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So You Want to Go Abroad? Tips I Wish I Knew Before Studying Abroad

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Set a Budget!

Megan Shopping in London
Doing some shopping in London
This is something that you will hear over and over again but it is very important. It can be very easy to get carried away by all of the amazing things that you will experience. Keep in mind this is also okay, if you plan for it! You just don’t want to blow through all your money in the first month! The best thing is to set a dollar amount for each month so that you have a general idea of how much you expect to spend. I found that planning for about $1,000.00 a month was plenty. Keep in mind that everyone’s study abroad experience is different and you can make study abroad work on any budget.

Don’t overpack and bring an extra duffle bag.

You might think, “I’m definitely not going to buy things while I’m abroad” but, chances are over those 4 months you will collect a lot of things. Make sure that you account for this so that you aren’t scrambling to find room for things right before you leave. There is always the option to buy another bag when you get to your destination (in Edinburgh for example, they do have T.K.Maxx which is T.J.Maxx) but if you don’t want to worry about purchasing something else account for this when you pack.
Megan Aldrich in Edinburgh
Me (on the right) and my friends arriving to Edinburgh airport a few days before our program started.

Arrive early; if budget and time allow.

When you book your flight, if you can, arrive a few days before your program requires you to. This will allow you to sleep off any jet lag and explore your new home before your program starts. You will have to book a hotel or Airbnb so do take that into account, but I definitely found this to be worth it. I also found that when I was more flexible with my arrival and departure times/dates, I was able to find really reasonably priced flights.

Buy a SIM card once you get to your destination.

A common question you might be wondering about is the best way to have a phone plan while you’re abroad. Well, let me tell you, buying a SIM card while there is by far the best option. I cannot stress enough how beneficial this is! SIM cards in Europe are paid for monthly. Simply go to any phone store (I went to a Carphone Warehouse) and purchase a SIM card. The plan I chose was $18.00 a month with 5 gigs of data, but there are many different reasonable options. Each month you “top up” $18.00, which you can do at almost any grocery store. It is super easy and data rolls over each month. Yes, you get a new phone number for the time that you are abroad but you can still text your family and friends in the States and your phone will still work even when traveling. Trust me, this saves so much money and is so easy to do.
Megan Aldrich at Palace
Touring the Palace at Holyrood House in Edinburgh.

Enjoy your home country, you won’t regret it!

Take time to experience the place that you are in. It is really easy to feel the need to jet off every weekend to a new country, but honestly it is worthwhile to get to know the place that you are in. Take the first month to “be a tourist in your own home”. It is so easy to become overwhelmed with the number of places that you might have never traveled to, that you may forget that your new home is also somewhere with so many things to offer. The time abroad goes by so quickly, that if you plan too many trips to other locations, you may lose out on the opportunity to visit places within your study abroad country. Make sure that you plan several day trips just to get to know the place that you are now living in. There are so many incredible locations to explore that don’t cost too much either! You definitely will not regret doing this. Megan Aldrich is a Computer Science and Music major at Connecticut College and studied abroad with IFSA on the University of Edinburgh Program in Fall 2019.