1. Be sure to pack for the appropriate seasons. Before you leave, research the country/city where you will be studying and check on what the weather will be like for the duration of time that you will be there. For example, when I first arrived in Sevilla back in September, it was 90+ degrees outside. Now that it is November (almost December), the highs are in the 50's. Also, there is no carpeting in any of the houses or buildings here, which means that oftentimes it is colder inside than it is outside.
2. Try as best as you can to pack lightly. I'm sure this is one of the number one study abroad/travel tips, but it is definitely very true. I came with one large suitcase, a backpack, and a purse. I use the backpack for side trips and my suitcase just sits in my closet.
3. Pack clothing that is versatile. Bring layers and neutral colors. Try to have outfits that can be mixed and matched.
4. Remember, if you really need or forget something, you can probably buy it when you arrive at your study abroad location. After it got colder in my house, I bought several scarves and sweaters, which make for great souvenirs!
5. Bring a camera and take pictures, but be sure to enjoy your time as well. If you spend all of your time taking pictures of the sights, can you really enjoy it? Take a few token pictures, then put your camera away and spend time with friends and locals!
6. Believe it or not, you can actually survive without your smartphone. Maybe this isn't the popular choice and there are definitely ways to work around not having a data plan in your study abroad country, but I've found that it's okay not to be in contact with people 24/7. Yes, I do have my smartphone here with me and I occasionally use it with wi-fi, but I think it's better to try to survive without being attached to your phone. Similar to the camera, you can take it out, use it for a few minutes, but then put it away so that you can enjoy your new study abroad friends' company and take in the sites.
7. Skype is such a blessing. I know I just said to try to unplug from technology, but there is a time and a place for it. Skype is a wonderful way to stay in contact with friends and family back home. Just don't forget to spend time with your new study abroad friends, too!
8. Homesickness is different for everyone. It may hit you in the very beginning of the semester and fade after a while, or you may start out feeling fine and it could hit you all of a sudden in the middle or towards the end of the semester. In my case, I wasn't so much homesick as I was "friend" and "family"-sick. I wanted everyone to be in Seville with me, exploring with me. But, I soon realized that I could make new friends and explore and do things with them!
9. Sometimes you do have to "study" while you are abroad. I know this may come as a surprise to some people, but you are still taking classes. For the most part, I think that I have less homework in my classes here than I would in the States (don't tell my teachers that!), but we do still have midterms, projects, presentations, and finals. So just realize that sometimes it is okay to hole up in your room or a local cafe or a library to study for hours on end. And after all your hard work, remember that you're in a foreign country, and go out to celebrate!
10. Everyone has a different study abroad experience, but just remember to be open to new experiences, foods, people, and cultures. If you want to get the most out of your study abroad experience, you must realize that one, it will not be exactly like the one that your friend(s) told you about, and two, try to be open to everything! You are, after all, immersing yourself in a new culture and with that comes different customs, foods, people, and experiences. All you have to do is try something once to know whether or not you like it. If you don't like it, fine, but you can still say that you tried. And if you enjoy it, perfect! You learn something new every day whether you know it or not! So just know that studying abroad is one of the best experiences that a college student can have. Not only does it broaden your understanding of the world and other cultures, but you grow in ways that you cannot even imagine. Like every semester, it will have its ups and downs, but that is the roller coaster called life!
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