So you decided you want to study abroad? And you got into your program of choice?! Woo! Now what to do…
The Fun Stuff: Finances
I could write pages on how to properly get ready for study abroad. But, to spare you, I will keep it brief. The first and foremost thing to do is figure out how much money you’ll need for the program, the place you’re going and the places you’ll want to go around your destination. I had been dreaming of study abroad since the moment I found out it was a “thing” in high school. Once I turned 18, I was able to open a savings account where I dedicated most of my funds – I save saved up for years just to be here, and knowing this, I wake up everyday more grateful than the last to study in Madrid, Spain.
Thankfully, my financial aid and a small contribution from my parents covered most of my program. However, there was still a few thousand left to fork up; at this, I turned to scholarships. I applied for over 15 scholarships, using teacher recommendations, transcripts and essays… you could say this was a lot but the work paid off and I scored 3 of them. Two were for $1,000 and one was from Pitt Business for $500. The Pitt Business one is the reason I write this blog, and while I am very thankful, I didn’t realize that Pitt also has a $400 fee to study abroad. To those from Pitt – know this and budget it in! I ended up having to cover this from my savings and it was a bit of a dig. If you are planning to come to Europe (may I recommend Spain?), you will want to travel each weekend and during your spring break. Everyone will tell you that flights and hostels are cheap, however, they must have studied abroad before the “hype” because these have grown more expensive in the last year or so. In conclusion: Save up and plan ahead!
The Actual Fun Stuff: Shopping
Before you leave, shop for some clothes and shoes that will be necessary for your destination. If you are a girl coming to Europe, this means basics (!) and walking shoes. I know you will want to buy statement pieces and awesome heels for those trips to Paris, London and the Amalfi Coast – but do not do bring only statements! There are plenty of places to shop in Europe and there are too many days of studying, flying, catching up on sleep and general tour days that will leave you wishing you had basic clothing that you wear everyday at home. Thankfully, I was given this advice and I’m glad I have the fun outfit choices I do yet I can still sit in my joggers, adidas sneakers and black tee from home (…like I am right now).
As well, I stocked up on ibuprofen and airborne. I HIGHLY suggest you do the same! My roommates have been searching tirelessly for medicines that match or are even close to those we have at home. Though you might not be someone who gets sick often, you will when you are abroad – from public transit, flights, all-nighters, early mornings and just travel in general you will want to have a vitamin C regimen and a pain reducer for those travel headaches. Do not buy shampoo or any big toiletries – there are stores here! I bought everything the first day and you will be able to as well. Lastly, bring a good book. I’m not sure what I’ll do when I finish my second one that I bought at home (and my roommate’s book too) since there is so much downtime in travel, and I have yet to find an English book here. You might be hesitant because of the amount of room in your suitcase, but I am thankful I have a book to read when I can’t catch some zzz’s during the flights, buses, trains and in the airports every weekend.
I will keep packing quick because everyone has different takes on it: I suggest bringing two checked suitcases and a travel rucksack/backpack. I kept one of the checked bags mostly empty to bring some things home. The backpack I used is so phenomenal I will rave about it to anyone who mentions travel – (https://www.ebags.com/product/ebags/mother-lode-tls-weekender-convertible/143101?productid=1370034) This is the best purchase you’ll ever make! It has saved me from ever having to check a bag on budget airlines, I can run through the airport to the flights I have almost missed (ha!) and I can lug it on all kinds of stairs/public transportation.
Lastly, bring some photographs of your family and friends. I brought a few and I was able to decorate the bulletin board in my room. It makes me so happy that I have their pictures there, and I am adding museum passes, ticket stumps, and other small pieces of travel to the board – I love watching it grow!