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How to Make the Most of Study Abroad

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Louvre courtyard

Studying abroad is an amazing experience (and was definitely my peak). This time last year I was living in Amsterdam and studying at Vrije Universiteit. I lived in an apartment complex with a look and feel much like Southwest Residential Area at UMass. My apartment housed twelve people, a mix of international undergrads studying abroad and masters students. We all shared one kitchen, living room, and bathroom. It was an experience unlike any other. 

However, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I was very, very nervous to go abroad. I had never been out of North America, let alone traveled without my family. But study abroad is all about getting outside your comfort zone in every way posssible. There were many ups and a quite a few downs as well — but it was all worth it.

When I first arrived, I clung to my American peers. Four of us were living in the same apartment, so when we unpacked, we also went to the grocery store, dinner, and did everything together. But little by little, we got to know our flatmates better. Eventually, I was even comfortable going into the city alone. This was an amazing feat for me because I am very, very directionally challenged. 

But the downs of study abroad were indeed really hard. It's hard to live in a different country, surrounded by a different culture. It's hard to live in a country where the main source of transportation is biking, especially when you're really bad at biking. I fell off my bike ... a lot. I even got hit by a car and fell off my bike. I got lost trying to GPS and pedal. My friend got scammed out of all of his euros in Prague. I got a sinus infection and thought my head might explode on a flight to France. Yet it was still all worth it. 

The main idea behind making the most out of study abroad is just to do everything and say yes to everything. Even if you're scared of getting lost. Even if you might get scammed. (Just kidding, definitely be smarter than my friend and do not try to exchange money with a stranger on the street). Meet new people. Don't be afraid to introduce yourself to a local in your class. Don't be afraid to talk to a professor even if you think, "Well, he doesn't care about me, I'm only here for a few months." Travel to countries you never expected. Buy a lot of ~cool European clothes~. Take a bunch of cliche tourist pictures.

Do everything and anything you want (as long as it's legal). It's the stuff you don't do that you'll regret. 

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Study Abroad

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