You've wrapped up your spring semester and are now cruising on summer break. You're interning in the city, waiting tables down the street, or planted in front of the TV. The weather's great and the pool is warm, yet you already can't wait for next school year because you have a one-way ticket to Europe and a semester (or two) of awesomeness and exploration on the horizon.
The details will work themselves out: you'll figure out what to pack, how to manage your money, link up on Facebook with your future hallway buddies, and determine how to keep in touch with your family back home. And yet, you still have some reservations:
What if I can't speak the local language?
What about my girlfriend/boyfriend back home?
What if the classes are too hard?
How will this experience help me get a job?
Where else will I travel once I'm there?
These are only natural concerns -- don't freak out! This is the best time of your life to throw caution to the wind and adopt a Nike "just do it" attitude. Why? You're young, probably still searching for your calling, and the world is becoming increasingly multicultural by the day. This is your life and you're in charge!
Just adopt these 3 rules and you can take your study abroad experience to the next level:
Rule 1 - Work hard. Play harder.
We've all heard, "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." Yes, you'll still need to turn in your assignments on time and study for exams. However, you'll hate yourself if you don't get to experience Barcelona nightlife, taste wine in Tuscany, or watch a professional soccer match with 30,000 new best friends. When you're old and gray, you might not remember the paper you wrote about political turmoil in 20th century Germany, but you'll definitely remember the first time you stayed up until sunrise in Berlin.
Rule 2 - Take a minute to break away from the pack.
Seeing Europe in groups is an awesome way to meet new people and share experiences. Just don't get caught up in 24/7 groupthink and tie yourself by the hip to the other people in your program. A little self-exploration through a new country makes you more approachable and lets you push the limits of your comfort zone. Duck into a bar by yourself once in a while. Wander down an unknown part of town. Check out the local festival. Be proactive!
Rule 3 - Maximize your weekends.
Go everywhere. Do everything. The clock starts ticking as soon as you land at the airport. You only have a predefined amount of time that you're in Europe. While it's difficult to venture far from your school during the week, weekends are your playground. Plan your weekends in advance and as soon as possible upon arrival because there's so much to do and see and nearly everything is a short train or plane ride away. But even with a fully booked agenda, there's a good chance you might only scratch the surface of what Europe has to offer!
Follow Andy Steves on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@wsaeurope