So for the past 3 years I have been hearing about the joys and the benefits of studying abroad. Though I was aware of the fact that 1 in 3 students who apply for a scholarship through the Learning Abroad Office receive one and that it would be the experience of a lifetime I was still a little hesitant to go because I always wanted my first abroad trip in college to be with my friends from back home.
Well one day in January last 2008 my best friend Eryn from another Big Ten school said "Me and you are going to Italy and Greece for New Years. Start saving!" After correcting her grammar I asked, "How Can We Afford to Go?" Apparently there are a bunch of different college travel organizations that have payment plans for college students. We chose EF College Break and sure enough January 1, 2010 I was in front of the Coliseum at a concert.
For the first time I was able to practice my Italian with native speakers. It was so refreshing to be able to navigate the streets of Rome, Sorrento and Naples with by myself and with other American college students who couldn't speak the language. We saw so many unique forms of architecture that I had only read about and the food was delicious. I met a very cute soccer player named Lorenzo who showed me and my friends great place to party.
Greece was a bit of a challenging experience. While Greece was beautiful and full of great landmarks that dated back 2000 years, I was a little upset that some people had mindsets that dated back just as far.
While walking down the street I was snatched by a Greek police officer who demanded that I "Handover my papers." Being American I had very little knowledge of that which he was referring. Eventually, my I realized that he meant my passport. Once I handed over my passport and he realized that I was American he became very friendly. I believe that that experience confused me more than reading a menu in Greek without the pictures.
All in all I had a great experience and after such a great experience in Italy I have decided to continue to study the language. I graduate this spring and though I did get the opportunity to study abroad my two weeks abroad was a great learning experience.
Studying abroad can be very expensive so here are few tips to help you make it a more affordable experience:
- Always bring a calculator to convert the exchange rate so that you do not over spend. (A souvenir may cost 25 euros but you must remember that that's almost 40 dollars. Budget!) If you must buy your own ticket, buy it months in advance. This will save you a lot of money.
- Bring some snacks from the US. You'll never waste your money buying snacks you may not like and you can save money that you can put towards some great souvenirs.
- Limit your cellphone use or change your plan to an international one immediately before you leave. Of course Mom was a little upset when she got the Happy New Year's text message instead of an hour long conversation but I was a feeling that she will be pleased with the bill. lol
- Buy an electricity converter. It is much cheaper than buying new appliances because the outlets are different.
- Take a lot of pictures. Sometimes pictures are the cheapest souvenirs and they help you remember the most.
Hope I helped a little. For more tips check out the Learning Abroad Center.