by Cody Hays

Congratulations! At this point, you are probably considering studying abroad or have already submitted your application.

Before you depart, I’d like to share a few tips and hard truths that I’ve learned from my study abroad experience in the beautiful Perth, Australia at Murdoch University.

Before You Leave:

  1. Bring a Few of Your Favorite Things

Bring something that will remind you of home. I have had a tapestry hanging above my bed for the last year. I study the pattern each night before going to bed and wake up staring at it each morning.

Having it up in my room in Australia comforts me and makes me feel safe. For you, it could be the jewelry box your mom gave you for your birthday, or your game winning football, or a quirky giraffe on your desk that you stare at when you’re tired of doing homework.

Whatever it is, bring it. It will make it feel more like home.

2. Pack Smart (Financially)

Bring things with you!

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If you know your accommodations and have room in your suitcase, bring a sheet set, a blanket, a pillow, and a towel with you. You’re obviously going to need it, and it will save you so much money to not have to buy it while abroad! Plus, it’s nice to have your favorite pillow and blanket with you when you’re sleeping (goes back to the comfort thing I was talking about).

Another tip on packing… use vacuum seal space saving bags. They are incredible for saving space, which means you can stuff your souvenirs in your bag on the way home.

3. Set a Budget

Okay, so this tip is pretty cliché but VERY necessary. Most times during study abroad, you won’t be given the opportunity to work as it will violate your student visa. For that reason, you will need to budget to make sure you don’t spend all your money the first month you arrive. Keep in mind the trips that you’ll want to take, your going out habits, gifts for family and friends, and souvenirs.

4. Prep Your Smartphone

Your smartphone is pretty much the most important thing you can bring with you… You’ll use it as your camera, currency converter, messaging, internet browsing and so much more!

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a. Talk to your phone company before you leave to discuss international plans. Even if you plan to get an international SIM card upon arrival, you will still want to be able to access your phone to call your family to let them know you arrived or use the map app to find your apartment!

b. Download a conversion app that will do conversions for you. It will help when you’re making purchases and bragging about your amazing weather.

c. If you’re using public transportation abroad, check to see if the company has an app. It will really help in your travel plans.

Once You Arrive

5. Take Your Time

Don’t expect to head straight to the beach or Eiffel Tower once you get off the plane. Find your new home, unpack slowly, order takeout, and fall asleep. Take your time your first day and remember to breathe! I forgot to do this… so for me, this was the time where I was 200% ready to go back to America. That would have been a huge mistake! Avoid the stress and enjoy your first day in your new home.

6. Remember Your Family

My grandmother was so stressed out during my 30-hour travel time… So if you want to avoid a sassy and emotional grandmother, be sure call your family during each layover and when you arrive! This will make them feel better and stop them from worrying. Skype or FaceTime your family members AT LEAST once a week.

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Even if you’re having the time of your life, and aren’t homesick, your family misses you dearly (by the way, that won’t happen. You’ll be homesick, I promise). Seeing your family members’ faces is amazing after days of long traveling, and there’s a 99.99% chance it will make you cry… or maybe that’s just me.

While You’re There:

7. Travel Often

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Even though this is a study abroad experience, it doesn’t mean the only thing you have to do it study.

Enjoy yourself, explore new cultures, and lose yourself in your travels. There’s plenty of places to explore in your new country and the surrounding ones!

Do your research on what’s surround you and plan for your study breaks. Remember to always tell your family and friends when you’re planning to be away from your new home. Check out this blog for cheap flights tips!

8. Capture the Moment

Get serious about documenting your experience. A perfect way to do this is to vow to upload a picture a day, write a blog, or a combination of the two! Document everything… the trips you go on, your weekly trip to the supermarket, the days at the beach, your excursion to dinner, a library tour, a video around campus!

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Thirty years from now when you’re struggling to remember your time abroad, you will thank yourself for taking such amazing pictures and videos. During my time in Australia, I’m keeping a WordPress picture blog! Check out my blog here for an example.

9. It’s Okay to Not Be an Expert

Your new friends, classmates, and teachers are going to expect you to know EVERYTHING about the United States. I was recently asked by my tourism teacher about how awesome the Newport Yacht Competition was… Being from Arizona, I’m not too familiar with boating competitions. After doing a quick Google, apparently Newport is in Rhode Island and the competition is an ocean race. Assumptions like this come up a lot, so be ready for them.

10. Make International Friends

Don’t be afraid to stray away from the American group (yes, there will be one… we all seem to find each other). Make friends with people who are from your new country and other foreign countries, so you can experience different cultures and diversify yourself. And, because it means that you’ll have someone to visit and a place to stay for your future world travels ✈️ 🌏

To RECAP:

Plan smart.

Don’t stress.

Love the fam.

Make new friends.

Enjoy your travels.

Make memories and have a fantastic time.

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Don’t forget to tag NAU in your adventures and share your life abroad 🌍✈️#LumberjackTravels

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It’s always a great day to be a Lumberjack! Join the conversation and share your #NAU story.

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