I leave for a 3 week long program in Greece in two days and I couldn’t be more excited.
I’ve always wanted to study abroad in Europe, however, I’ve discovered that as an engineering major (or any other major) it is key that you do your research early and often so that you can plan ahead to meet any educational course requirements while you are abroad. In addition if study abroad has the potential to be anywhere in your horizon start saving and applying for scholarships ASAP. I’ve found that knowing exactly what funds you have available decreases the overall amount of stress you feel in the planning stage. Study abroad is a great way to get out of your comfort zone and try new things; especially if you can go with a group or a class as the structure can provide a sense of security and prevent you from overwhelming yourself with the possibilities.
As with anything else in life start planning early. I have been thinking about what clothes, luggage, and shoes I’ll be bringing for months. If you start thinking about this early you have more time to buy what you KNOW you need (like proper walking shoes) or to discover there might be things you need that you might not have thought of like a new memory card for your camera or an extra credit card, most importantly your PASSPORT. Getting one takes TIME! Do your research. Review tips from travel experts and adapt their ideas to how you dress and function on a daily basis. DON’T OVERPACK!! You’ll want room for souvenirs and you should also be able to handle your luggage up and down stairs without assistance. If you are a chronic sufferer of Pack-Everything-But-The-Kitchen-Sink Syndrome like me, that can be particularly difficult. Break out the scale if need be. I found that the basic clothes I will be carrying in my suitcase weighs roughly the same as my backpack on any given “school day” albeit in a much more awkward package. PACK EARLY!! You’ll want time to revise and refine your method to get the most economical organization possible. Most importantly, unless you are traveling through an isolated region odds are that if you forget a basic necessity like shampoo you can probably find it at your destination. Read up on local culture and rent a guide book. Get an idea of what to expect.
If you’ve never been out of the country or far away from home chances are you might be nervous about what to expect. Talk to friends, family, and other students that have traveled abroad to get an idea of what you are getting yourself into. Unknowns aren’t always your friend. Ask about the basics, you might discover that things that are completely normal to the locals will be downright unusual for you. For example most toilets in the U.S function on the same flush handle, or sensor and button combination. Apparently there are no limit to the permutations one might find abroad, including foot operated. Know before you go to avoid awkward situations like not knowing how to flush the toilet. There are some first impressions you just can’t come back from. Knowledge is power. Talk to as many people as you need to feel confident in yourself.
This will vary for everyone. For me it is important that I “put myself out there” and be open to new ideas, new foods, and new customs (siestas sound fantastic). While I want to avoid the typical tourist stigma I will still take tons of pictures and “nerd out” over the Parthenon and all the ancient sites. Greece is the birthplace of democracy, steeped in rich history. I plan to absorb as much as I possibly can. I can’t wait to get an in-depth & in person look at what I have been briefly studying in myth and history classes. Maybe while I’m there I’ll actually learn the Greek alphabet so I can speak more assuredly about variables in math class rather than just saying “the one that looks like an italicized P.” I also hope to pick up some Greek while I’m there.
Your trip is what you make it. Go have your own adventure.
Pictured above is the luggage I plan to bring with me. Plan your packing to the bags you have.