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Navigating the Journey of Study Abroad

By: Morgan Jamison

A year ago, I was living my dream in Paris, France on my study-abroad journey. Since then, I have had the pleasure of helping students find the right program and discussing the impact studying abroad had on me. Now, I want to share my top 5 tips for making the most of the experience!

Tip #1: Find a location you'll enjoy!

The last thing you want to happen on your trip is to end up hating the city. It was quite easy for me to choose Paris because I needed to be in France for my major, but I also wanted a central location in Europe that would make travel easy. However, I recommend something other than Europe in the spring if you hate the cold. I suggest steering more towards a place like New Zealand or Australia. 

Tip #2: Immerse yourself in the culture!

Try new foods! Talk to locals! I found that coffee shops, bars, and parks were the best places to find people who would give great recommendations! Don't be afraid to talk to them. They understand you are not a local, and I found it to be a great way to meet people your age and make friends! You will get the most from your experience if you go to places off the beaten path. If you are nervous about talking to someone, try looking up places on TikTok or Instagram.  

Tip #3: Document your journey!

I know how daunting journaling can seem, but trust me, you are going to want to look back and reread the crazy stories you had. If journaling sounds horrible to you, try taking videos. Start a YouTube! It would be a great way to document for future you, your family, and friends at home who want to stay connected! Also, look up some YouTube videos of students who have been to your city or on the same program. It eases some anxiety about feeling clueless!

Tip #4: Learn the language (at least a little)!

In France, most people know English. However, they appreciate and respect you for learning even just a little French. I was not fluent, but I found they were much more helpful when I started the conversation with "Bonjour" instead of "Hello." It shows you respect their culture and are trying to integrate. I had a note on my phone of the most important sayings I was using in case I ever forgot. The smaller towns do not know as much English, so it was more helpful to know some French. Even a few lessons on Duolingo would be convenient no matter where you are headed!

Tip #5: Pay for experiences, not things!

The best story I have from my study abroad was when I went paragliding in Interlaken, Switzerland. This was not something I had planned until the day before, but I have always wanted to go skydiving, and this seemed like a great way to get a similar experience. It was the most fun and cool adventure that only a few people get to say they did. I went by myself because all my friends were scared and I am so proud of myself for doing it. This story is much better than saying I went to Zara and bought a jacket. I can buy things anywhere. You can't buy the story of paragliding in Switzerland. 

Your study abroad trip will have ups and downs, but making the most of your time and stepping out of your comfort zone will give you the best chance of creating the best memories!

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