Have a data plan! Whether you over-paying for one back in the States or picking up a cheap SIM card in your designated country. You never know when you might need the internet, plus you’ll feel safer and give your parents at least some peace of mind. (For U.K. exchange students, I recommend going to the store Three and getting their £20/ month package which gives you 12 GB of data that can be used in the United Kingdom and Europe)
Make sure you have a reliable backpack for trips! Before I went abroad I was recommended to buy the eBags eTech 2.0 Weekender Convertible Jr. it was the perfect size for my short trips to my month long trip. Most likely you’ll be flying budget airlines, trains, and/or buses. Typically, budget airlines allow one piece of carry-on luggage for free and to be honest it’s a waste of your gelato fund to be spending it on a full-size luggage. Pack light! You never hear people complaining about not packing enough and if you really need something chances are the country/ countries you are going to will have what you are looking for.
Buy a travel towel. I bought a quick dry towel from bed bath and beyond before I went abroad and it was so nice to have my own towel in hostels. Usually, you can rent towels from €/£ 2- €/£5 so investing in your own might actually save some money. Side note: please bring some shower shoes. The germaphobe in me is cringing at all my friends that never used them (you know who you are)!
Plan ahead! I was able to go to over a dozen different countries without breaking the bank. The awesome thing about Europe is that flights are cheap (if you buy your tickets early enough). My round trip flight to Poland was around £30 and I planned it 2-3 months in advance. While friends that waited until a few weeks before ended up paying around double or triple the price. Sky scanner will be permanently open on your web browser.
Plan ahead (Part 2) Also, remember to plan ahead while booking your hostels. The same concept applies with hostels as with flights, the longer you wait the more expensive the hostels will get. My #1 tip to picking a hostel is to READ THE REVIEWS. I cannot express this enough. You might end up saving money by staying in a £5 hostel but then again you might be 50 minutes from the city center with blood on your sheets (may or may not be speaking from experience). Sometimes it is worth spending some extra dough ($$) for a safe, clean hostel with a cool atmosphere.
Be strategic in your meals. Basically, try to not eat out for three or more meals a day. I would usually pick either lunch or dinner where I went to a local restaurant to try a countries food. The other meals I would go to a store and buy the cheap basics (Try to book hostels that offer a “free” included breakfast and eat enough food for breakfast and lunch if you’re too lazy to make lunch)
Excursions! So you’re visiting a country with centuries of history and hundreds of things to do, one might ask him/herself “hmm…what is worth paying for?”. I’m a huge believer in free walking tours. Yes, you should tip your tour guide but I guarantee it won’t be nearly as much as a prepaid walking tour and might even be better. Every city I went to I would always do a walking tour and they were able to recommend to me what is worth visiting in my limited time. They will be able to tell you if something is too touristy or if it is 100% worth going to. However, I believe some things are worth paying for an example going to the Guinness factory and the Cliffs of Moher while I was in Ireland or visiting Auschwitz while in Poland. The excursions you will do abroad are what you make of it so time to start crossing off some things off the bucket list.
Make sure to actually STUDY! Because before you know it, it will be a month before finals and you’ll realize you have A LOT of catching up to do (again, may or may not know from experience)
Get to know your town that you will be studying abroad in. I am so thankful for being able to travel to so many places but at the end of the day, Leeds became my home away from home.
Cherish your time abroad and have fun! Your friends and family from home will be there for you when you get home and I promise you they want you to have nothing short of the best time of your life. Before you know it, you’ll be saying goodbye to your new friends wondering how you’ve lived without them before exchange. I am so jealous and excited for you to experience this new journey ahead.
by Victoria Cossman – Northern Arizona University – USA