Abroad... it is truly as amazing an experience as everyone says. It's crazy to think that you just get to get up, leave, and live in a new city for four months. However, much like anything new, being abroad presents a huge learning curve. It's all a part of the experience. Here are some tips for future abroad students from someone who is currently abroad and has lived/is still living through the learning curve:
1. Don't follow the "abroad bible". At some point, someone will send you a guide about the city where you are studying with outlines of popular places to eat, go out, etc. These are nice to get a little background about your new home, but what is the fun of living through someone else's experiences? It's ok to take initiative and create your own adventures and experiences.
2. Buy locks for your backpack. Right now, this might sound like an extreme measure, but it's better to be safe than sorry. Nothing is worth losing your cellphone, wallet, or other personal belongings, and customs fees to have things shipped from home are no fun to deal with. Just buy the $4 locks, and thank me later.
3. Write things down. Four months might not seem like a whole lot of time, but a lot is going to happen, and you want to be able to remember it all. I personally just have a note on my phone where I write down a moment from every day, and it's always fun to look back and reminisce on things that happened early in the semester.
4. UMass has a VPN that you can download. That means you can stay up-to-date on your favorite TV shows and Netflix. Even abroad, sometimes you need a good Netflix binge.
5. Get a good international credit/debit card. Take it from someone who has incurred $15 bank charges and fees on a $200 withdrawal. This is something I really wish I had looked into more before leaving the U.S. Charles Schwab accounts are awesome. It's an online bank, and they refund all ATM fees that their customers incur so, in essence, no foreign fees (an abroad kid's dream).
Studying abroad is a great experience, but it does certainly present some unique challenges and things to consider. For those interested in studying abroad at some point, I hope these tips can help you in your own journeys down the road!