Studying abroad is an exciting and rewarding experience, but it definitely requires a lot of research and background knowledge. When I left to go to Barcelona, I thought that I was pretty well-prepared, but I quickly realized that I was not, at all. There is a lot more to it then just going to school and having fun on the weekends (or weeknights). Here are some things you should definitely know before you leave to go abroad.
1. Make sure your credits will transfer.
This is so important. I know, I know, you already know. But, my Freshman year I knew a senior who had to take 24 credits each semester because she had studied abroad the spring of her Junior year and none of the credits transferred. You don’t want that to be you. So check, and check, and check again. Once you get there, check again. Don’t wait until you’ve come back, and your school says that you’re missing 16 credits to realize that none of them transferred.
2. Learn Military time.
This is a useful skill to have. Since pretty much every other country besides the United States goes by military time, it’s handy to know. I was pretty lucky since I have been using military time since I changed my Facebook language to English (UK), which changed all the times to military time, so I had become familiar with it. But booking plane tickets and things, everything is in military time, which can get confusing if you don’t know it. (14:00 does not equal 4pm).
3. Know some background information about your country.
It’s good to have some information about where you are staying, so you aren’t the ignorant American stereotype. Also, studying abroad is all about immersing yourself in a different culture, and learning about it, so you can have a head start if you do some research beforehand. At least know who the President or leader of the country is. Also, know what is going on politically, economically, etc. When I was in Spain, there were a lot of riots going on because of the poor economy. Frequently on my way home from class, I would see protestors walking down Passeig de Gracias. One day, a lot of teachers were cancelling classes because huge riots were taking places, and when I went to the scene after, there was graffiti and trash every where. So read up at least a little so you know current events and won’t accidentally get stuck in a riot. Or, as what happened on our first week, there was a street festival right outside, ending with a carnival! So if you have some information, you’ll know how to find these. . . . .