8 Lessons I've Learned Living Abroad

I've been living abroad for three weeks now, so I've obviously become the expert on all things travel, culture, etc.

But seriously folks. Living abroad has been a (gentle) trial by fire but I'm ready to use my newfound wisdom to help all my future jet setters out there. 

1. Keep track of that dolla dolla bill, y'all. 

During the first few days money will be FLYING out of your hands. Whether it's excess baggage fees, dinners, nights out (#LegalToParty), planning weekend trips and the like, if you're not careful you're liable to blow half the money you worked so hard to save all summer (or got from your parents if you're #blessed like that). Either way, be careful. You've got months of pub crawls, vacations, and groceries to finance and loans from the Bank of Mom & Dad come with a lot of strings and lectures about responsibility. Total. Buzzkill.

2. Walk

If you're studying in Europe, chances are that you're living in a walkable area. Not only is walking better for your wallet, (fun fact: The London Underground Train system costs more per mile than a trans-atlantic flight) it's a great way to get to know the area you're living in. That being said, make sure you map out your routes ahead of time and try to stay with groups until you get your bearings and a working phone. 

They don't have views like this on the Tube.

3. Make friends with staff.

This is really just an add-on to the classic "make friends with the locals" advice. However, in your first few weeks it may be hard to find local friends. It's not hard to find staff. Not only will they give you great tips about the city, but they can help you with everyday problems like letting you in when you forget your keys or carrying your stuff after a particularly good visit to Primark. 

4. Don't get too caught up in the jetset lifestyle.

Especially in Europe, it's easy to let the allure of cheap international travel get to you but don't forget to take the time to get to know your host-city. After school, internships, social stuff, and travel you might find that at the end of the trip the only place you really didn't get to appreciate is the one you called home. 

Flight To Rome: $90

Tube Ride To the V&A: $3

5. Call home (but not too much).  

Trust me. Sending you thousands of miles away is stressful for your fam. You may be thinking "but they send me to Indiana every semester no problem" and I feel that, but still... Just take few seconds out of the week to call your parents. Even if it's just a voicemail. It helps ease their anxiety which is better for you in the long run. I swear. If you're not into phone calls, try a weekly newsletter style email to your family. It confirms you're alive, keeps them updated, and keeps you from trying (and failing) to hang up for 20 full minutes after you said "bye" the first time. 

6. Stay in touch with old friends. Make new ones. 

Study abroad can be incredibly isolating. If, like me, you go into a program without knowing many of the people involved, it can be difficult to adjust. It's ok to give in to your homesickness and seek out the support of your loved ones back home. Just make sure to put just as much effort into doing new things. Try to build new relationships, while keeping up with the old. 

New friends living out Rom-Com dreams. 

7. Take pictures.

Now is the time to be "that girl" on social media. Take lots of pictures. When you're living abroad rather than taking a short trip, it's easy to forget everything you did and saw. Document it. You might feel obnoxious, but you're doing something really cool that people will actually care about it. If nobody else does, you know your aunt will cheer you on for the travel spam. 

Because this might be your view on your walk home.

8. It's ok to be a tourist...sometimes

You know you want that stereotypical tourist picture of you holding the Eiffel Tower or coming out of a red phone booth. That's just as much a part of your study abroad experiece as backpacking and meeting locals. Just please, for the love of God, walk at a decent pace. 

Just in case you didn't hear...I'm in London!


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Images: All provided by author