vlogging, blogging, or making a separate Instagram account, having a record of your time abroad is something your future self will thank you for.
6. Decorate my apartment more
My housing abroad was a small two-person flat with a bathroom and small kitchen. My roommate and I didn’t decorate a ton because we figured we wouldn’t be spending much time there since it was only one semester. That was true, but putting some pictures up or even a poster would have made our small space feel more personal.
7. Look for more student discounts
A lot of stores, bars, restaurants, and airlines offer student discounts even if they don’t advertise them. Keep your student ID card on you at all times because you never know when it might save you some money!
8. Wait to post on social media until I got home
Some of the students in my program logged out of all of their social media accounts while abroad so they could live in the moment and not be concerned with posting. I did not have the will power to do that, but if I could go back I definitely would have tried to hold out longer rather than posting while I was there.
9. Travel without expectations
Everybody you talk to who has studied abroad will tell you what an amazing experience it was and how it changed their life. It’s hard to not have high expectations going in and as incredible as it was, there were the occasional bad days. There were days I felt homesick or missed being on campus. Being excited is a good thing, but so is understanding that not every single moment abroad will be wonderful.
10. Travel alone
I had a great time traveling around with my friends, but I think going on one trip solo, even just for a weekend, would have been a great experience and something outside of my comfort zone.