Valley Overseas: Preparing to Leave

Welcome to Valley Overseas. We’ll hear from students exploring new lands full of strange customs, seemingly impenetrable language barriers, and Euro-trash. They’ll dish out the good, bad and the ugly of living in a home-stay, and the tales of discount airlines. From mixed-up vocab to drool-worthy people in fantastic fashions, let us show you the experiences of a lifetime.

The months leading up to studying abroad can be absolutely hectic, exciting, overwhelming and nerve wrecking all at the same time. Living in another country for four months is a big transformation – knowing what to pack is essential.

To begin, keep in mind that if your suitcase is overweight, you will have to pay for the extra heels, toiletries and many not-so-important things you packed. You will also need a Visa, which takes a couple of months to attain and you must fit everything into a maximum of two suitcases and a carry-on. Stressed yet?

Consider Clothes
Depending on where you are studying, people in different countries have their own sense of style. You don’t want to stand out looking like a complete tourist, so do a little research on what type of clothes to bring.

Also consider the weather. People in Europe do not leave the house in sweats like many Americans do. If you’re going to pack sweatpants, you will only wear them around the house. Packing a few pairs of pants and leggings with multiple tops to mix-and-match with is probably your best bet.

Heels and cobble stone roads are also a challenge; think about bringing boots and wedges instead. Oh, and remember, you have to pack light- yeah, right.

A “Taste of Home”
After several weeks of exploring another country, you are going to miss some of your favorite American foods. It’s not a bad idea to pack a jar of peanut butter or box of cereal to give you a boost on those homesick days. Bringing a stuffed animal or blankie is also homey if that’s what you are used to sleeping with.

Do Your Research
I can’t exaggerate it enough. Little things like crossing your legs or eye contact can be offensive in some countries. Make sure you know which gestures are absolutely unacceptable and it doesn’t hurt to practice the language. Learning the social norms will come naturally after some time, but researching food, language, and manners can be a big help.

Lastly, research flight prices. There are extremely cheap flights specifically for students studying abroad who want to visit other countries. Find them – your bank account with thank you.

Necessary Items
Before leaving, you need to set up a foreign bank account. Get to a bank in advance because it can take some time to arrange. Also consider a cell phone. Many students bring an old blackberry or buy a pay-as-you-go phone to communicate with each other. You will want to buy calling cards to call your family at home, and don’t forget about Skype and Facebook chatting – they’re free!

Also think about what appliances you will be bringing; your curling iron will not make friends with European outlets –no matter how hard you try shoving it in.

Don’t let this guide frighten you in any way. Enjoy the process of preparing to go abroad. As long as you are organized and pack the essentials, there is nothing to worry about. Have confidence that you will be able to adapt to the new lifestyle and I promise it will be the most amazing experience of your life.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. Explore. Dream. Discover.” –Mark Twain

Photo by Kylin Chen

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