Tips and Reflections from a Study Abroad Senior
Student Advice for those Preparing to Study Abroad in London.
By Brett Vergara, St. John Fisher College, New York.
Studying abroad can be a bit of an intimidating concept for some people. You are COMPLETELY immersing yourself in an entirely new culture, and that is certainly a lot to take in! I am planning on studying abroad in London for the Fall 2013 semester and wanted to get some perspective on the whole experience and some things I should prepare for. So, I decided to chat with my good friend Ally Marciano, who is a senior here at St. John Fisher College.
– How did you prepare to go away, what are the five things that were most important?
- One of the most important things to prepare for before going away is your money. I needed to request from my bank to get pounds for London. I would recommend getting about $300 worth of money to start off. Maybe a bit more if you are staying for a semester. It’s important to have money on you, not all of it, but to have some to pay for things easily.
- Second would be to notify your banks that you will be using your card abroad. If you forget to do this, then your bank will think that your card has been stolen and will deactivate your card. Some banks do not charge for over-sea fees while others do so make sure you’re aware if you receive any extra charges.
- Third, make sure you have all of the necessary documents that are needed. Obviously, you’ll need your passport. Make sure you get your visa early so you don’t have to wait to get your passport back. That is important if you are staying there for a while or if you plan on working abroad.
- Fourth, pack for all weather. Depending on where you go, it could be warm or cold and if you plan on traveling to other locations you need to plan for that as well.
- Fifth, download Skype and make sure your family and friends have Skype too! I lived on that and loved that I could see still my loved ones even though I was thousands of miles away.
– What makes a successful study abroad semester?
I only studied abroad for the summer. I was in London for two months. However, it’s very important to do your research. Make a budget of how much you plan on spending so you don’t end up broke towards the end of your trip. Also, take advantage of everything! Travel if you can and don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone. You’ll make a lot of friends as you go along so you can travel with them too. Don’t be afraid to ask questions too. Once you feel comfortable there, you can ask people where something is or maybe you’ll even get asked for directions!
– Tell me about the locals, how did they impact your stay there?
Since I was on London, I didn’t need to try and learn a new language. However, some of their words and sayings are different than in the US. They use words like queue for a line or tube for a subway. I had to learn different words that had different meanings that I’m used to. The locals were all very nice. If I needed to ask for directions, they were incredibly kind. In addition, I worked at an all special needs school and the staff there were very welcoming and were concerned with whether not I was having a good time. They definitely made my experience a great one. They were willing to answer any questions that I may have had or even asked me questions about living in the US.
– Did you enjoy the course you did, would you have liked to stay longer, for say the entire year?
I loved the course that I did. I was in London for two months. The first two weeks was a class and then the remaining six weeks I had an internship at Jack Taylor School. I would highly recommend this program to anyone. It was through Central College Abroad and the advisers were very helpful. They would take us on tours throughout England and we went on various day trips and went to various events throughout the month. I would’ve loved to stay longer because it was bittersweet to leave. I think I would prefer to stay longer if my loved ones were with me. I was definitely getting home-sick by the end.
– What advice would you give for those that follow?
Keep a blog throughout your whole experience! It’s awesome to look back at what I’ve done and my family and friends can read it as well while I’m away. It was a requirement for me to keep a blog that had assignments to go along with it but I branched out and wrote about all the the things that I did and added any pictures or videos. It really does help later on because I will read back on my posts and remember things that I forgot about. It shows how much I really have enjoyed my study abroad experience and I really look forward to going back someday. I’d recommend using wordpress.com for your blog. It’s easy to use and you can see how many people view it and where they are from. I’ve received views from all over the world! If you want to learn more about my experience, you can read it here.
After talking with Ally about her experiences in London, I definitely took a lot from our conversation. I now feel that I am a bit more prepared as far as making my own preparations before my departure in the fall, as well as feeling prepared for some things to look out for while I am over there! Also, just from talking with her about London I just get more and more excited for the experience! It’s easy to see her eyes light up whenever she talks about London, and I am looking forward to being able to talk about my own experiences with such passion. Only a few more months to go!