With the arrival of international students at Arizona State University this past weekend, I wanted to share what I feel I did right and things I wish I did differently during my time abroad.
I made an effort to explore my host country and feel I got to see a large part of the United Kingdom! I got to see a lot of my home county of East Sussex, plenty of London, Southampton, Bristol, Bath, Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester, Newquay and other smaller towns.
I feel I did a good job of budgeting my travels, but still making them enjoyable. With budget airlines, hostels, cheap meals and minimal drinking, I made sure I had enough money for the real adventures like excursions and museums!
To my surprise, I also did well at making new friends. I hit things off with my roommate almost immediately and my friendship circle grew from there thanks to him and all the societies he joined.
Not so much:
On the other hand, there are a few things I could have done differently or better. I wish I took more care packing. You can read my tips on packing in my Study Abroad Tips and Packing Tips posts. Similarly, with more research, I could have found budget sheets, dishes and more at charity shops or secondhand stores so I wouldn’t have to worry about having them already at my halls.
Although I saw them several times a week, I didn’t do well at making friends in my major. I could have used one when I had questions about the academic system or material.
I regret not joining clubs, both earlier at Arizona State and abroad. A lot are recreational and low commitment, but a great way to take a break from academics and meet new people.
I did fairly well, but I could have done better in my academics (can’t we always?). I could have planned more rather than saving my large assignments two days before they were do and saved myself a lot of stress.
Before I left, I had a foolproof budgeting plan. I recorded all my expenses for several months, until I realized it didn’t change my habits. I don’t have any regrets on my spending habits (besides travel, my biggest budget eaters were transport, concert and event admission, food and drink) per se, but I could have gone without dining and drinking out so often.
When I first started planning my travels, I planned everything to the day well in advance. I quickly realize things change on travel and your plans that were so set in stone might fall through. After a while, I only booked my flight, accommodation and other transport tickets (such as train tickets between cities) in advance to give me a rough itinerary. Then, I’ll plan day trips and museum tickets (usually not for a specific day) in advance online after careful consideration. It’s all about balance: trying to save money by booking in advance, but also leaving room for spontaneity.
New study abroad students, learn from my mistakes and successes and have a wonderful time on what will most certainly be one of the most memorable years of your lives.