Considering Studying Abroad Alone? Here's Four Ways To Make It Easier on Yourself

For many people, the idea of starting fresh in a foreign country seems super intimidating. There are an endless amount of unknowns to be discovered, no matter how much research you put into it beforehand. Although it is definitely a little scary, I’m here to tell you that it will likely be one of the greatest and most interesting experiences of your life.

Although COVID is a challenge right now, I hope that everyone who is considering going abroad gets the opportunity to. When that time comes, below I’ve listed four ways to make studying abroad alone a little less daunting.

1. Save Up Before

Hand inserting coin into plastic piggy bank Photo by Joslyn Pickens from Pexels One thing I barely gave any thought to before I went abroad is the costs that were separate from the actual program fees. Traveling on the weekends is very popular while studying abroad, considering you can book a plane, bus or train ticket to a surprising number of European countries and cities for under 150 euros.

While most of the study abroad programs at Florida State University have some in-country trips and activities built in, traveling on off-days adds so much to the experience. I never imagined myself actually being able to see and do the things I did. For spring break, I went to five different countries within 10 days for under 1000 euros. It was one of the best parts of my time abroad.

There are also a couple of ways to get the most bang for your buck while planning trips to other countries. Use apps that will give you a variety of options on flights and tickets like flight scanner. Bus tickets are also typically less expensive when you book them on specific days of the week, usually at later times. It is not uncommon to catch a bus in the wee hours in the morning, at around one to four A.M. Also, check out prices on the AirBnBs and hostels within the area you’re traveling to if you are comfortable staying in one. They are typically much cheaper than hotels.

If you want to get the absolute most out of studying abroad, I recommend saving up or putting some money aside for the additional expenses. Not only will you probably want to travel a bit on the weekends, but you’ll likely accumulate quite the number of souvenirs while you’re at it.

2. Branch Out

Taiwan Night Market Jocelyn Hsu / Spoon I feel like it goes without saying that if you are going to go abroad alone and do not want to continue to do everything by yourself, you are going to have to socialize a bit. Luckily enough, many of the kids who also study abroad are typically open-minded and welcoming. They have probably been in your shoes and know how overwhelming it is at first.

Talk to the students in the program and participate in the activities so that you can meet new faces. On top of actual classes, there are plenty of tours and planned events that provide you the opportunity to widen your social circle.

The people you meet will change your experience completely. I felt so alone when I first arrived, but by the time I left, I had met some of my favorite people on this planet. Don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone a bit and make an effort towards branching out.

3. Do Some Research

Solo Travel Photo by Element 5 Digital from Pexels Earlier, I said no matter how much research you do, nothing can fully prepare you for the experience. While that is true, a little research does help calm a few nerves in terms of what to wear, what to do and what you should never do in the place you’re going to be living or traveling to.

Some safety measures stay the same for pretty much any popular city. During my first weekend trip to Barcelona, one of my friends got pickpocketed on a busy tram. It was not the first phone snatch I had heard about either! While we were skiing in Grenada, my roommate left her bag on the ground for a couple of hours at the packed resort and it was stolen within the hour. Always be aware of your surroundings and your belongings anywhere you go. Researching the location will also let you know what safety precautions you need to take in certain locations.

Researching can also help you make a list of all the places you want to visit at a certain destination and save you the hassle of trying to figure it out on the fly. Additionally, there are certain countries or tourist destinations that expect you to dress a certain way, especially at a lot of religious locations.

4. Don’t Set Expectations, Just Go With It

College Backpack Feet Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash Before going abroad, I spent so much time stressing over every unknown, from whether I would be able to make friends to where I could go to get a decent cheeseburger. There is no possible way to know exactly what you’re walking into, especially when you don’t know anyone or have not been to the country beforehand.

Everything will fall into place naturally as you adapt to the new environment and people. It will all feel like a learning process, but that is one of the most exciting parts.

Every new experience you have will be unique and different from the last. It is easier to be disappointed if you walk in and immediately expect to have the same experience as someone who studied abroad before. Every person’s experience is completely their own, but I have yet to hear about someone having a horrible one.

There will be many challenges and not all days are super exciting and eye-opening. You have to remember that you are living and going to school there, so there will be some normal ups and downs. To have the best experience, you have to learn to adapt and make the best out of whatever situation you walk into.

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