Study Abroad

Why You Should Keep a Travel Journal When You Study Abroad

Why You Should Keep a Travel Journal When You Study Abroad

Most internet lists about traveling are along the lines of, "10 things you must do when you're in [insert city here]." Those lists are helpful to anyone about to head out on a trip, but a "must-do" that is often left out is documenting your travels - with more than just posing for a few quick snaps along the way.

Memories fade. No matter how vivid last week's day trip is in your mind right now, it will undoubtedly diminish in your head over time. You may remember the main points, but having a record of the details will bring you back. For example, maybe you visited a winery in Tuscany while you were abroad. The wine was good, and you remember the area being kind of pretty...?

6 Ways To Travel When You're Still in College

I've already covered how to travel when you have a full-time job, even if your job doesn't have any travel involved (like mine). But what if you're still in school? Don't let the 3-4 month semesters that tie you to campus keep you from seeing the world. Here are some ways to make it happen: Elba Island

1. Study Abroad

This is the most obvious option which is why it's first on the list. There are so many ways to study abroad, depending on where you go and what type of program you do. You can also choose how long you go - summer, semester, or full academic year. The three main "types" of study abroad are:

1. Faculty-led programs: programs for your school, led by faculty who are typically from your school. You earn academic credit through courses in a different country and your classmates are from your home college. The courses could be equivalent to the ones you take at home, specific to the location, or a mix of both. If you haven't traveled overseas yet, this is a great option to dip a toe in international travel. Examples: Gonzaga-in-Florence in Florence, Italy, ASU Culture, Health, and Environment in Fiji.

2. Third party programs: programs that are through a third party provider. These companies partner with many colleges to offer overseas experiences and transferable credit back to your home institution. Examples: CEA, CIEESemester at Sea.

3. Being an international student at another university: applying to another university as an international student and taking classes as an international student. Work closely with your study abroad office and advisor to ensure the credits you take transfer back to your home college. This is a more independent way to go abroad. Example: Foreign exchange semester or full year program at Trinity University in Dublin, Ireland.

Students at the university I work at earned close to $1M total in study abroad scholarships for the '13-'14 academic year. That's a TON of money! If finances are a barrier to go overseas, ask your study abroad office which scholarships are available both within and outside the school.

Study Abroad Sunset

2. Volunteer

Whether it's domestic, international, or even an alternative spring break, seeing the world through other peoples' eyes will open your mind up to a new perspective while allowing you to help others.

Depending on the type of volunteer program you may even be able to get academic credit or fulfill service learning requirements through volunteering.

Southwest Storm 4

3. Summer travel

Use your summer break to travel! I look back on the two months of free time I had in between school years and think, why did I not utilize that time to travel? I worked during the summers, but I didn't realize there are ways to work abroad and get paid.

If you have enough money to get by for the summer then you could go on a trip for fun. Make sure to budget so that you have enough funds to get you by during the school year though, especially if you're not working part-time.

Grom Gelato New York

4. Winter break, spring break, and long weekends

Use the extended time off to your advantage with short trips around your hometown, road trips, or even going overseas.

There are some short-term study abroad programs during the breaks or an interim period if your school has one.

Galata Tower Views

5. Get certified to teach English abroad

If you're a native English speaker interested in teaching English after college, this is also a great time to look into TEFL or TESOL certification courses. Some courses are simple online versions, or there are even TEFL/TESOL trips (such as this one with LoveTEFL) that incorporate an intro to teaching abroad while actually being in a different country.


6. Work at the study abroad office

Okay, so you're not actually traveling...but if you're not traveling sometimes the next best thing is to talk about it! Bonus points if you can earn money toward your study abroad. Extra bonus points if you've already gone places and now you get to promote it to students from first-hand experience.

platz vienna

Prepare to travel after college!

Whether you're able to make traveling happen during college or not, there are plenty of ways to travel after college. You could get a job that lets you a travel job abroad...volunteer with Peace Corps...go backpacking with your friends...take a solo trip as a grad gift to yourself...whatever works for you! Use your free time outside of class to plan, save, and prepare for the ultimate trip.

Read 10 Reasons Why You Should Travel After College and 8 Reasons To Move Abroad to get some more inspo on the subject.

Everything I Wish I Knew Before I Studied Abroad


It was my first time overseas and first time to a non-English-speaking country. It was exciting but also nerve-racking - there were so many things to learn and do before leaving for my 6-week summer program in Florence, Italy. What lay ahead was the most incredible experience of my life up to that point and was the catalyst of my travel obsession.

You can never be too prepared in my book, so here are 10 things I wish I knew before I studied abroad:


10. Everything will be okay

I knew in the back of my mind that everything would be fine, but it can get tough to shake that irrational fear of everything going wrong. If you’re overwhelmed, know that it will be completely worth it once you get there and that everything will work out.

One way to help curb pre-travel anxiety is to pin down the reason why you’re anxious. Is it a fear of flying? A Google search of how safe flying is will pull up tons of articles to help calm those nerves.

What if you are not able to figure out what exactly is making you nervous? About a week before I left for China, I got this deep, adrenaline-like stress feeling in my stomach. I really had no idea why I was so anxious, given that I’m not afraid of flying nor of what lay ahead – I’m working with a structured program where everything is set up.

However, I hadn’t yet packed or prepared for my trip since I was still unpacking from San Diego the weekend prior and went back to work for two days. Once I started packing and researching about Chinese culture my fears ceased. Making a list of what needs to get done and taking it one step at a time seriously helps so much!

Lesson: Everything turned out to be totally okay - great, even! - when I studied abroad and with every trip I've taken since. 

Vienna Austria

9. You Should Follow Study Abroad Veterans’ Advice

Prior to departure, my school held a pre-departure orientation about preparing for our trip abroad. They brought in a panel of study abroad ambassadors who gave us tons of advice from a student perspective.

Everything from money and exchanging currencies, cell phones, planning weekend trips, doing homework, and what the culture was like was covered and it was extremely helpful. Since I had never been, talking to those that had been made me feel much more prepared.

Also, reach out to other students in the program, whether they go to your school or through a Facebook group. This will make you excited and also feel more prepared since you have an idea of who you're going to be with!

Lesson: Make sure you take advantage of orientation or pre-departure events before you go abroad and get advice from people who've been in your shoes previously.

Istanbul Mosques

8. ...But Take Others’ Advice with a Grain of Salt

I specifically remember one of the study abroad ambassadors telling us the summer downpours are heavy, and a North Face waterproof windbreaker is the best option for staying dry. True, but literally everyone took that advice and when walking in groups during the summer drizzle we all had the same outfit on, in different colors.

Since I grew up in Seattle I had never considered just getting an umbrella instead, though with an umbrella I would've blended in a little better while still not taking up much room in my bag.

Another student said, “Eh, you can just do Venice in a day.” One of the trips offered through the school was a weekend in Venice and Verona. I signed up for it along with 11 or 12 other students. Many others didn’t because they listened to the veteran student's advice about Venice being day-trip material.

The trip was canceled. It's all good – it’s not difficult to get to Venice, so we'll make it there one day, but talking to students who did do a day trip said they felt rushed and wished they would've spent a night.

Lesson: Do your research beforehand and decide what’s right for you. For example, does getting a bunch of camping gear seem worth it because a group of former students said it came in handy for a particular trip? Do you actually like camping, and if not, does that particular trip sound like something you’d actually do?

vienna juice_edited

7. Plan Some Weekend Trips Ahead of Time

Since I studied abroad through a faculty-directed program, classes were designed to be Monday-Thursday with the intention that we’d be traveling most weekends.

I really felt like I must have had my head in the clouds when I was talking to some other students at orientation who asked me which trips I was doing. I signed up for a few school trips but didn’t plan any others until I got there.

Some friend groups had already booked everything well in advance for certain weekends, which was helpful in terms of getting lower rates on flights and hostels during the busy summer season. I still ended up booking trips after arriving in Italy with my friends after getting there, though certain aspects of the trip were more expensive last-minute.

Do whatever you feels best in terms of planning: if you are more relaxed with having your itineraries all figured out ahead of time, then do it. If you like to be spontaneous, then wait until you get there to choose your adventures.

Lesson: I found that having the school trips planned ahead of time was helpful, though I would’ve liked maybe one or two others planned with a couple weekends open for whatever.

Iced coffee espresso Paris

6. Drink coffee

I didn’t start drinking iced coffee until after I returned from my study abroad. I’m not a morning person. At class every day I felt so tired, but still tried to pay attention as much as I could…though it was impossible to get a full night of sleep when you’re always out to dinner and drinks, gelato, or exploring after classes.

Lesson: You don't need to rely on caffeine to stay awake, though for me personally I feel like it would've helped me to stay more engaged in classes when I was tired from constantly being on the go!

iPhone photo sangria

5. Get an international SIM card for your phone or put your phone in airplane mode

I had an international call/texting package with my regular number, which was something like 30 texts/month and $1/minute calls. Back in 2011 I had a BlackBerry so didn’t really use many other apps other than internet and Facebook. After I returned, I had a really nasty data bill from making phone calls back home and for not always connecting to WiFi...oops.

When I moved to Italy a couple years after, I got an Italian SIM card which gave me an Italian number, 2 GB data, and unlimited calls/texts to Italian numbers for only 10 euro/month. I usually added on 20 euro worth of international minutes. So much better AND easier than when I studied abroad. If I wanted to call home I would either use the Skype app on WiFi or some of the add-on minutes.

A smart way to not rack up data if you don’t have a good international plan is to keep your phone on airplane mode the entire time you’re abroad. There are so many apps designed to help communicate via WiFi, and nowadays it’s easy to find WiFi pretty much anywhere. This is what I've done the past two international trips I've taken since they were only a few weeks long each - and I wasn't in a city long enough to need a SIM card.

GSE's recommended apps for communicating over WiFi:

  • Whatsapp
  • Skype
  • MagicJack
  • WeChat (if you're going to China)
  • Facebook Messenger
  • Glympse

Lesson: Save a lot of money by skipping your provider's international plan and just doing airplane mode or a SIM card instead.


4. Learn the local language

Since I went abroad during a short summer program we weren’t required to take a language course so I opted for doing some classes required for my degree instead. I relied a lot on other students taking the conversational Italian courses to get around, or by asking "Parla inglese?" ("Do you speak English?") to get around.

Later on when I returned to Italy, I ended up picking up a lot of conversational Italian and could get around better. It was so much easier knowing basic phrases and being able to at least somewhat communicate without having to speak English.

Living somewhere else immerses you in that culture, why not take advantage of it and pick up a language while you’re there?

Lesson: The language barrier is one of the biggest challenges when traveling to foreign countries. Don't assume that everyone will speak English wherever you go. Learning at least basic phrases and small talk will really make a smoother experience.

The Amalfi Coast

3. Use multiple adapters

For some reason I only brought one plug adapter. This would’ve been fine for a shorter trip, though having two or three would’ve been much more convenient when you need to quickly charge your devices.

Label your adapters too because most of them all look the same. They can easily get mixed up among other people's. A Sharpie or even nail polish works well for this.

Lesson: It's nice not having to choose whether to charge your phone or curl your hair. And if you lose an adapter, you have a backup without having to go find one at a store.


2. Branch out to other students and locals

Maybe it was because it was summer, but I barely met other students studying abroad. I stuck to the bubble of students in the program, which had cliques of friend groups within the entirety of the program. Our group got really close and we all became good friends! However, we’d only hang out with each other and rarely made an effort to get to know others outside our group.

When I returned to Italy to work for a tour company we had students from a number of schools join our trips. This was a fun environment for everyone to get to know each other, especially for those who signed up solo. That is a great way to get to know other students!

Meeting locals is the best way to truly get to know a place. Even if the language barrier makes it difficult, start with your homestay family or program coordinators! They have firsthand knowledge of all the best things to do, places to go, and where to eat off the tourist track.

Lesson: Don't just stick to your comfort zone. Meet other study abroad/international students and make an effort to get to know some locals. You'll have more connections, friendships all over the world, and insider tips that will enhance your experience that much more.


1. Bring less stuff and budget smarter

Depending on where your program location(s) is/are, you can probably buy anything you’re missing while you’re over there if you really need to. And you really don't need as much as you think, especially when it comes to toiletries - sure, bring a small bottle of shampoo to start off the trip, but unless you're in a really rural town or the middle of nowhere, you'll be able to find regular-sized bottles...just do your research beforehand.

I also didn't have as much extra cash as I probably should have prepared for prior to leaving. I spent nearly all my money (though knew I'd be able to go back to my summer nanny job to save back up), though I really should have budgeted better and saved more prior to leaving. Having extra money, especially in case of an emergency, is always a nice cushion for when you study abroad.

“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” - Susan Heller

Lesson: When traveling to multiple cities, especially in one trip, it can be tempting to over pack. Bring what you need, but lugging around heavy bags time after time can get frustrating and exhausting. And having some extra money as a cushion helps to relieve any financial stress.

Read: What to pack for a semester in Italy and What to pack for a semester in Italy...what you DON'T need

To future study abroad students - your experience abroad is going to be a blast and an amazing, eye-opening experience. You'll learn so much about the cities you'll visit, other cultures, and yourself. Good luck and have a FUN time abroad!

Everything I Wish I Knew Before I Studied Abroad

Studying Abroad in Europe: Instagram vs. Reality

Studying Abroad in Europe Instagram vs. Reality Taking photos when you study abroad is a given. If you didn't post it online, did it actually happen? (Kidding). Sharing our lives through Instagram while abroad is a fun way to document the experience, albeit an edited, sometimes filtered, version of our lives.

It allows us to keep friends and family back home updated on the goings-on of being abroad while providing us with like-worthy #TBTs after we return home, full of nostalgia.

Whether you're currently abroad or have already returned, you may be able to relate to these Insta-worthy moments.

Studying Abroad in Europe: Instagram vs. Reality

1. The passport photo

Paris passport

Caption: #itshappening #europe2015 #letsgo #travel

Reality: For every decent passport pic, there are 14 failed ones.

2. Luggage

1 luggage

Caption: Bags are all packed! Can't wait to start this next chapter of my life in [insert study abroad city here].

Reality: I had jump on the case and try multiple contortionist-worthy moves just to get this thing to close.

3. Airplane selfie

airplane selfie

Caption: Here we go...!

Reality: 1/5 takes to not have the rando in the background staring into the camera. Also, major judgement from the rando throughout the 10-hour flight.

4. In front of famous monuments


Caption: #blessed

Reality: This is cool, but you also can't see the hordes of other tourists with selfie sticks trying to get  the same shot.

5. Food

Andiamo Bellevue Food

Caption: Authentic food from its own country is 10000x better than back home. #PastaAllaBolognese #YesPlease

Reality: Can't argue much there, just please don't be that pretentious "everything is better in [study abroad country], *scoff*" person when you return.

6. Oktoberfest


Caption: The best f***ing weekend of my entire life.

Reality: The best f***ing weekend of my entire life, and now I'm broke. #worthit

7. Party pics


Caption: Cheers to nights we won't remember, with friends we won't forget.

Reality: The awesomeness of being under 21 and being able to legally drink at bars.

8. Christmas markets

Vienna Austria Christmas Markets Cropped

Caption: Happy holidays *emojis* sending my love from Europe :)

Reality: It's all about the hot, spiced wine in special Christmas-market-mugs.

Speaking of wine...

9. Wine


Caption: Every occasion calls for a glass of red.

Reality: I have a love/hate relationship with unlimited wine, depending on the time of night or the next morning.

10. Train station 1 train station

Caption: So excited to be in MILAN in just a few hours!!

Reality: It's 8:00 am, and yeah last night's wine was a horrible idea.

11. Souvenir shopping

1 souvenirs

Caption: Can't resist some local shopping... #wheninrome #travel

Reality: I really want all this crap I don't need. I'm buying it anyways.

12. Water activities

budapest crop

Caption: Had a fun, relaxing time at the baths in Budapest. Cool experience. #hungary

Reality: Totally fun, relaxing, and cool. However, I forgot my swimsuit on this trip and had to rent one from the spa. Showering immediately when I get back to my hostel.

13. Textbooks


Caption: When you realize you actually have to study for your finals abroad...

Reality: LOL

14. The group photo

1 crop group

Caption: Abroad friends are friends for life.

Reality: Abroad friends are friends for life.

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The ABCs of Studying Abroad in Florence

8 Tips For First-Timers at Oktoberfest

11 Excuses For Not Traveling Abroad (And Why They're Weak)

When I Got Bit (By The Travel Bug)


Four years ago today I left my study abroad program in Florence, Italy. My first time overseas was six weeks in Italy with a weekend in Ireland and another in England. Traveling abroad had intrigued me beforehand, but once I finally did it, I realized the truth to former study abroad students saying, "It's an amazing experience, and I can't really describe just have to do it for yourself."

ireland blarney castle

None of us were ready to leave our temporary European homes on our last day. The night prior, we had a dinner with our whole program.

At dinner as we were taking photos with everyone and having our last sips of wine, we made sure that whatever we were doing after graduation, we would attend the 50-year anniversary celebration in Florence. (I went back to work in Florence for six months after graduation, but unfortunately left a couple of months before the celebration. Very few actually ended up going to the reunion, though).

The dean gave a speech during our meal. He described the past few weeks as an "opalescent dream state."

Florence, Italy

It was so true. It went by extremely fast - and when I stepped foot back in Seattle, looking around my house through jet-lagged eyes, it was hard to believe it actually happened.

I unzipped my backpack and pulled out a smushed chocolate croissant from the secret bakery the night before.

That weird feeling of Was I really just in Italy less than 24 hours ago? was very present. I had a similar feeling my freshman year of college when I went home for the first time.

However, the croissant was proof that yes, I was halfway around the world a day ago. It actually happened. I did it! I went to Italy! After years of wanting to make it happen, I made it happen.

Lemon Groves in Positano

...Though while I thought the desire to travel would stop there, it definitely did not.

As cliche as it is, studying abroad changed me. My life away from home seemed so different from my life at home, and I knew I'd never approach anything the same way again.

"Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I shall be happily infected until the end of my life." - Michael Palin

Study abroad shaped my life, but my career path as well. If there are any students out there trying to convince their parents to let them go abroad, show them this: every job I've applied for since graduation was influenced by my studying abroad. Every employer for every job I've been offered since graduating college was thoroughly impressed by my international experience, setting me apart from the other candidates.

Elba Island Beach


Without studying abroad, I have no idea where my life would be and for sure know I would never have had a chance at any of those career opportunities. I'm not saying I would not have had career options, but traveling abroad heavily increased my odds at getting jobs where I was lacking in age and "years" of experience.

I have been forever bit by the travel bug. Anyone who has tried to squash their wanderlust with traveling knows that traveling just makes it all the more worse.

Beachside Positano Italy


The more you travel, the more you crack the surface of complicated intercultural communication.

The more you see, the more you realize that this planet is amazing and needs to be explored firsthand.

Are you aching to see the world? Go abroad. You should absolutely do it. Just know that you'll be forever bit by the travel bug, which is not a bad thing at all.

10 Crazy, Extreme, and Magical Trips To Take When You Study Abroad in Europe

10 Crazy, Extreme, and Magical Trips to Take When You Study Abroad in Europe

10 Crazy, Extreme, and Magical Trips to Take when you Study Abroad in Europe! #europe #europetravel #studyabroad #europetraveltips

One of the best parts about studying abroad in Europe is the close proximity to other countries and cultures. Many students who go abroad travel on the weekends, and some even go somewhere new every weekend! Here's a quick guide for where to go for crazy, extreme, and magical weekends away from your temporary European home.

Craziest Weekend Trips When You Study ABroad In Europe

When you're young and living the time of your life in Europe, a few crazy weekends are bound to happen. Make sure they're the right ones in these awesome cities.

Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest - 10 Crazy, Extreme, and Magical Trips to Take when you Study Abroad in Europe! #europe #europetravel #studyabroad #europetraveltips

Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while knows that I LOVE Oktoberfest. It is seriously so much fun. Clink your huge steins with people from every continent at the world's largest beer festival.

Even if you don't like beer or think it sounds lame (gasp), trust me when I say that this experience is completely worth it.

Plus, there are carnival rides outside the tents - could it get any better than that?!

8 Tips For First-Timers at Oktoberfest

Prague, Czech Republic

This slice of Central Europe is not to be overlooked during your time abroad. Not only is it very inexpensive (it's not on the euro), there is everything from cool, underground-scene pubs to over-the-top six-story clubs and ice bars.

Make sure to see if there are also any music festivals happening during your weekend too for a night to remember (....or not).

Budapest, Hungary

10 Crazy, Extreme, and Magical Trips to Take when you Study Abroad in Europe! #europe #europetravel #studyabroad #europetraveltips

This up-and-coming Eastern European city is seriously so cool. Head to the thermal baths during the day and party at the ruins bars at night. Hungarians definitely know how to have a good night out.

The Thermal Bath Experience in Budapest

Barcelona, Spain

The notoriously late nights out are a staple here - you'll find that nights don't get started till after midnight and end during sunrise around 5 or 6 am.

Most Extreme Weekend Trips When You Study Abroad in Europe

Being abroad is the best time to push your comfort zone. What better way to do so than with extreme sports?

Get out there - on the mountains, in the water, wherever - and try something new!

Interlaken, Switzerland

10 Crazy, Extreme, and Magical Trips to Take when you Study Abroad in Europe! #europe #europetravel #studyabroad #europetraveltips

Often dubbed "the adventure capital" of Switzerland, this small town is known for extreme sports.

Summer offers gorgeous views for hiking and winter offers snow sports in the alps. There are many activities to do year-round, including parasailing, sky diving, or canyon jumping.


Since it likely will take you a little more time to get farther north, this might be better for a long weekend instead of a regular one. It would be worth it nonetheless!

Try your hand at snowmobiling, bobsledding, bungee jumping - this list has countless activities to do. And there's no better place to do it than with naturally stunning Scandinavia as your backdrop.

Most Magical Weekend Trips When You Study Abroad in Europe

These destinations will have you feeling like you stepped inside a fairy tale, providing countless memories to take back home with you.

Amalfi Coast, Italy

10 Crazy, Extreme, and Magical Trips to Take when you Study Abroad in Europe! #europe #europetravel #studyabroad #europetraveltips

The first time I saw a photo of Amalfi, it took my breath away. I knew I had to see it in person.

This treasure of Southern Italy is the perfect beach getaway and is definitely worth the trip.

Mediterranean Musts: 17 Reasons Why You Need To Visit Italy's Amalfi Coast

Munich, Germany + Neuschwanstein Castle

Munich is already a daydream, though nearby is the famous Neuschwanstein Castle. Look at photos of it and just tell me it's not the most magical looking castle you've ever seen.

Cork, Ireland

10 Crazy, Extreme, and Magical Trips to Take when you Study Abroad in Europe! #europe #europetravel #studyabroad #europetraveltips

Start in Cork (Southern Ireland) and wander around the adorable Irish city with colorful doors.

Make your way to the Blarney Castle for major emerald everything, or even take a bus/train through the countryside to Dublin where you'll see endless greenery along the way.

Ireland: Imagine the Greenest Scene Ever, Then Multiply it By 100

Salzburg, Austria

This Austrian town is where the Sound of Music movie took place. You'll see the hills that are "alive" and charming, colorful buildings everywhere.

If you happen to be here during the winter holiday season, make sure to stop by some Christmas markets - lesser-known than the ones in Germany or Vienna, which it all the more special.

Your time studying abroad is limited. You can always return to your favorites in the future or hit up places you didn't get a chance to see the first time around.

However, studying abroad is a unique experience and traveling differently after college won't be the same. Make the most of it while you're there!

23 Signs You Studied Abroad in Europe [Video]


23 signs study abroad video If you studied abroad in college, chances are you likely studied in Europe, the most popular continent for Americans to go abroad.

Studying abroad is such an eye opening experience that I believe every college student should at least consider doing during their four years of university. Whether it's a program through your school, a third party provider, or through an international program at a foreign school, you are bound to have the time of your life.

I can definitely relate to all of these on this BuzzFeed video after studying in Italy in college and returning there after graduating. Watch this video to get nostalgic feels if you've already been abroad - or to get stoked for your program if you're about to head to Europe.