What did you learn about yourself when you were abroad? How have you changed?I was very nervous about studying abroad. I found myself very comfortable at school and was hesitant to leave the college environment. I did not want to miss out on any school activities and leave my friends to go to a foreign country. Fortunately, my friends and family encouraged me to embrace this once in a lifetime experience and jump out of my comfort zone. Four months later, I can now say that going abroad was the best choice I ever made. I grew and learned so much about myself and I could not be more thankful to have had this amazing opportunity. I learned that I am a very confident and independent person. I made friends for a lifetime very quickly and learned that I am happiest surrounding myself around positive and adventurous people. I was surprised when I found myself easily adjusting to change compared to the friends I made. I did come to the hard conclusion that not everything will always workout and matured through this life changing process by learning to be patient. I always thought I liked being comfortable, but after traveling to so many countries and living out of a suitcase, I learned that I like to constantly be on the move and challenging myself to navigate through difficult situations.
What travel tips would you give someone studying abroad?
There are many travel tips I would give someone studying abroad. The first travel tip I would give someone is to always travel with friends you can rely on to be on time. Before planning a trip with friends, make sure to discuss what you all want out of a trip. The people you travel with really make the whole experience; traveling with adventurous and fun people is the best way to go. Most of all, surround yourself with positive friends that you can trust to be with you through the good and bad because at times you will get home sick. When finding a place to stay, I recommend paying more to be city center because if you are far away from everything, you will end up spending more time and money on transit. When packing, pack light, I cannot stress this enough because you can re-wear clothes on weekend trips and mix and match. You only need to bring two pairs of shoes maximum, challenge yourself to pack in a backpack- that will for sure save you when you are traveling on an airline that only allows one bag. I also learned to always bring a swimsuit because you never know when you will need it. Before leaving, I recommend confirming reservations at hotels and hostels to make sure you booked the correct days. It is important to know what time your check in is to ensure that you do not have to lug your suitcase around until check-in. Last of all, my best recommendation is to eat street food during the day so you can do more activities and enjoy the food at night with some good vino!
What advice do you have for new study abroad students?
Branch out and make friends as fast as you can. Do not limit your amount of friends and always stay open to meeting all different types of people. Travel everywhere and every weekend you can and plan trips far in advance; this will save you a lot of money. I traveled through some travel companies for bigger trips that were too much for me to plan. I think it is important to also go some places on your own with friends and challenge yourself to navigate through the city. Before traveling, make a bucket list of places you want to go and sites you want to see. Wherever you go, eat everything you can and try local ethnic food of the country you are in. Waiters and locals also love to see Americans trying to learn their language. I would recommend to try to learn to say hello and thank you in the language of the country you travel to so you come across friendly and respectful.
When studying abroad you grow and change so much as a person. One thing I did that I love to look back on is journaling. This was something new for me and I really learned a lot about myself through my writings. Another fun thing to do when traveling to foreign countries is to collect something that will forever remind you of where you went and the memories you made. I had friends who collected t-shirts and ornaments. I collected postcards and sent some to friends and family overseas to say hello and update them on my life. Lastly, I encourage study abroad students to challenge themselves and embrace every moment because it will be over before you know it.
Madeline was a spring 2018 SAI Florence student from the University of Alabama. She is now an SAI Ambassador.