No excuses /by Pedro Monteiro
By now, most of you who applied for the semester-long programs know if you've been accepted or not, and if not, you'll know pretty soon (Buenos Aires - tomorrow, Sciences Po - after the interviews). So, what next? Is this the end of your path to getting into whatever country you've been dreaming of since you read about it in an encyclopedia as a child or watched a program on Discovery channel? Nope. What you ought to do now is start thinking, reading, planning, thinking, reading, planning. There's nothing quite as unpleasant as being underprepared for life abroad, and it's in your best interest to make sure that doesn't happen.
A lot of this stuff is common sense, of course, but that doesn't mean it won't hurt to read up. First off, you might think you know a lot about your destination country, but what if you don't? You won't know till you crack open that Wikipedia page and click on all those links. To be honest, Wikipedia writing style is either bad or boring, in my opinion, so it would be best to read travel articles, longform.org or byliner.com articles, and maybe even check out books. The most fun thing is to find magazine articles about your country. They are unlikely to give you a broad view of the place, but they'll let you into people's lives there. If you're really passionate, read books by your country's famous authors, if you haven't already. Being up to date on current events should go without saying, of course.
Reading. /by Stephanie Swartz
If you haven't spent lots of time abroad, you'll want to read up on the emotional and psychological process of spending extended periods of time away from home. There's a pretty well-established pattern that most people go to: euphoria, depression, adaptation. Everything seems magical at first, then things start to get to you and you miss home and you have an identity crisis, then finally you accept your new surroundings and you grow as a person. After that you've got reverse culture schock to contend with, but that's another story.
A crucial part of your pre-departure research is reading up on all the practical stuff. You know, the local transportation system, how safe it is, whether or not the banks will charge you half your savings for a cash withdrawal, local customs, that sort of thing. Don't worry, learning about this stuff won't take anything away from the novelty of being there. You'll just be able to get to more interesting things faster, and you won't seem quite as strange to the locals if you have an idea of what's going on.
Where do you find this info? Well, this is the J-school, after all, so you guys probably already know: Google! Yup, it's a magical thing, this Google. The New York Times travel section has suggestions on things to do in different cities and will give you an idea of the flavor of a city or a country. Wikipedia will give you (somewhat boring, I think) accounts of a place's history, while Wikitravel will give you a lot of practical information. Transitionsabroad.com has lots of info, and is best for people's accounts of their time abroad. But, in all honesty, the Internet is full of information. You've just gotta look. And look you must!
by Fedor Zarkhin
When you're in a new environment, it's easy to assume that your greatest challenges will be related to practical stuff. How do you buy a bus ticket? Where do you go shopping? What's expensive, what's cheap? What do you do if you get sick?
But beyond that there's a less tangible challenge to living in a new country. Understanding the citizens of your home country and making sure they understand you. As we're all aware, cultures are different and people are different. Fortunately for us, people are also all people and, also fortunately for us, most people like getting to know other people.
That doesn't mean we shouldn't prepare for the challenge of cross-cultural communication. In fact, some would say it's crucial to have an idea of the mentality and the assumptions made by people in certain cultures. Why? Because you'll make friends faster, you'll be less likely to judge the locals, and you'll know how to communicate who YOU are to your new friends. And beyond that, it might even help you in your future career. People who know how people beyond their own patch of grass think are valuable. Finally, it can help you understand foreigners visiting the US. Instead of thinking they're just "different," you might actually understand where they're coming from.
How to prepare? Why, reading, of course!This PBS article on "Common cross-cultural challenges" takes an analytical look at the six most common obstacles people encounter when trying to communicate with others.
Skip it if it looks too academic and serious for you, but in all honesty it's worth a look. It'll teach you to identify the specific things you differ on with the person you're talking to, and with that knowledge you'll be able to make progress in that communication.
The article breaks down communication challenges into three categories: 1) Different communication styles 2) Different attitudes towards conflict 3) Different approaches to completing tasks 4) Different decision-making styles 5) Different attitudes towards disclosure 6) Different approaches to knowing.
What next? Why, reading, of course!
If you're REALLY serious about this, check out Amazon.com's offerings
. Lots of books to help you out.
Of the simpler stuff, we have wikihow's understanding different cultures.
Short and sweet.
Finally, we have Oxford University's tips for its students going to study abroad
. Also short, sweet, and to the point.
But most important... keep your mind open and appreciate how lucky you are to have the chance to meet so many people new to you.by Fedor Zarkhin
by Valeriya Potapova
Being abroad offers ample cause for excitement. All the new sights, sounds, smells... the fascinating architecture, the people, absolutely everything! It's easy to lose yourself in a brand new world. And while there are few things more exciting than exploring a new country, that doesn't mean there aren't hazards to avoid.
So what we all ought to understand is that almost anywhere you'll be able to find people who'd like to take advantage of your excitement and, possibly, your naïveté. The solution? Act on your excitement but keep your wits about you! And to help you do just that we have Kelly Robins, of travelinsurance.org, who has written an excellent post on the top 8 tourist scams. Watch out – someone might come and try to pull one of these on you, straight out of the blue.Click here and learn about the 8 most likely ways locals might try to trick you and make a dime.by Fedor Zarkhin
by Adam Radoslavljevic
The App world has lots of travel apps for your smartphone, and the internet probably has just as many articles listing the top ten travel apps. Below you'll see a few apps that made number 1. Click on the App for a link to the top ten list the suggestion came from.TripIt
– links to your email and puts all emails that have a confirmation number into one place.Google Translate
– tells you exactly where your plane is.Skype
– call phones for cheap, or for free if the person you're calling has Skype too.Next Flight
– tracks scheduled departures from 1,100 airlines.OpenTable
– allows you to make reservations in more than 13,000 restaurants in the US and abroad.
Obviously, there are tons and tons more. Make sure to check out those lists. Could find something useful.
...Also – if nothing else, take a look at this Travel and Leisure article
. They didn't just make a list – they analyzed what's available for Androids, iPhones and Blackberrys, and they compiled a list of 53 "favorite" apps. by Fedor Zarkhin
's got it all: gorgeous photos, interesting articles, and travel tips. Whether or not it's your host country you'll be reading about, you're bound to find something that'll grab your attention on BBC Travel
But you're probably so busy these days you don't have time for pleasure reading. So click on the link above, then click on "Explore Destinations." Pick your host country or any other country you think you might visit while abroad and browse the articles. It'll serve as a good break from the end-of-semester panic session, and it'll teach you something about the place you'll be exploring this Summer or Fall.
Let's say you're going to Germany this summer
. We click on the link and find: info on eating vegetarian, a guide to the Bavarian Alps, an article on bathing in a beer spa, photogalleries, a guide to Berlin. And that's just the tip of the iceberg that is the BBC's archive of articles on traveling in Germany.
Let's go to the other side of the globe, now, and check out Buenos Aires
. BBC Travel
will teach us about Cowboy Fairs and drinking mate and more. Five pages of articles.
One more country, just for good measure. Some of you will be going to Prague this summer
. Would you like to learn seven surprising facts about Czech beer? Side trips to take from Prague? Prague's historic coffehouses? Yes, I humbly posit that you would.So go to BBC Travel.
Read up. Get inspired. Get excited.by Fedor Zarkhin
Being in a new environment is exciting, invigorating, and can be an unforgettable experience. But it also comes with its risks; whereas in the US you might know what situations and people to avoid, that might not be quite as clear for you in your host country.
The point of this blog post is not to scare you. The point is to remind you that in all your excitement you should still have your head about you, while not being excessively paranoid.
So what do you need to read up on before you go so that you're safe?
Please start with this State page on tips for those traveling abroad
. It will tell you how to register with the State Department in case there's an emergency and they need to contact you. It'll also cover tips on documents, health, and how to prevent yourself from being a victime of a crime. This State page is also great – a must-read.
When you're done with that page, go to this State Department page and select your host country
from the drop-down menu. Click 'Go' and you'll find information specific to your country. Start reading from "Threats to Safety and Security." It's important to read this stuff. For example, I just found out that by law, everyone in Belgium has to have an ID with them at all times. And now I learned that in Argentina drivers often ignore traffic laws and drive too fast. Best to learn this stuff the easy way, not the hard way...
There's also a good British site that's similar to the State Department's site.
Find your host country then click on "Safety and Security." Good to triangulate your sources...
Next, we recommend you check out HTH Worldview's YouTube channel
. You'll find lots of tips on health and safety while abroad. Just click on any one with a title that interests you.
And if you're not feeling like clicking on any links, take a look at this list, culled from various sites, of some things to be aware of:
- To start with, make a photocopy of everything important, like your cards, license and passport.
- Keep a low profile. The bad guys might think you're more vulnerable if they realize you're foreign.
- Learn as much as you can about your host country and city.
- ***If you drink, drink sensibly. Sensibly. Sensibly. Sensibly. (Drink sensibly.)***
- Make sure somebody always knows where you are, as much as possible.
- Don't wear clothes and jewelry that might make you look like a rich tourist.
- Carry the minimum number of valuables.
- ***Learn about local laws and customs***
- Take only official-looking taxis.
- Don't be dumb.
Safety isn't something to take likely. Most likely nothing will happen to you, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to minimize your risk. Be smart, but don't be scared. by Fedor Zarkhin
Learn your stuff! Don't get stranded!
Buying your plane ticket to get there is one thing... Travelling on location is a whole 'nother subject. Depending on where you are your options might be different, but either way, take the time to do some research on local deals.
Let's say you're somewhere in Europe and you want to explore the continent for cheap. You're not sure when you'll have free time in the four months you'll be there, but you do know you'll want to travel for about five days in the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany.
Unspecified as your plans might be, that is not a problem! Eurail is perfect for vague plans
. What you can do is buy a pass that allows you unlimited travel during a set amount of days within a set timeframe inside the countries of your choice. Could be a good deal!
Or if you're in New Zealand, you should know that flying is often cheaper than driving or taking the train. You should also know that there are loads of bus companies, and there are at least three kinds of bus passes.
If you're in Brussels, you'll use the metro often. You could get a season pass right away and save yourself a lot of money.
... and the list goes on. The point is – do your research on transportation at your destination. It could save you money, and you'll probably come away from your reading with new-found respect for public transportation.
On a scale of one to ten, how cheap is travel?
Yup, that's right... Not that cheap at all.
But fortunately there's things that we can do to limit the expenses. In other words, going abroad doesn't have to break the bank. You just have to be smart about how you spend your money... But that's easier said than done, of course, as at least I've experienced. You might be smarter about money than myself, but I most definitely wish I'd read some of these articles before I went abroad.
Whether or not you're a fan of the "liberal" media you shouldn't pass up this NPR story on how to travel cheap. It's geared towards those with short-term travel plans, but that doesn't mean it doesn't apply to you. Take a look, if you're curious.
Next, we have the New York Times. What, you thought they write only about "big" stuff? Nope! In fact, there's a New York Times blog dedicated to travelling cheap.
It's a good resource and a fun read, too.
One question: Are you a student?
Thought so... And we've got the resources for you: Check out this site
and this site
and this site
, all three of them dedicated to info for the backpacker or student traveler looking to explore the world without putting his or her parents in debt for the next ten years.
So don't just assume that going abroad is going to be expensive. It probably won't be cheap, sure, but there's lots of things you can do to minimize the cost. And that's particularly important when you're thinking about the weekend trips you'll be taking while abroad. So don't let money get in the way of your having a great time!by Fedor Zarkhin
by Dmitriy Shironosov
Who better to help you prepare to travel abroad than a 200 year old agency with 50,000 employees that has Hillary Clinton at the helm
Lucky for you, the Department of State has a webpage
dedicated to information for students planning to travel abroad. We really recommend you check it out – you're more than likely to learn useful stuff you didn't know before. And it's also something you might want to check out while abroad, as well.
Ever wondered what you'd do if you lost your passport? Precious as that little booklet might be, it's not like it's less susceptible to theft than a wallet or a cell phone. On the DoS site you'll find clear instructions and the numbers to call in case this tragedy happens to you.
by Sean Pavone
Taking some medications and not sure about availability and/or legality abroad? Not a problem. Don't scour travel blogs and forums to learn about such things – check out the State site and learn what you need to learn from a reliable source.
Are your parents worried about you getting mugged? After you read the State site you'll have things to say to them to soothe their fears – you could even memorize the consulate's phone number.
Here's a sampling of the kinds of tips and info that are available on the site:PackingLocal LawsDriving AbroadFor GLBT travelersVaccinationsMental HealthVictim of a CrimeAbsentee Ballot (you are voting this November, right?)...and much more
All this and more is available at studentsabroad.state.gov
. It's one of the few places on the internet where very important information is reliable. So take a look before you go abroad, and make sure to remember it if ever you're not sure how to handle a situation.by Fedor Zarkhin