Studying abroad can feel like uncharted territory, especially if you have never traveled to another country before. I studied abroad in Madrid, Spain when I was a Freshman and I felt completely lost, but after living in the country for a while I began to pick up a few tricks. These tips will help you adjust to the culture shock of Europe and help brighten up your study abroad experience.
Tip #1 – Don’t Only Rely on Your English!
Believe it or not, not everyone in the world, or even in Europe, can speak the English language, so before going abroad you should learn simple phrases that will help you get around while you are living abroad. Helpful phrases to learn in your countries’ language are, “hello”, “how are you?”, “how much does this cost?”, “Do you know where ___ is located?”, and “I would like to order ___”. These and many other basic phrases will help you survive your abroad experience, and earn you the respect of the locals who love when you try to speak their native language!
Tip #2- Discover the City You Live In
Many students that choose to study abroad get very caught up in traveling all throughout Europe, so much so that they don’t leave time for themselves to explore the city that they live in.
Leave yourself some time to not only discover all the tourist sites of your abroad destination, but the local sites as well.
A good way to do this is to visit local cafés and restaurants near where you live, visit local art shows, and go to local bars. One of my favorite things to do to explore the city was to get lost on the metro and get off at random stops just to see where different things were. This is how I found some of favorite breakfast cafés and bars. It is also good to ask locals about their hidden gems so that you can enjoy them for yourself.
Tip #3- Europeans Party REALLY late
One of my biggest mistakes I made while I was living in Europe was showing up to an empty club at midnight. Normally parties in the US kick off at around 11 pm, but in Europe the party really doesn’t start until about 2AM. This means you should plan accordingly if you decide that you want to go out this late. The perk to this is that you can eat a nice dinner, take a fantastic nap, and pick out the perfect outfit without feeling pressed for time.
Tip #4- Beware of Pickpockets
While Europe is a continent of very low crime rates, you cannot discount the very high possibility that you may be pickpocketed. Pickpocketing is the “art” of stealing one’s belongings at a close range without having the person notice. In order to avoid being a victim of pickpocketing keep a close eye on your belongings at all times, do not bring valuable items such as your passport, expensive jewelry, or large sums of money unless you must have them with you. Be mindful during your conservations with those you do not know because they may be setting you up to pickpocket you.
Tip #5- When You Travel Outside of Your Abroad Destination, Travel Smart!
The best way to travel as a broke college student in Europe is through cheap flights, buses, and trains, and booking cheap hostels and Airbnb’s. In terms of travel, see where your destination is in proximity to where you are leaving from. This allows you to book buses if your destination is close, which can save you hundreds of euros in travel fees.
If your destination is far, consider looking into cheap airlines like Ryanair and EasyJet. Hostels and Airbnb’s are the way to go in terms of lodging because they are significantly cheaper than hotels and allow you to have a more authentic experience. Make sure to plan your trip ahead of time and make a budget for how much you plan to spend, with money set aside in case of an emergency.
The earlier you plan your trip the cheaper it will be.
Always make sure to tell your host parents, your own parents, and your school where you are traveling in case something happens at the destination you are traveling to.
Tip #6- Download These Apps, They Will Make Your Experience Easier
WhatsApp– WhatsApp is a messenger app that many Europeans use to communicate with one another. It’s free and allows you to send messages and make phone calls. It will save you money if you are not planning on having an international plan with our phone carrier, and will help you stay connected with the friends that you make while you were abroad.
Duolingo– Duolingo is a app that teaches you different languages. It has fun games that help you practice your language, and it greatly helped me remember basic Spanish phrases and vocabulary. This is very helpful if you are planning on learning the language of your abroad destination.
International SOS Assistance App– This app sends you alerts on natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and other dangerous situations that happen while you are abroad. It is important to have in case of an emergency, and will give you guidance on what to do in the instance of an emergency situation.
Mytaxi– My Taxi is the Uber of taxis in Europe. The app allows you to flag down a taxi to your destination and allows you to pay using the app instead of cash.
Also published on Medium.