Traveling to a new place, learning a different language, being out of your comfort zone and meeting new and foreign people may seem intimidating at first, but the experience of studying abroad is worth it.
Junior Claudia Curiel, who is currently studying abroad in Paris through the Inter-university Mission for Coordination of Franco-American Exchanges, offers her advice for others looking to study abroad in the future.
1) Research the programs available to you and ask others’ opinions before you decide. I was told there was only one program available in Paris, however, I found out later you could do a few others that are not always mentioned or encouraged. I would never take back this opportunity, but I would do it differently. My program is completely laissez-faire, there are no living arrangements and you must find housing on your own. It was truly a mission since you are going to classes at the same time and most places in Paris are tiny, old, dirty and overpriced. I also had to choose my own university and classes; I thought it was very unorganized and unstructured.
2) Have living arrangements sorted out prior to the beginning of your program. I was given a dorm for 10 days and by the end of that I had to find a place to live. I did not know anyone and luckily found my roommate through an acquaintance. Everything ends up working out; don’t stress.
3) Do not over-pack. During your time abroad you will accumulate so much that going back will be even more difficult than getting there. My parents came with me to help me during the apartment search so I was, unfortunately, able to bring an excessive amount of clothes in my luggage as well as theirs. This turned out to be a very negative thing.
4) Do take advantage of traveling. Especially if you study in Europe, everything is so close and there are discounts just for being under 25 or a student. Unlike Miami, where you drive for seven hours and remain in Florida, you can get to another country in just two hours and stay there for the weekend.
5) Don’t go clubbing the night before a trip. I passed out at 4:30 a.m. the night before my trip to Rome. I was supposed to be at the bus stop to go the airport (which was not even in Paris) at 5:45 a.m., but my alarm never went off. I woke up at 7 a.m. ran out into the streets looking for a taxi to go to the bus station, but the last bus had already left. I tried to take a train there and then a taxi, but I went all the way to the wrong train station. I ended up having a severe anxiety attack in a 120 euro taxi with a suicidal cab driver. Do not go out the night before.
6) Do not worry about meeting people. I had a small freak-out right before embarking on my study abroad trip. I knew no one and had no idea who I would live with or hang out with. Despite my worry, I could never have made a better decision in my life. In the past three months I have met so many amazing people, including two princes, and friends from all over the world.
7) Recognize that we are spoiled in the United States in terms of space and convenience. Everything is much smaller in Europe, and in France there is a protocol for everything. Tasks that are extremely simple back home can be a mission while abroad. Back home you can fix almost anything through the phone or online, whereas in Europe you need to show up in person to get almost anything accomplished.
8) Enjoy your time abroad. You don’t know when you’ll have the opportunity to live in another country again without worrying about major responsibilities. Go see and do everything that is available in your city including going to museums, parks and monuments. Go out, have fun, meet people, establish relationships and travel!
Claudia Curiel may be contacted at email@example.com.