Things To Consider When Studying Abroad — And I’m Not Talking Moneybelts.
If you’re lucky, you’ll be studying abroad this summer instead of taking a load off and “relaxing” (aka being unemployed) or working at Barnes and Noble (which is how my summers typically go). To avoid such occupational plagues, I decided to go to France last summer even though I didn’t really know French and I hate cheese. Nevertheless, I learned a thing or two about our neighbors overseas and being an American on old, foreign soil.
1. Blend in. The problem with studying abroad is that the experience tends to lack authenticity — You go abroad only to find yourself surrounded by more Americans than in America. And these Americans can be fairly “exotic” themselves (in my program there was a tribe of Mormons).
In many cases American students abroad make no bones about their nationality and flaunt it by traveling in large, loud groups, bumping and grinding in discotheques, speaking odd Franglish and buying bottles of champagne by the crate to drink in the streets. My best advice is to stray from the American wolf pack and try to pass as a native. It’s a fun challenge that prompted a man to feel me up on a bus in Paris because he thought I was German. Close enough.
2. Don’t fall in love. I knew my friend Cameron was in trouble three weeks after she arrived in Ireland and in all of her Facebook pictures began to appear a strapping lad named Liam. Needless to say, the semester ended and Liam was one souvenir Cameron could not claim at customs. He remains in Ireland, living with his grandmother and playing football, and Cameron is totally crushed.
Apparently, obtaining a visa isn’t as easy as everyone says it is! Also, I’m no xenophobe, but from my experience, the French men I encountered after – hours were wayyyy sleazy. I’m talking gelled – hair sleazy. So. Beware!
3. Go somewhere different. Yeah, France was a foreign experience and all, but I regret not going “all the way” with my study abroad sojourn. All things considered, it was still American in many ways — besides all the Americans I was with in school everyday, I drank Coke, slept in a nice bed and swam in my host mom’s swimming pool in the French suburbs — not much of a departure from summers in my hometown, except with more croissants. If I had really wanted a working summer, I should have gone to Burma.