This blog was written by Kaitlyn Smith, our Campus Ambassador at Drexel University. She is a Communications major with an emphasis in Public Relations. You can follow her on twitter: @Kaitlyn_Perez.
Studying abroad is an exciting and enriching experience. I was given many tips on how to survive in a different country but only listened to a few of them. I am currently studying abroad in Spain and although I thought I had prepared thoroughly for the trip, I neglected to listen to some advice that would be useful in when studying abroad in almost any city.
1. You really do need sneakers. I figured I could get away with only bringing a couple of pairs of sandals and wedges to Barcelona. I was so wrong. Many of the streets are cobblestone and sometimes we went out of the city to more rural areas. Walking around those areas in sandals could become very difficult and even painful.
2. Don’t take anything too valuable. Wearing flashy jewelry or carrying around expensive electronics will make you look like an easy target. Think about how much you will miss something if it is stolen. One of the girls in my program recently had her iPhone stolen on the Metro. The incident set an example for the rest of us but unfortunately it is something that is hard to believe until you experience it first hand.
3. If you are going to a modern city, don’t bring all of your beauty and hygiene products as they take up much needed room in your suitcase. There will be stores that sell just about all of the products that you are used to using. Sometimes the packaging looks completely different but generally the product is the same.
4. Be prepared for culture shock. Do your research on how the natives live. Some countries do things very differently. You may not have access to wifi, air conditioning, or other amenities you are used to having. Not having an air conditioner was very difficult for me. However, I quickly found a way to adapt. A situation like this can always be turned in to a learning experience.
5. Don’t bring towels or bed linens unless you are told to do so. Once again, they take up a significant amount of room in your suitcase. Often bed linens are provided. If not, they along with towels, can be bought for as low as six dollars nearby.
6. Buy a local phone. In case of an emergency, you can call your program director at a much lower price. Also, it makes communicating with your friends in the program much easier. Almost all of the students in my group have an inexpensive local phone. We are able to check in with each other when there is a change in plans and keep in touch with the students who are staying in a different residence.
7. Don’t carry all of your money or cards in your bag when you are walking around. Leave a back up card and cash in your room in case your wallet or bag is stolen. If they are, you could possibly wait days until a new card is sent to you.