A Mini Survival Guide to Learning Abroad

I had no idea what to expect when the opportunity to study abroad presented itself to me earlier this year. Having lived my life in only a small fraction of the world, I was ready to get out. However, coming to live in a whole new country for a semester was nerve-racking—but appealing. 

It’s been a little bit over a month since I’ve been in Incheon, South Korea. I would like to think I’m starting to get the hang of it here. Here are some survival tips to make your adventures worthwhile.


1. Pack like a mouse

Don’t pack like your life depends on it. I’m serious! If you’re staying for a semester (approximately four months), you’re just going to need the essentials. For the women, pack one cycle of toiletries. The country you’re going to will most likely have what you need for the rest of the trip. When packing clothes, do not bring your whole walk-in closet. Pack the basics, because chances are, you’ll end up buying clothes in that country. Personally, I packed two large suitcases. One was full of everything I needed and the other was mostly empty for all the fun souvenirs I can bring back. 

Recommended: A sturdy pair of sneakers.

2. Help! Where’s my money?

Budgeting is one of the most important things to do when traveling long-term. Unless you’re a trust-fund baby, money is going to be essential to surviving when studying abroad. Before you leave, you should come up with an approximate amount of what you’re planning to spend each month. Yes, there are going to be months where you might splurge a little more than others. Keep on top of what you’re spending and budget as you go. 

I would advise keeping an emergency stash for emergencies only. Family and friends will probably be expecting some form of a souvenir, but make sure you have enough to eat and last through the trip first. 

Recommended: Enough money to eat good food.


3. I’m so lost.

Navigating in a new environment is so intimidating, especially if you don’t speak the native language well or at all. Friends that you make abroad will help your adventures go so much smoother. Make sure you have downloaded the country’s map app (e.g. Korea uses Naver Maps instead of Google Maps). And even if you do get lost, take it as an opportunity to explore the area!

Recommended: Friends to get lost with.

4. Take every shot

You already jumped at the chance of learning abroad so why wait around for more opportunities? No matter where you go, there is new food to try, people to meet, and lessons to learn. Don’t waste your time sitting in your room waiting for the opportunities to come to you. Get up and do something about it.  Contact everyone in the group chat and see if they want to visit the palace on the weekend. Drive a few hours to the DMZ border to feel the tension. Go to Hongdae for cute cafes and nice restaurants. YOU ARE LIVING ABROAD! Don’t make yourself regret the things you didn’t get to do.

Recommended: A camera to capture the memories.


I hope this mini-guide will serve you well when you learn abroad. Hopefully, your learning abroad experiences will fulfill future professional and personal connections. Go -- adventure is waiting for you. 


Source: 1, 2