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The 10 Commandments of Study Abroad

Follow these rules, and you’re sure to have a divine experience abroad


Whether you’re religious or not, I’m sure you’ve heard of the ten commandments. If you haven’t, my apologies, but there’s even a movie named after them. Moving on, let’s refresh…the ten commandments are a set of rules that instruct you how to live your life properly. Now I’m sometimes opposed to rules, but I don’t mind a little structure now and then. Everything’s up for interpretation, and I don’t have the divine power to say the following rules are law (as much as I wish I did). However, I promise that if you keep these rules in mind during your experience abroad, you’ll make the most of your trip:

1.Thou Shalt Travel Often: 

Take the time to see the world. Once you’re on another continent, it is incredibly easy to travel to another city or even another country, especially if you’re in Europe. Make the most of your holidays and book travel to other destinations. You won’t regret a quick weekend trip to Paris or a week spend relaxing in Croatia, but you will regret coming home and not taking the time to explore all you could. You may never have the chance to visit so many places at once ever again. The rule even applies once you have returned home. Take the time to continue to travel often even if it is just to another town or state.

2. Thou Shalt Not Forget Thy Studies:

 The “study” in study abroad is an important half of the phrase. You have probably heard the horror stories of the students who forget to study during study abroad. They spend one too many late nights at the pub and far too little time paying attention in class. Now, that does not mean your experience abroad can’t be a fun one. It just means that you have to learn to balance all of it. You can certainly spend a few late nights at the pub…it is just probably best if those nights are on the weekends. Get your work done first then reward yourself with a good time. That is what balancing work and play is all about.

Study Abroad Ireland
Studying doesn’t have to be all work and no play. Learn on location!


3. Thou Shalt Share Thy Own Experience (In Moderation):

 We live in a digital age where we constantly post and update whether it is through statuses, tweets, or blogs. It can become overwhelming at times, but that shouldn’t prevent you from letting your friends and family know what you’re up to. Give the people back home a taste of what you are experiencing, just do not become that person who posts twenty times a day. Pictures and posts are a great way to remember your trip, but how fulfilling is your experience if you’re spending it behind a screen? Experience first and post later.

4. Thou Shalt Take Lots of Pictures:

 In order to have some items to post, you have to take a lot of pictures. I stand by my “experience first” philosophy, but sometimes picture taking can be part of the experience. Photos never fully capture the beauty of a location, but they do preserve the moment of being there. You’ll want to be able to look back on the photos one day or share them with others. A great way to do this is to make an album. I am not just referring to a cleverly titled Facebook album. Make a scrapbook or collage and you’ll preserve your memories in a unique way.

Ireland PicStitch
PicStitch is a sharing staple


5. Thou Shalt Write to Thy Father & Mother: 

The original 10 commandments call for you to honor thy father and mother. What better way to do so than to write to them? I am sure they miss you. Your parents miss you when you’re away at college, just think how they feel when you’re on another continent. A quick email is great for keeping in touch day to day, but send them something they’ll really appreciate like a handwritten letter with some photos or a postcard with some photos. There’s even an app for that! Download Postagram to send one of a kind postcards with your own travel photos.

6. Thou Shalt Not Covet Another Traveler’s Experiences: 

Scrolling through Facebook, you will probably come across another friend’s adventures. You are allowed to be a little jealous, but channel that jealousy into something healthy. Use it as inspiration to plan your next trip or adventure. Reach out to those friends and get together to share your experiences. Travel brings life lessons, and it can be just as enriching to hear what someone else learned and to share what you learned.

Saying Goodbye to Mom at Airport
Saying Goodbye to Mom at Airport


7. Thou Shalt Represent Thy Country Well:

 I have heard that waiters in some country can tell where you are from just by the way you dress and carry yourself. If that  is not the case, then your accent is definitely a dead giveaway. Immerse yourself in another culture, but remember that you will always keep a bit of your own culture with you. Unfortunately, stereotypes do exist, and some regarding your culture may not be the most flattering. Prove others wrong by carrying yourself well and treating everyone with respect. When you are abroad, you serve as an unofficial ambassador of your country and culture. Keep this in mind and you should be fine.

8. Thou Shalt Not Lose Thy Passport: 

I might as well label this one the golden rule. Treat others the way you want to be treated is a great rule, but lose your passport and you won’t be treated well regardless. Passports are essential to traveling, so it is important to know where yours is at all times. You never want to experience the mini panic attack that occurs as you frantically dig through your luggage shouting “Oh my god where is it?!” It is not a pretty site. Save yourself the trouble and invest in a ID pouch or just be responsible and know what you did with it.

College Tourists in Ireland
Perhaps we may have gotten a little too touristy…


9. Thou Shalt Remember to Rest:

 You don’t have to follow the Sabbath rules, but you do have to take time to relax. Travel can be exhilarating, but it can also be draining. Make the most of your destination, but also make sure you don’t get too warmed out. Perhaps the best solution is to find a destination that offers prime rest and relaxation. Weekend beach trip, anyone? A nice trip while you’re abroad provides time to recuperate from your studies as you continue to see the world. Remember, it is all about balance.

10. Thou Shalt Keep Mementos of Thy Trip:

 Eventually you will unfortunately have to head home from your time abroad. Be sure to bring back souvenirs to keep in order to remember your trip. You do not have to spend a fortune. Souvenirs can be anything that means something to you. It may be a program from a show you saw abroad or something you found in nature during an exploration. You can, of course, splurge on all the touristy goods, as well. Personally, I have a mug collection from places I have visited. Start your own collection of sorts and watch it grow wherever you go.

Courtney Guth

University of Maryland | 31 stories

Courtney Guth is a senior English major at the University of Maryland College Park actively seeking an answer to the age-old question, “so what are you going to do with that?” Her answer currently involves working in communications and development for a small non-profit in Washington, D.C. If she’s not exploring the nation’s capital, she’s probably watching an old movie, attempting to cook, or losing her voice at a Maryland Terrapins’ game. She believes the adage that “the world is a book, and those who do not travel only read one page” but why just read when you can write?

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