Thursday, December 10, 2009

Nine tips for studying abroad

As I prepare to say goodbye to my junior friends who will be studying abroad during my last semester in Madison, I felt it was appropriate to send them off with a few tips. Of course, you can view my entire blog from Prague here, but to make things more efficient and concise, here goes (in no particular order):

1. Use banks, not the currency exchange booths or airports to exchange currencies. Those booths kill you when you exchange both foreign and local currencies. If you're traveling for the weekend when you'll be using a different currency, take out enough money in advance where you don't have to exchange it more than once while you're gone.

2. Take out large sums of cash at a time from ATMs. And make sure you hide it! ATM fees will also kill your wallets. Taking out the equivalent of $40 makes no sense when the
ATM fee is worth $8. I took out 6.000 ,00 (that's how they write it there) Czech crowns at a time, the equivalent of about $300. Just make sure it doesn't get stolen or you drunkenly lose it or spend it on ridiculous things. But if you trust yourself, minimize the ATM fees.

3. Meet locals. Don't be those snobby Americans who only hang out with themselves. Meet some locals and go out with them. It will make your experience much more exciting, I promise.

4. Along those same lines, assimilate. Try to learn the local language if you don't already know it. Dress relatively similar to the locals, if you can. In other words, try not to perpetu
ate the "obnoxious American" stereotype, or else it's not just a stereotype, it becomes reality.

5. Travel as much as your bank account allows. You won't regret it when it's time to come back to the States.

6. Go out almost every night. You don't have to get belligerently drunk every night, but don't sit around on your computer watching "Lost." The kids who did too much of that
regret it now.

7. Walk outside your comfort zone. That's what studying in a foreign country is all about. Try new foods. Do things you'll never be able to do again. Don't try to Americanize your experience. In that case, you might as well just stay here.

8. Meet other Americans, not just the kids you live with or knew before. The more people you meet, the better.

9. Have a blast. Honestly, studying abroad was the best experience I've ever had. You should experience the same.