Because everyone loves a list.
People love lists. They're blessings for those of us with short attention spans, those who have no time, those who are hyper-organized, or, those like me, who just like to see things in numbered form. So, instead of what would probably have been an overly sentimental, long-winded post, here's a slightly shorter (but still overly sentimental) list of tips for anyone thinking about studying abroad.
1. Go somewhere you've never been before. It's better to go into a place with no expectations rather than let what you think it'll be like change your experience.
2. Go somewhere that will make you happy. If that means going somewhere where you'll be challenged academically, go for it. If it means somewhere where you'll be out every night having fun, do that instead. (My advice: choose Prague, where you can do both!)
3. Pack light. You'll probably buy a bunch of things while you're abroad, either from traveling, from the place you live, or, most likely, from both.
4. Don't be afraid to meet people. Studying abroad is kind of like Welcome Week in New York—even if you never talk to some of these people again, it doesn't hurt to start the conversation. You never know who you'll meet and who you'll get along with, so it's best to be open.
5. Try to stick to some sort of budget. It's no fun to be stuck worrying about money in a foreign country, so try to have a plan for the semester. For me, that meant not going abroad when I originally wanted to, and instead pushing it back a semester. That allowed me to work for the whole summer, and I ended up with a lot more flexibility because of it.
6. Be prepared for some degree of homesickness. Even though it sounds counterintuitive, it helps to limit your contact with people from home—friends, family, girlfriends and boyfriends. It makes you think about them less, which in turn allows you to focus on more on where you are. The best way I've found to combat homesickness is to immerse yourself in where you are, instead of where you wish you were.
7. Reverse culture shock. Things that may have seemed normal to you before you left might soon start to feel strange, so going back home might be eye-opening in and of itself. Once you leave, be prepared to miss things about the country you've been studying in, even if they weren't things you thought actively about when you were there.
8. Don't be surprised if you learn more about your home country than you do about where you're studying abroad. It's funny, sometimes leaving a place makes you realize just how different it is. This definitely happened to me with the States—living in Prague, I realized just how unique (in both good ways and bad) America is.
9. Travel. If you can, travel to as many places as you can while you're abroad. Some of the best experiences I had were not in the country in which I was living, but in cities in other countries. That being said, don't forget to take full advantage of where you are—don't toss it aside, because you'll end up regretting not spending enough time enjoying it.
10. Take it all in. Living and studying abroad for four months has been an incredibly rewarding experience. If you're lucky enough to do it, remember that not everyone has this opportunity, and that the best way to pay back this good fortune is to take full advantage of the experience.
So there you have it: a list of things I found important to know while living abroad. Then again, it's just as important to make the experience your own. Everyone makes what they will of their time away, and it's different for everybody--it's really up to you to decide how yours will be.