11/07/2014 03:02 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Things I Wish I Knew Before I Spent a Semester Abroad

The Airport is a Perfect Hotel

Once you take part in a study abroad program, you will learn the value of saving every dollar, euro, and yen. Whether you are in a city to party or to enjoy all the tourist attractions, you are not going to be spending enough time in your room to make the soaring prices of London or Paris worth the dent in your budget. Now, I am not advocating to take a taxi to the airport every night to catch some zzz's but sleeping in an airport for one night can save you around 40 to 80 euros. To put that into perspective, with 80 euros you can buy admission tickets to The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, the Palace of Versailles, a tour of the Notre Dame Cathedral Towers, and not one, but two of Paris' famous crepes. Buy those cheap 6 a.m. flights and camp out at the airport the night before. Many times, you can even stay out in the city until 1 or 2 a.m., take a taxi to the airport, and then take a quick power nap at the airport's McDonald's before your departure.


Build Your Resume

If you are one of those students that is obsessed with filling their resume from semester to semester, you can still find opportunities to further develop your skills. We all know that study abroad has more emphasis on the abroad part than the actual study aspect, but do not let that stop you from getting involved in the program or the local university. While abroad, many programs have internships, volunteer, and teaching opportunities for interested students. For example, many companies and schools in the area want a native English speaker to perfect their translated website, teach their students English, or even mentor underprivileged students. Study abroad should an exhilarating experience, but it never hurts to find some professional skills while abroad. Also, these opportunities are usually great conversation starters for an interview because it sets you apart from the rest of the applicants.


Get to Know Other Americans

Nothing can bond a diverse group of people more than being in an unknown area for the next five months. At first things will be awkward, but these people will end up being your lifeline throughout your time abroad. Whether you are feeling you're homesick or have to take multiple trips to the hospital, these people are your temporary family. The memories that you share of traveling to exotic places, getting lost in dangerous parts of the city, and forging your way through a supermarket to find the lone jar of peanut butter will be some of the best memories of your life. The places you go are fantastic, but the people that go with you are the ones that make the experience worthwhile.


ONLY Pack the Essentials

As much as you want to bring your vast array of shoes, purses, and party-themed outfits, please refrain. First of all, it is expensive to ship all of that stuff, and secondly, you will not end up needing most of it. In many cities, they have sales in Jan., July, and Sept. with discounts being as high as 80 percent off. You can buy toiletries, going out clothes, and a jacket while you are at your host country. This way, once you are ready to go back home, you can leave some of these items behind without having any special attachments to them. Also, it saves a lot of room in your suitcase for souvenirs and presents.


Don't Forget Snacks

With any study abroad experience, I encourage you to try the local and exotic cuisine that is presented to you. Your taste buds will be having a field day with the plethora of unique options, but you will have cravings for American food. Whether you love peanut butter, Goldfish, or even fruit snacks, it is nearly impossible to find these snacks at any supermarket. Do yourself a favor and pack a few boxes, so that your parents don't have to ship something to you midway through your trip.


Bring Your Student Visa Everywhere

Yes, I am sure you parents have warned you about locking your passport away while on vacation, but on the contrary, it is actually a benefit to keep it with you. Many European cities are extremely kind to their students and love to give them free bonuses. With your student visa, you can confirm that you are a European Union resident and eligible for the EU student discount. For example, in Paris and Rome, many museums and popular attractions give free visits to those who claim residency and are under 25 years old. This is by no means a great money saver, but it can definitely help you out if you have a tight budget.