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COLUMN: 5 guidelines to studying abroad



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A view of the famous Alhambra in Granada, Spain. Columnist Lauren Saxe recommends spending time and money on experiences while studying abroad, not material things. Lauren Saxe and Lauren Saxe

Tick. Tick. Tick.

That’s all I’ve been hearing in my head this past week or so.

Seville finally feels like home, and, just as life here has hit a high, it’s already time to think about the trip home. We have just a little more than a month left of the semester, and for many of you, that means you’re gearing up to study abroad next semester.

In preparation for your time abroad, I’ve created a list for all of you soon-to-be world travelers to jot down and keep handy during your adventure to come:

1. Keep a journal.

Maybe it’s just a few bullet points every day. Maybe it’s keeping a blog. Maybe it’s posting photos to Instagram to look back at. Maybe it’s just writing down one memory every day on a post-it note. You don’t have to use the traditional notebook-and-pen approach, but you will appreciate having some kind of record later.

With all of the technology and forms of communication we have to preserve our memories, there’s no reason not to.

2. Enjoy your host city.

“Where are you traveling this weekend?” always seems to be the weekly question between study abroad students. I have loved my trips to countries outside of Spain, but I’ve loved my time here even more. Take the time to explore the city you’re in, or visit other neighboring cities in your host country. I suggest spending at least half of your weekends experiencing local life.

3. Ask questions.

Talk to the shopkeeper when you’re buying a gift or the barista at the coffee shop where you go for breakfast every morning. Strike up conversation. Ask questions about the language. Ask about the culture. Ask about people and their lives in general ... continually. Ask your family. Ask your teachers. Ask your friends. How else are you going to learn?

4. Give and take.

Ask and learn about traditions, but also share your own. Bring something special from home — a recipe, photos or a little gift from your hometown or university — to share with your family and friends in your host country. Last weekend I baked cakes and carved pumpkins with my host sister for Halloween, and sharing those traditions was a great way to bond.

5. Spend your money on experiences, not things.

This one I borrowed from my mother, who gave me this advice just before I left. Trust me, your friends will forgive you if you don’t bring them all a keychain from every city you visit. Instead, send them a postcard to tell them what you’re doing.

You won’t remember the things you bought. You’ll remember the experiences you had and the people with whom you shared them. Spend it on a night out in celebration of the end of midterms with your friends. Do something nice for your host family. Take a dance class. Life is made of moments, not things.

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