Now that my study abroad program has ended I’m back home in Moore, Oklahoma. I wish I could say the semester went by in a blur but in all honestly it did not. Between taking difficult classes (Organic I & II accelerated), traveling during the weekends, and OUA events, sometimes it felt as if the semester would never end. Don’t get me wrong, I can not express how much I loved the past semester abroad. I would choose to do it all over again in a heartbeat. However, the semester did prove to have it difficulties. So in this blog post I’m going to reflect on my experiences juggling classes and traveling and lessons I learned as a result of any struggles.
If you’re going to try and study abroad figure out how to manage your time!! This applies to school and traveling. For example, don’t be like me and instead actually do your OChem homework before you leave for your weekend trip to Greece. This way when you get back on Sunday night you don’t have to worry about finishing up your homework problems before class on Monday morning. Don’t save your homework for after your trips because you will be tired and will not want to even think about studying once you get back from your trip. All you will want to do is sleep. If you really don’t have time to finish all your homework before the weekend, take it with you!! Trust me. Between all of the buses, trains, and airplanes you’ll definitely have free time to study.
Managing your time is also super important when it comes to traveling. If you only have two days in a city you want to make sure you optimize your short amount of time. Even if your are not a huge planner and would rather just wing it, skip the regrets and do everything you want by at least making the effort to create a rough plan. It doesn’t have to be exact. Simply create vague time slots for how long you anticipate on spending at each attraction. This way you can ensure you get to check everything off your list.
While I’m on the topic of planning trips, before you leave for your weekend destination buy your tickets to any museums, cathedrals, or attractions online beforehand if possible! This way you can ensure that you are guaranteed an entrance time and won’t miss out on any of your bucket list adventures. Popular attractions often have very long lines which could potentially ruin your schedule! Also warning… If you ever plan on traveling to Amsterdam with hopes of visiting the Anne Frank House be aware that it’s kinda difficult to get tickets unless you plan ahead well in advance. 80% of tickets for any date are released and sold two months ahead of time and the rest of the 20% are released on the day. I did not know this when I went.
While you can attempt to try and plan every detail of your trips, also remember to be flexible. This actually could apply for the entirety of your study abroad experience. Sometimes things don’t go as planned, especially when you are in a foreign country with an entirely different language and culture. If anything goes wrong it will be okay. Always remember to take a step back and just be grateful that you are able to embark on this beautiful adventure. I can confidently say from experience that the best stories come from things going not as planned. Just have fun and be ready to adapt for anything!
My last piece of advice is to make the most out of your experience! You get what you put into it. Try to learn the language and speak to locals! Who knows maybe you’ll make a friend. Get out of your comfort zone! You’re in a different environment so things will seem strange and intimidating at first but eventually daily things like ordering your food in the native language or having a friendly conversation with a local will soon become comfortable. Remembering to experience things in the moment will also help to make the most out of your experience. Trust me you won’t look at the hundreds of random pictures you took on your cell phone of the cities you visited. Instead you will be more likely to remember the memories you made at these cities with the people you were with.
I could probably go on forever with a list of things I learned this past semester, but I think these are the most important. I hope these help anyone planning on studying abroad!