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Sincere Tips for Study Abroad - May 2018

posted May 8, 2018, 1:35 PM by RSO The Fenwick Review

By John Buzzard '19

Next September, the class of 2020 will head to their various overseas destinations, while the class of 2021 will begin the process of applying for Study Abroad.  As a veteran of the College’s study abroad program, I thought I’d offer a few tips about how to make the best of the experience. They are, I hasten to add, absolutely sincere.  I’ll be as truthful as a Huffpo “news” article.

First, go for a year. The College does not have enough space for you here because we have to build more athletic facilities, so you really have a duty to get off campus. If you miss the Hill, be sure to keep in touch by sending in your tuition payments promptly.  For interior decorating, you could keep the form from the Bursar Office and hang it up with some pictures of your Holy Cross family, to show your friends all the wonderful things that are waiting for you in the U.S. For the rising sophomores, try to pick a program that costs substantially less than Holy Cross—that way, the College gets to pocket the difference, and spend your money on things that don’t matter to you.  The College will appreciate your generous gift, even if nobody ever acknowledges it.

When the time comes to leave,  make sure to see your friends one last time; there’s no guarantee that you’ll be the same person after your study abroad experience. One fun activity you can do with your friends is to book your trips ahead of time. Say you’re studying in Ireland—well, Dublin Airport is just a convenient bus ride away! It’s so easy that every weekend you can just book a new trip to somewhere around Europe. Why spend time in your host country when the Lennon Wall in Prague is all the rage right now?

Once you’ve reached your destination, the next thing to do is post about it on social media.   People need to know everything about your experience, from the food you eat to the funny way that people talk. Now the difficult part of this guide is the “studying” part. I mean, who studies abroad for the coursework!? Every class is optional. Professors don’t care about some dime-a-dozen American student anyway, so why connect with an abroad professor in the first place?   Skip that boring Roman art course. You’ll learn more by grabbing an espresso at that cute little hole in the wall downtown.

The best part about studying abroad is exploring your host country, so you should save it until the last week you’re there.  Your home country will always be there for you. If you’re only studying abroad for a semester, this suggestion still applies because you’re never going to have the same freedom to explore again. You’re there to learn something new! You’ll learn about your host culture at some point, what’s more important is to make sure your Airbnb for Oktoberfest is still valid. Explore a different part of Europe every single weekend you can. Why rest or stay in the local area?  You can do that in America, or during the week. Have some fun and take advantage of cheap airlines. That non-touristy photo of Amsterdam isn’t going to snap itself.

The Americans you meet in Europe will become some of the closest friends you’ll ever make. Who cares that you’ll never see them again? They’re here skipping class with you too. Everyone needs a partner in crime and only other American students get that. Now, you can always bring your new bestie to clubs and organizations at your school, but what is the point in that? You’ve got so much time to go to meetings, you’ve got to go out with them on the town and make them a staple in your Insta posts. The locals will understand.

If you follow these tips, your time abroad will truly change you as a person. You’ll find yourself more cultured, more intellectual, and you have a better grasp on the socioeconomics of the world today. You might have some regrets in the end, for example, never making it to all the cafes in your host city or even spending time with your international friends. It’s not possible to do everything in a year and that includes exploring your own country. It’s just not possible and anyone telling you that you need to spend more time ‘learning about the culture of the country you’re studying in’ just doesn’t get it. At the end of the day though, this was a monumental step forward in your life. At some point you may get the chance to do it again, and this time, maybe you’ll be able to get a better angle on that Tower of Pisa picture.