What I Wish I Knew Before Studying Abroad

What's better than traveling the world? Getting credit it for it! Here are a few things I wish I had known before I went abroad. 

There is a ton of financial aid.

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 Most people don't know that SMU offers a lot of financial aid for students going abroad. The application process is similar to applying for financial aid for the normal school year, and is not something to stress about. The school wants everybody to have the chance to study abroad and experience new cultures, and they are willing to help however they can. 

The food is insane.

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First off, I studied abroad in Italy. That being said I thought I knew what I was getting in to with the food, right? Wrong. There was so much more than just pasta and pizza, and the options they did have in those categories were different than expected. Each region had a special type of sauce and noodle of choice and cream based sauces are NOT Italian. During a cooking class the chef said, "If you see a cream based sauce on the menu, run!" Some of the food may be different than you are used to, but be adventurous. Why go abroad to study a different culture and not try a major aspect of it?

Exercise...?

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As an exercise enthusiast, this was something I was quite worried about during my time abroad. The village I was living in did not have a gym and the running trail ventured deep into the woods and through the side of a cliff. However, do not fear. We spent most days walking around different cities and trust me when I say I won all of my FitBit challenges. 

The work load is no joke.

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YOU DO STUDY DURING STUDY ABROAD. Although there is a grandeur about it, there is still work when you study abroad. There were many late nights spent writing papers and reading articles. Yes, you visit amazing places, but that usually is followed up with an assignment. 

You absolutely should go on the weekend trips.

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When I initially researched weekend trips, I wasn't signed up for any. However, I ended up going on the vacations for all but one weekend! The weekends are your chance to really explore where you are. You do not necessarily have to go somewhere far off or grand. One weekend we stayed at the local lake. It's more about taking the initiative to explore for yourself.

Be careful when you're packing.

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With all of the walking comes a lot of walking with your luggage. Be sure to only pack what you can transport yourself and pack efficiently. Bring one duffel or mini suitcase to use for your weekend trips and carry-ons. You should buy some packing cubes to organize your bigger suitcase. I only had to pack and unpack once with the packing cubes because all you do is fill them. Switch them into your weekend pack and you're done! Zip them up at the end to head home. 

Do It!

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Honestly the best advise I can give is to just do it! There is so much to learn and to see abroad. You get to learn what it's like to live in another environment and culture. You get to experience how the cultures relate to your own and what is different and new. Most of the time there is a struggle with the language, but download the Google Translate app and you're good to go! 

You will make incredible friends.

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My number one favorite thing about being abroad is the friends you make while you are there. These people are your roommates, eating buddies, study buddies and by the end some of your closest friends.

All photos by Hillery Lemon

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