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From Europe, With Love: Before You Go Abroad, Read This

I remember when I was first considering studying abroad. More specifically, I remember searching for articles depicting first-person accounts of life and experiences on exchange. There was so much to learn from others, and so much I wanted to know. Everyone always says that nothing will ever be the same after you travel abroad, and I wanted to know how. I wanted to know how I could make sure that would happen to me. Everyone wants to be a success story. Everyone wants those clichéd memories that last a lifetime. After three months abroad, I know I’ve made those memories. I know I’ve got the stories that I’m going to be telling my grandchildren about. And while it would have been impossible for me to read and research my way to this attainment, there are a few pieces of advice that are ever important to remember. So whether you’re debating, planning on, preparing for, or are in the process of studying abroad, here are some of my personal dos and don’ts to remember.


Eat everything you can. As far as I’m concerned, traveling is all about tasting, and the best way to experience a culture is to eat your way through it. It’s incredible the way communities and cooking are intertwined, and how you can share stories through spoonfuls and history over heaping plates. Trust me, you’ll burn off the calories later when you lose your spot on the map and have to walk 10 extra kilometers to find your way home, but you may never get to try a local delicacy again.

Drink enough to remember. It’s hard to deny that sometimes the best memories are the ones that follow nights of wine-warmed chests and sangria-stained sneakers. There’s nothing wrong with meeting local boys over local brews or seeing a city night through rosé-tinted glasses. In moderation of course.

Fall in love. And fall in love with everything. Fall in love with the cobblestones beneath your feet, the crooked house down the road, the food truck at the intersection where the grass is always green, the flag dancing in the wind atop a houseboat, the boy next door, the feeling you get when the plane first takes off, the smell of the bakery that always has a long line, and the way the sun peeks through your blinds at 6AM on Monday mornings when you would be waking up for school back home but still haven’t even slept yet here. This is a once-in-a-lifetime place where you have nothing to lose and so much to gain, so fall in love as intensely and deeply as you can, even if you’re just falling in love with being alive.

Take too many pictures. Dump money on a disposable, pick up a Polaroid, or invest in a DSLR. Whatever you do, don’t leave without visual evidence of the best days of your life. Remember the pictures that your mother and grandmother have shown you of their own life experiences, and realize that the next tourist shot you snap may end up being pulled out of an album to show your own great granddaughter someday.

Write it all down. It’s so hard to write when there’s so much to say, and even harder when you’re moving so fast it’s hard to find the time to even text your own parents. But remember that words are gold and they’ll never dull. They’re yours and mine and ours and you should use them, if only to allow yourself to discover what you didn’t know was already in your mind. Your 60-year-old nostalgic self will be thanking you.


Take it all for granted. There are so many kids who feel stuck in their same country, same town, and same room that they’ve lived in their entire life. Never forget how privileged you are to have the chance to find your way home across the planet.

Drink enough to forget. Despite the aforementioned “do,” there is definitely a limit that should be placed on the nights that end in scraped knees and blurry eyes. As fun as it may seem to go out with a blackout every night of the week, the memories you make along the way are only memories if you can remember them. You’ll regret it if you don’t.

Only stick with your friends from home. You go abroad to see the world and part of that experience is meeting and befriending people from all corners of the planet. It’s okay to hang within your comfort zone for a while, but it’s so important to branch out. You never know which continent your new best friend or soul mate originates from.

Stick to the main path. When it comes to travel, there’s a tourist location for everything. But when it comes to finding home, there’s a path less travelled for that. Explore where the map cuts off. Go to restaurants you’ve never looked up on TripAdvisor, swim in waters you haven’t seen on Instagram, and take in the sunsets and sunrises you run into along the way. Sometimes the best sights are the ones you never planned on seeing, and there’s so much beauty in the unexpected discovery.

Forget that the world doesn’t owe you anything. Remember who made you who you are. Never forget where you came from as you’re discovering where you want to be. You’re merely a small speck on the map of the world, but it’s what you do out there that makes your influence larger than life. The world doesn’t owe you anything, but you owe it to the world to make the best out of your experience.

Take from this what you wish, and do with it what you can. I wish that everyone could benefit from the same experiences I have in the past few months, and I wish all collegiettes near and far safe travels for the future.


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