Sunday, July 6, 2014

50 Things I Learned Studying Abroad

Coming from a girl who had never left the country, but still felt relatively cultured, going to Europe was less of a shell shock than I had imagined. To my surprise, Europe was surprisingly similar to the United States except for a few small differences. I spent my time in the countries of Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Germany so these observations are coming straight from there. This list includes some of the quirky little differences I noticed, a few pieces of advice and some fairly naive realizations through my experience studying abroad. Some of these come from my mistakes, like forgetting to throw an umbrella in my purse even though the forecast predicted clear skies all day, and some are from other students I was around, like the girl who decided she was going to break in a pair of Madewell flats the first day on the trip. No bueno. Nevertheless! Europe is the experience of a lifetime and I'm already planning my next trip across the pond. To read more about my adventures overseas you can check out my Study Abroad Blog

So without further ado, and in no particular order, here you have it.

50 Things I Learned Studying Abroad:

1. It's "Coca", not "a Coke".
2. Their toilets look funny. But don't worry, they still work.
3. Oh, and be prepared to shell out a euro to use them. It's frustrating every time.
4. Dutch is about as logical as a word scramble.
5. Kip means "chicken". Learn that quickly, it's a pretty safe bet at restaurants.
6. Layering is a requirement. There is no predicting European weather changes in a single day.
7. Overalls are appropriate for any age.
8. They're about 6 months late on our box-office movies.
9. The Karaoke bar features strictly 80's Joel.
10. It's acceptable to start drinking at 3:00. Scratch that, it's encouraged.
11. Nothing is open past 7:00. And don't ask about Sundays.
12. You want a waffle? Search any street corner.
13. Try the beer. Just do it.
14. Try a new beer at every brasserie.
15. Also try Jenever. You're welcome in advance.
16. On that note however, don't be hungover the next day. Walking around sites while you're tired or having a splitting headache is not worth it. Get all that you can out of your days.
17. Everyone is a size 4 and below.
18. The word "please" is used out of context - i.e. when handing you your food
19. Need wifi? Ha!
20. A plain sandwich will still taste like 5 stars.
21. Buttered sandwich bread. Why isn't that in the US?!
22. Europe's transportation system >>> United States'
23. Black clothing doesn't make you emo.
24. Multiple bright pieces of clothing makes you a traffic cone.
25. Converse go with anything.
26. Don't try to use netflix. Or pandora.
27. The whole "beer is cheaper than water" thing. Yeah, it's true. Use it to your advantage.
28. Also on the water note, it's not free…
29. Your chances of winning the lottery are higher than that of finding a trashcan.
30. Take advantage of outdoor seating.
31. You'll never regret having a raincoat tucked in your bag.
32. To a European driver you are absolutely invisible. Get out of the way.
33. Alleyways at night are sketchy. Be smart.
34. Find the university bar. You'll meet students your age and you'll get a different perspective.
35. You'll never see young children past 5:00.
36. If there's gelato, get it. You'll never regret a 1 euro cone.
37. Europe is your excuse to eat everything. Be mentally prepared for the inevitable weight gain.
38. Also be mentally prepared for the exploding budget.
39. Shop. How often are you in Europe? You only sound minimally pompous when you say "I got this in France"
40. You can learn more about the culture spending a day shopping than in a museum.
41. Buy bottles of water at the grocery store and keep them with you. You're going to be doing a lot of walking. Stay hydrated.
42. Also, don't bring brand new shoes on the trip. Breaking them in with 10 miles isn't going to feel good the next day, or the next week. You'll regret the blisters when you're limping past the Eiffel Tower.
43. You can sleep. In fact you should. Don't use the "I can sleep when I get back home". True, but if you go to bed at a decent time and get up reasonably early you'll enjoy the day even more and by your last weeks abroad you won't be trying to keep your eyes open.
44. Take pictures and don't feel awkward asking to have your picture taken. You'll appreciate it when you get back.
45. Journal. Every bit of it. You'll want to be able to remember the little details.
46.Take time to explore on your on. I can't stress this enough.
47. Your relationship status does not determine how much you enjoy your travels. You don't have to be single to "fully enjoy France".
48. Call home. Even if it means staying up late to get ahold of your parents after they get off work. Do it, they want to hear about your adventures.
49. Also know that some things you don't have to share. Some of the best memories are ones that you don't want to tell anyone.
50. Lastly, enjoy it, every day of it. Throw your worries out the window because you're in Europe. Live in the moment and soak it all up. Then plan your next trip back.

~ Emily


  1. I loved this post! I traveled to England and Scotland this last February with honor society and I am going to France and Spain next February. Europe is such a beautiful place. I am applying to colleges soon and a study abroad program is a must in the schools I am applying to!

  2. It's so wonderful! That was one of my factors in deciding on a school too! Hope your college search goes well!
    ~ Emily