Maximizing your Study Abroad Experience

Story by Clarissa Langowski

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As a Cal State Long Beach student who studied abroad in London this past spring, I recognize how overwhelming the pre-departure and first couple of weeks overseas can be. During my time abroad, I found ways to save money, travel and immerse myself in London’s culture. It’s important for students interested in studying abroad to know these five tips:

 

1. Choose a country that you’re comfortable with.

Whether you’re concerned about language barriers or cost of living, research countries thoroughly so you know what to expect. For my study abroad experience, I was leaning towards studying in London because I’d been once before on vacation and loved it. Since I’m not fluent in a second language, I knew I’d feel comfortable making my way around London alone. One form of research I highly recommend is talking to friends or peers who have studied abroad. My friend at University of California, Davis studied abroad in London through a faculty led program. I was able to ask him questions about grocery cost, phone carriers, housing and traveling to other countries. The abroad program I chose ended up being faculty led, just like my friend’s, and I felt very prepared when I arrived in London.

 

2. Utilize CSULB’s Study Abroad Office.

There are many online and in-person advising resources available to students every week. The Study Abroad Office is in the Foundation Building Suite 230 and is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. They hold workshops for general information, year-round programs, scholarships and faculty led programs. If students would like more information, they can meet with program-specific advisors. Students can find estimated program costs, scholarships, pre-departure checklists and interning abroad information all on their website. One of their online resources that helped me was the abroad program search. Students can choose to search by major, city, or through an interactive map. I chose to use the map because I like visuals and wanted to see what countries were close by for potential travel.

 

3. Step out of your comfort zone.

Living in a foreign country can be challenging but be independent and explore as much as you can. Study abroad is a great opportunity to improve personal development. Since I had a roommate in London, we wandered around the city a lot together. Times where we separated to do our own thing were important to me because I could fully take in my surroundings. With an unlimited oyster card for the underground and buses, I explored a lot of London by myself. I felt very safe walking around London alone, but not every neighborhood or city is like this. While abroad, students should become familiar with safety tips by talking with peers or faculty.

 

4. Use online tools like SkyScanner, GoEuro or Groupon to stay on budget.

There are many apps and websites that find restaurant deals, cheapest ways to travel and free city tours. SkyScanner is a website that saved my friends and I money on airfare. We used it to book roundtrip flights for $55 to Barcelona, which was a steal. GoEuro is another tool that friends and I used for travel, which is a website and mobile app that shows travelers all forms of transportation available to and from their desired destination. Groupon also has some great deals on food and tourist activities. Most coupons are per person or for small groups of two or three.     

 

5. Balance school-life and leisure activities.

Time-management is crucial to maintaining good grades while traveling on weekends. It’s ideal for students to adjust to the course structure and work before booking weekend trips. Depending on the university, course loads can be at various paces. It’s important to stay organized and on top of assignments in order to have fun on weekend adventures. I would work on my readings and assignments when I was on flights or trains to different countries so I wouldn’t have to cram on Sunday night. If all your friends are leaving to Paris during the week and you’re dying to go, be responsible and communicate with your professors about missing class. Get those units and still have fun!