5 Things You Should Know Before You Study Abroad

A semester overseas can be the experience of a lifetime, but plenty of hurdles have to be cleared to ensure students get the most out of the opportunity. Address these issues, then enjoy the ride.

1. Don’t let costs or lack of resources defer the dream

Most universities offer financial aid or scholarships for study abroad students. In fact, schools like Loyola University Chicago transfer all financial aid to their international programs. Schedule to meet with your school advisors to learn about these opportunities. Web sites such as NAFSA can help students locate scholarship information.

2. Learn the local currency or be ready to pay dearly

Being ignorant of monetary exchange rates could be costly and stressful, just ask Loyola University of Chicago junior and past study abroad student Samantha Kirzeder. “When I was in Costa Rica I didn’t exchange my money before my flight. When I landed, I paid $50 for a taxi that really would have cost me $20 in the local currency.” A simple phone application, such as the XE Currency app, saves the latest exchange rates on your phone and makes purchases easy.

Saint Patrick's Cathedral
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland is a great destination for students of Irish descent to learn about their heritage.

3.Embrace the chance to present a positive image of Americans

A video, produced by Cut.com asking several people from around the world their opinions on Americans revealed raw insights. “dumb, obese and very patriotic,” said one man. As study abroad students, you have a rare chance to prove those who stereotype Americans wrong. Even if you don’t, you’re likely to make some personal accomplishments. According to a Clark University study abroad survey, people who study abroad gain a better understanding of cultural values and broaden their way of looking at the world. It also encourages diverse friendships.

 4. Say no to overplanning and yes to spontaneity 

The best study abroad experiences can be the ones that are least expected, according to several students at Loyola University Chicago. Caitlin Pilgrim, 22, a Loyola senior who spent time at the John Felice Rome Center, advises against plotting out every day of your time overseas and instead leaving some things to chance. We usually decided where we wanted to travel to based off what the flight prices were like for that week. Some of my favorite places that we traveled to (Budapest, Ireland) we decided to go to two days before we left,” says Pilgrim.

Friends in Spain
Caitlin Pilgrim, far right, says enjoying Spain’s Sangria made the last minute booking worth the trip.

5. Be ready to learn in ways not expected

Studying abroad can be lonely. However, it’s about expanding your horizons and stepping out of your comfort zone. Andrea Bouchaud, writer of Twenty in Paris believes being alone is a critical part of the study abroad experience and becoming an adult. However, this doesn’t mean you won’t make friends. In fact, studies show studying abroad leads to long-lasting friendships. According to a Clark University study exploring the long-term impact of study abroad on students, over half of the students surveyed say they remain in contact with the friends they made abroad.

Study Abroad Survey
90% of the students surveyed for Clark University’s study say studying abroad encourages them to make more diverse friendships.
If you are unsure about studying abroad, check out this Youtube video by Max Rehkopf, a study abroad student highlighting the impact the experience had on him.

 Here’s a video I made of my study abroad experience in Rome last fall.

If you’ve studied abroad before, what are some tips you’d give people who are about to leave? Let us know in the comments section down below.

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