The best things about Mount Holyoke?

Here’s a comprehensive list:

  • everything.

Just kidding! Only not really. When I applied to Mount Holyoke in the fall of 2010, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

To quote Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, “I shall cherish my visit here in memory for as long as I live.”

25 of the Best Things about Mount Holyoke:

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Laurel Fellowships.

The Laurel Fellowship program is the reason that I got to study abroad! I can never thank Mount Holyoke enough for giving my the opportunity to study classics in Rome. Basically, if you receive financial aid from Mount Holyoke, the school will also give you assistance to fund a study abroad program.

It’s like Moho buys you a gift card to another store, but I couldn’t be more thankful for the program! It’s one of the best things about Mount Holyoke and reasons I chose to attend in the first place.

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Mountain Day.

One day between convocation and the start of fall break, the Mount Holyoke President wakes up and declares Mountain Day! All on campus classes and commitments before 5:00PM are canceled and students can either sleep in, or make the trek to nearby Skinner Mountain to climb to the top for free ice cream and hats.

5 College Consortium.

I never took a class off campus because I’m a firm believer in keeping your nap to class travel ratio firmly under seven minutes, but many of my friends took advantage of Mount Holyoke’s partnership with nearby Smith College, Hampshire College, Amherst College, and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Moho’s can not only take classes at these other schools, but also participate in extracurricular activities.

Elfing.

You’re a wee firstie at Mount Holyoke. You wake up, open your door to the bathroom, only to be trapped in your room by a sheet a wrapping paper covering your doorway. You break through it, only to find the hallway in front of your room to be filled with candy, perfumes, magazines, and more!

That’s Elfing. A sophomore student goes out of their way to be a “secret sibling” to a first year for a week, then they link up and become besties at the end of it.

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The Awesome Alum Community

Did you know that Mount Holyoke affected your life moments after you were born? It’s like all of us were destined to go here. That’s because Doctor Virginia Apgar (MHC class of 1929 represent) designed the widely-used Apgar score to determine the health of a newborn baby.

Can you credit Cinderella from The Cheetah Girls with your elementary school feminist awakening? Then shout out to Debra Martin Chase, MHC Class of 1977.

Are you looking forward to collecting you well-earned Social Security? Pour one out for Frances Perkins, the woman behind the New Deal.

The Frances Perkins Program.

From the Mount Holyoke Website (citation cause MHC made sure I knew that PLAGIARISM AIN’T NO JOKE):

The Frances Perkins Program is open to and designed for women 25 years and older who have experienced an interruption in their education, but who now seek the intellectual challenge of completing their 4-year degree at a top liberal arts institution. Veterans, active military,  and women who are under 25 with dependents are also eligible to apply.

Known affectionately on campus as “FPs,” these students were always great to be in class with because of their unique perspectives on academics and life in general.

Dressing up for Convocation.

I missed my first convocation because I was a spring admit, but the next year I went as Pikachu, then as a bottle of mustard for my junior and senior years…although my senior year I went as a bottle of mustard in a cap and gown, thank you very much.

When you matriculate at Mount Holyoke, you are assigned a class color and mascot based on your year of graduation. I was lucky enough to be a golden sphinx.

You could also be a red pegasus, blue lion, green griffon, or purple phoenix if you are a FP student. But honestly, red, green, purple, or blue, it would sphinx to be you.

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Lynk Funding.

Students can apply for Lynk Funding to finance an unpaid summer internship.

School breaks were all about earning money for school, not planning my career and gaining value experience in my field. I never thought I would never be able to live the intern life, until Mount Holyoke stepped in. Because of the Lynk, I was actually able to intern for a travel company and learn the ropes of digital marketing, search engine optimization, and destination-based content curation.

I would quite literally have NO career if it weren’t for the head start I got from the Lynk.

The Food.

One of the best things about Mount Holyoke is the food. I recently went back to campus to sample the food from “Superblanch” and let me tell y’all, it did not disappoint. The only thing I’m bitter about is now students have unlimited access to food, when countless times during my undergraduate career I ate dinner at 6:00PM, was starving by 11:00PM, yet was totally out of Dining Dollars.

This isn’t a problem any future Mount Holyoke students will ever have to face.

The Yellow Flashing Lights.

…have been activated. Cars may not stop.

The anthem of any Mount Holyoke student trying to get anywhere. I heard the pedestrian warning system on 116 so many times that I sometimes hear it in my sleep…thousands of miles away in Texas.

The Professors.

During my 1st semester at Mount Holyoke, I dyed my brown hair red on a Friday night. On Monday, all three of the professors I had that day greeted me by name and mentioned that they liked my new hairstyle.

When people ask me how much MHC professors care about you, this is the best example I can give. My own father doesn’t even notice when I change my hair.

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The Leaves in the Fall.

I’m from Houston where our four seasons are summer, hotter summer, even hotter summer, and did you really think it was ever going to get cold summer? So when moving to New England, experiencing the the fall foliage was mind boggling and one of the best things about Mount Holyoke. I honestly didn’t think trees could even change color so profoundly. Thought it was just movie magic.

The Student Orgs.

I participated in MHC Project Theatre each semester I was on campus. It’s how I made the majority of my friends. Being in a theater group at a historically women’s college also has its perks. For example, I got to play Oscar in The Odd Couple and juror six in 12 Angry Men.

The Horsies.

There’s a stable full of them. If you don’t want to pay extra to take a riding class, you can still go up to the barn and say hello and give pats with owner permission, etc. etc.

Its Location.

Since no one in Texas knows about Moho, my number one joke is that Mount Holyoke lures prospective students onto campus with promises of proximity to Boston and NYC, but instead just drops them off somewhere in a forrest in Western Mass. And while that’s partly true, coming from Texas, Mount Holyoke’s campus is a lot closer to cool stuff than I’d ever been before.

I went to NYC every.single.semester. as there’s a bus stop in front of the school that runs directly to Port Authority. I went to Boston multiple times. I went to Philadelphia for fall break. If you’d like to see the East Coast, Mount Holyoke is a perfect base.

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No Study Zone.

On the last day of classes during the fall semester, Chapin Auditorium turns into a no study zone! There’s usually a bounce house or two, a Zumba class, snacks like popcorn and snow cones, and even an arts and crafts station (a great place to make gifts for the upcoming holidays on a college student’s budget). One year, the organizers even turned the elevator into a “Primal Scream” zone. You go just go inside and scream really loud. It was great.

The Library.

Hogwarts called, it wants its library back!

One of the best things about Mount Holyoke is the magnificent study space. Many times, while I was supposed to be working on a paper, I would simply lie back and stare at the ceiling, dumbstruck that I was lucky enough to go to a school as pretty as this.

The Classes.

I took a class on World Politics where I heard the word “hegemon” so many times I thought my brain would explode. I took a creative writing class. A class dedicated solely to the works of Alfred Hitchcock. A mediaeval literature class that comes in handy nearly every single time I watch Jeopardy. I studied Latin and Italian, so I’m concurrently fluent in neither and both.

My first year seminar was on Sherlock Holmes and detective fiction. About two weeks into classes, on a dreary, snowy Monday, my professor ordered us pizzas and let us watch BBC’s Sherlock in lieu of a discussion.

“So this is college,” I thought. “I can get used to this.”

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Off Campus Work Study.

Mount Holyoke’s work study program offered me the opportunity to intern at nearby Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke. I learned about non-profit work, museum curation, arts education, and more!

The school provided transportation to and from my job each week, and the other students who rode with me worked at local high schools and homework help organizations. We were all able to really put down roots in the community. It’s one of the best things about Mount Holyoke.

The Staff.

One of the best things about Mount Holyoke was the people who worked on campus. The staff was constantly going out of their way to be kind. The man who drove the work study van, John, was a WWII Navy veteran with many stories to tell. He kept the car fun and on our toes.

I was always dropped off 1st on the route and one day, he mentioned his favorite pastry, a bear claw. I said I’d never had one.

The next week, he didn’t drop me off 1st. As we went from drop off to drop off, I began to wonder if he had forgotten I was in the car. Then, as we pulled up to the museum, he reached into his briefcase and pulled out a bear claw.

“I bought you one! It’s a shame you’ve never had one before. I dropped you off last because I wanted you to be able to eat the entire thing.”

The bear claw was delicious and I’ll never forget John’s thoughtfulness that day.

Jorge.

I love and miss this noisy, vicious little beast. Whether or not he’s the original Jorge, or even if he’s a he is still up for debate, but that doesn’t take away from campus’ resident goose being one of the best things about Mount Holyoke.

Your Classmates.

Truly, one of the very best things about Mount Holyoke is the people who study there. People who challenged me academically, spiritually, and morally. People who supported me and encouraged my growth in the exact same ways.

Friends who let me cry on their floor when my childhood dog died, when I did poorly on an assignment, or when I was just plain tired. Friends introduced me to weird Italian cinema, challenged my worldview with kindness, and called me every year on my summer birthday. Friends who flew across countries to see me. Friends who really, truly, deeply, love me.

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The Art Museum.

I love the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum! The collection is top notch and lovingly curated by a team of committed experts who not only make art accessible, but also fun.

I spend hours in the museum during my years as an undergraduate, as an excited visitor, student guide, and guest lecturer. Make sure to stop in when you’re on campus.

The Pumpkin Face in the Clock Tower during October.

The spooky face is one of the best things about Mount Holyoke just because it’s so cheeky. I didn’t even notice it until I was a junior. I was walking into the library one night and there he was…just chilling like “what’s up?”

The Dorms.

I’ve never felt more like a princess than when I lived in Mead Dormitory my senior year. The high ceilings. The Downton Abby staircase in the front foyer. While there are some definite dudes *coughcoughProspectcoughcough** in general, the living situation at Mount Holyoke is leaps above other school’s.

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Wondering about which questions to ask when traveling abroad? Being proactive and speaking up before you get in a taxi, exchange money, or make a purchase is essential to having a stress-free trip and avoiding rookie tourist mistakes.

Here are the top 5 questions to ask when traveling abroad to avoid common travel mistakes:

Travel questions Questions to ask when traveling Questions to ask while traveling common travel mistakes

Some swans just chilling in Zürich.

Can I have a printed receipt?

 

Travel questions Questions to ask when traveling Questions to ask while traveling common travel mistakes

Bratislava, Slovakia

Ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft have eliminated this issue in many cities, as you can get a fare estimate before you book and track your route from the app; however, this is still on my list of questions to ask when traveling abroad just in case you need to take a cab.

Be sure to ask your driver for a far estimate and printed receipt as soon as you get in the vehicle. Having a printed receipt (not handwritten as is sometimes offered) can help protect you if you get into a meter dispute with a crooked cabbie.

If you book a private car ahead of time (e.g. a private airport transfer or a shuttle to an attraction) be sure to confirm that it’s your car before you get in (especially if you asked multiple companies for quotes!)…or you could end up like baby Emily and be certain you were about to be taken out by the Italian Mafia. Read about it here.

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Do you accept credit cards?

Travel questions Questions to ask when traveling Questions to ask while traveling common travel mistakes

I took this picture on my panic-induced ATM run. Prague is still pretty, even when you’re stressed AF.

 

This is an essential one of the questions to ask while traveling, but the key is asking BEFORE you order. Many restaurants abroad (i.e. not in the USA — although some places are reverting) are still “cash only” businesses. If you ask before you are seated, you’ll have the luxury of finding another place to dine if they don’t accept cards, or going to find at ATM at a leisurely pace if you really want to eat there.

When Smoky and I were in Prague, we made the mistake of assuming a burger place would take cards (I mean, they had WiFi and were playing Ed Sheeran, so it was an easy mistake), so since we found out AFTER we had ordered and eaten, I was tasked with running around Old Town Square in the dark like a maniac looking for an ATM while Smoky was held hostage in the restaurant.

And then I had to carry around hella Czech coins for the rest of my trip since I didn’t feel like giving the guy a $10 tip (y’all this place was barely even a cash only place — it was a COIN only place based on the change he gave me.)

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Do I have an international data plan?

Travel questions Questions to ask when traveling Questions to ask while traveling common travel mistakes

My house in Budapest.

Y’all. This is one of the most common travel mistakes and so it’s one of the most important questions to ask when traveling abroad.

The world is becoming increasingly connected, but certain companies seem to be lagging behind, so international data charges are a monster travelers should actively avoid. For example, when I travel with Smoky (a TMobile customer) she can just turn on her phone in any new country and it works like it would at home with no extra charges.

But if I did that ( a Verizon customer), I would literally have to sell my soul to lord satan to be able to afford it.

Thankfully,  if you don’t have an international data plan you can easily

  • Pick up a sim card with a few gigs of data on it at the airport or in the city center.
  • Put your phone on airplane mode and hope there’s abundant free wifi available.
  • Just use some walkie talkies or smoke signals or something idk.

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What time does this close?

Travel questions Questions to ask when traveling Questions to ask while traveling common travel mistakes

Salzburg, Austria

As an American, I’m used to things being open in fairly predictable patterns. Most offices operate roughly 9AM – 5PM and places to eat stay open until at least 10PM (often later) — but abroad, it’s often an entirely different story.

When I lived in Italy, places like offices, museums, and ancient sites would often close for lunch, or even an extended siesta in the middle of the day. Sometimes an attraction was open all weekend, so it was closed Mondays to make up for it.

A common travel mistake is to just assume the thing you want to do will be open. As you are planning your trip, be sure to note any peculiar closings or hours, especially if it’s a “must see” for you.

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Is my shampoo lid screwed on all the way?

Travel questions Questions to ask when traveling Questions to ask while traveling common travel mistakes

Vaduz, Liechtenstein

OKAY Y’ALL. Common travel mistakes 101.

It’s story time. Story time about those days of yesteryear when I didn’t think I needed to put my toiletries in a plastic bag or double check that they were closed before, you know, zipping them into a confined space with my computer, clothing, and passport copies.

Turns out, face wash doesn’t make your camera clean and clear and under control…it just makes it hang out in a bucket of rice for a few hours while hoping for the best.

So, learn from my mistakes. One of the most important questions to ask when traveling abroad is simple: are my freaking toiletries closed?

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Travel questions Questions to ask when traveling Questions to ask while traveling common travel mistakes

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Looking to create a study abroad bucket list? Look no farther! I’ve put together the ultimate European Scavenger Hunt so you and your friends can hit the highlights of Europe and make memories to last a lifetime.

I’m on Instagram at ShesATripBlog  and would LOVE to see your entries as you complete the list.  Make sure to tag me!

Editor’s note: I took many of these photos during my actual semester abroad, many moons ago before I was a blogger. Pre-braces and with a bad haircut. Be nice!

Study Abroad Bucket List // Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

I’ve organized these by country first, then by points level — but, fair warning, everything is made up and the points don’t matter. 

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Study Abroad Bucket List Austria

  • 5 points 

Horsing around with the dancing Lipizzaners in Vienna.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

Making music at Beethoven’s apartment — minus the hedonism (or not).

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

  • 10 points 

Recreating any part of The Sound of Music in Salzburg.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

The “Sixteen Going On Seventeen” Gazebo.

Study Abroad Bucket List Czech Republic

  • 5 points 

“Imagining” a photo at the John Lennon Wall without anyone else in it.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

Hot tip: going to Prague in the fall means it’s waaaay less crowded.

Eating a Trdelnik (even though they’re not Czech at all and you should probably just eat a Koláč).

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

A photo chilling at the Charles Bridge.

Charles Bridge Prague Crowded

  • 10 points 

Since Charles Bridge is dubbed “the most annoying place in Prague” by locals, you deserve extra points if you can find an actual Czech on it. And yes, dragging the guy you were czeching out at the pub onto the bridge totally counts.

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Study Abroad Bucket List England

  • 5 points 

The truly ~*iconic*~ London phone booth pic. Make sure to include Big Ben — the only British boy who will never break your heart.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

Drinking Butter Beer at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

Trying to get to Hogwarts at Platform 9 3/4.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

I’ve since been sorted into Slytherin. Choosing not to live that truth.

A photo crossing Abbey Road.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

legit almost got hit by a car fam.

Hanging with the guards at Buckingham Palace.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

  • 10 points 

If you bring friends to accurately create the Abbey Road cover, these bonus points are for you.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

  • 100 points 

If you can get one of the guards to laugh, enjoy these major bonus points.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

His wife took this photo! <3 “Oh dear, looks as though I’m famous” – him.

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 Study Abroad Bucket List France

  • 5 points 

A Hall of Mirrors selfie at Versailles.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

The classic Mona Lisa selfie. Be prepared to literally fight everyone to get to the front.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

The overdone-but-still-cute Louvre Pyramid Touch.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

Modeling with the Eiffel Tower.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

Looking “nice” in Nice.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

Study Abroad Bucket List Germany

  • 5 points 

The classic Oktoberfest pic.

Can you wear normal clothes to Oktoberfest Oktoberfest costumes Oktoberfest outfits Cheap Oktoberfest costumes

Channeling your inner-Kennedy and Reagan at the Brandenburg Gate.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

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Study Abroad Bucket List Greece

  • 5 points 

Doing some heavy workouts at the PanAthenaic Stadium.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

I’m so out of shape just looking at all these stairs made me feel tired.

Cheesing on the Acropolis.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

  • 10 points 

Looking for Kostas on Santorini (#DatCalderraDoe)

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

Study Abroad Bucket List Italy

  • 5 points 

Holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa — it ain’t gonna do it alone!

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

Channeling your inner Lizzie McGuire and tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

Trying not to get eaten by a lion at the Colosseo.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

Can’t forget a Gondola ride in Venice — that’s amore!

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

waaaay before Instagram — this is the only photo I have of myself on a gondala haha.

  • 10 points 

Literally just you eating some pizza.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

Study Abroad Bucket List Ireland

  • 5 points 

The Guinness Storehouse pic in Dublin.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

This is at Jameson Distillery — but I feel like it still counts.

Kissing the Blarney Stone.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

This was right after. I’m scared of heights, so I need a second to recover.

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Study Abroad Bucket List Monaco

  • 5 points 

Pretending to be hella rich and fancy while trying not to lose your last 20 Euro at the casino.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

  • 100 points 

Monaco is known as a hangout for the rich and famous — so if you spot a celeb, you’ve earned these points!

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

I met Eddie in London, not Monaco…so maybe I’l just take 50 points.

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Study Abroad Bucket List Morocco

  • 10 points 

The iconic camel selfie (up to you if you want to ride them — make sure they are being treated well!)

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

Kammerlohr with her camel.

Make all your friends at home jealous with a snap of the Hammam Baths.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

Study Abroad Bucket List the Netherlands

  • 5 points 

Just chilling NEAR the I Amsterdam sign because you’re wearing tight pants and aren’t that fit anyway, so you can’t climb up.

Is flixbus reliable

Hanging out inside a giant wooden shoe.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

Making sure all the lame ~* under 21s*~ back in the States know you can drink in Europe by posing at the Heineken Experience.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

  • 10 points 

Chilling on top of the I Amsterdam sign because you’re a literal monkey.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

Peep my friend Mattias on the M.

Posing with one of the Dutch male models who work at the Heineken Experience.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

I didn’t complete this step, so instead I offer you a photo of my Dutch brother-in-law and his groomsmen 🙂

Scotland

  • 5 points 

Looking for Jamie from Outlander.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

I didn’t find him.

Looking for Nessie.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

  • 10 points 

Literally just finding either of them.

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

Final Tally

Best of luck completing your Study Abroad Bucket List! Add up all your points at the end of the semester to see who won (hint: all of you win because you got to study abroad in Europe).

I wasn’t able to do all of these in a semester, so don’t worry if you can’t either — just enjoy the journey.

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Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

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This ultimate study abroad preparation checklist is here to save your life!

Preparing to study abroad is a super exciting time…so exciting, in fact, that you might forget to take care of some things before you jet off. Because I’ve been there, done that, messed that up, I’ve put together these study abroad planning tips to save you from the stress.

The Ultimate Study Abroad Preparation Checklist

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Update your Voicemail

Typically, students choose a study abroad phone plan that might allow limited use within their new country, but without access to calls from home. If you plan to apply for a job during your program, then updating your voicemail is one of the most important things on your study abroad preparation checklist.

study abroad preparation checklist things to do before studying abroad

Call me beep me, if you wanna reach me…in Istanbul

The message should be short and sweet:

Hi, this is [your name] and I’m out of the country until [date]. In the meantime, please contact me at [your email].

I lost out on a cool job because I forgot to update my voicemail before leaving the country. Don’t let it happen to you!

Confirm your Credits 

Confirming your credits is worth stopping by your school’s international programs office in person — just to check. Before you leave to study abroad, there is still time to add/drop classes in your program. Your academic advisor or your school’s international program coordinator will be able to confirm the exact number of credits you need to take abroad and how they will transfer back to your home university.

study abroad preparation checklist things to do before studying abroad

My home away in Rome, the John Felice Rome Center.

Check and double check! Study abroad credits transfer is not something you want to mess up. I had a miscommunication with my registrar at Mount Holyoke and had to take two extra classes my senior year to graduate on time. No fun.

Don’t let this scare you, though! It’s not a reason not to study abroad. A little elbow grease and #ConstantVigilance can totally prevent any issues. Just don’t leave it off your study abroad preparation checklist.

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Buy your Bags 

Don’t leave buying a bag off your study abroad preparation checklist. One of my main study abroad tips for women is to upgrade your purse before you leave. Also, if there are any guys reading this, ain’t no shame in rockin’ a new murse.

I’d like to recommend a “pick pocket + slash proof” bag like this one or this one. But fear not, you don’t have to sacrifice style for safety. I scoured the interwebs for the cutest choices because you’re all #WorthIt.

study abroad preparation checklist things to do before studying abroad

My “hella secure and unstealable” purse

Since studying abroad on a budget is also key, a small investment in a budget airline approved suitcase will you a lot of money on weekend adventures in the long haul.

I have this one from Rick Steves and am absolutely obsessed with it. It’s basically a Mary Poppins bag, in that it holds way more than it appears to.

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Make some Friends

There is usually a Facebook group that you can join to ask questions specifically related to your program and semester and get to know your classmates. It’s a great resource for finding sometime to split the ride to campus from the airport or to share dinner with during that first awkward night.

study abroad preparation checklist things to do before studying abroad

the squad and I during my first week in Italy.

It’s also a good idea to touch base with your future classmates about sharing the cost of expensive textbooks, planning weekend trips, or trouble shooting Visa issues.

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Get a Credit Card 

Many of my friends had their debit cards eaten by ATMS or swiped by pickpockets. Getting a replacement debit card while abroad is SUCH a hassle, and you don’t want to consume your semester dealing with it. If you bring a credit card with you, you already have a replacement card handy if “disaster” strikes.

Credit cards are also easier to dispute fraudulent charges with, so if you fall victim to any shady travel companies, you are more likely to get your money back, making this one of the ESSENTIAL items on my study abroad preparation checklist.

 

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study abroad preparation checklist things to do before studying abroad

 

**This post contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase an item via these links, I get some cash money, at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

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Studying abroad can really suck.

You’ve been told that it will be the best experience ever, and it is…at first.

But then the homesickness sets in.

Since most students choose to study abroad during their junior year, most assume that the transition will be a breeze. They think that homesickness is something only freshmen experience. But it’s not.

I was one homesick Texan while studying abroad and I was in ROME. So the homesickness was compounded by feeling guilt for even feeling it in the first place when I was in such a cool city. It was awful, but I overcame it, so I know you can, too.

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study abroad homesick

My Rome away from home.

Here’s how to deal with homesickness while studying abroad:

Say No Sometimes

Often, people put so much pressure on themselves to “have the best time ever” when studying abroad that they forget how they usually act. While studying abroad IS this amazing once in a lifetime thing, you’re going to burn yourself out and ruin it if you don’t slow your roll every once and a while.

When you’re at home or on your “home” campus, do you sleep in on Saturdays? Do you say “no” to events because you have a paper due? Don’t feel like you have to go 100 miles an hour at all times. You’re there for at least a semester, maybe even an entire year – you have the time to pace yourself.

So maybe the friends in your study abroad program are going to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle at midnight, visit the Sydney Opera House, or even zip line in the Costa Rican jungle. So what? Those events will still be there next week, next month, next semester. Don’t feel guilty for sitting out on some things to recharge for your next adventure.

study-abroad-homesick-tips-florence

Taking a break in Florence.

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Get Out There

I’m not contradicting myself, I promise. People experience homesickness differently. While some need a reminder to recharge so they can continue to build friends at their study abroad program and enjoy themselves, others need that nudge to step outside their comfort zone.

Homesickness is often significantly tied to culture shock, which is a real and serious thing. It can be loosely defined as that confusing and nervous feeling that you get when you leave a familiar culture to live in a new and different one.

 Here’s how it usually goes:

  1. The Honeymoon Stage

This is how you feel when studying abroad still seems like a vacation. Everything is new and exciting and you might as well be at summer camp. You might be a little nervous, but you don’t miss your parents or home or dog or whatever because you’re having so much FUN.

study abroad homesick tips

My first week in Italy.

  1. The Frustration Stage 

This is usually when the worst of the homesickness sets in. You’ve been abroad for a few weeks and everything bothers you – even things you once found magical. You might find yourself even actively resenting the place you thought you were going to love.

“Why don’t they speak English?” “Why don’t the buses seem to follow the schedule?” “Why can’t things just be like they were AT HOME?”

In this stage, you long for the normalcy of home. But don’t worry – it gets better.

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  1. The Adjustment Stage

There is no set timeline for going through these stages. Those around you might power through them, while you might linger behind.

That’s okay. It’s not a competition.

BUT to get out of the frustration stage and into this one, you need to actively try to make yourself at home in your new city.

As your surroundings become more familiar, you’ll find that you start feeling a little less homesick. This is because you’ll be able to recognize bits of the local language, start enjoying the food, and understand the transportation.

study abroad homesick tips

Finally feeling at home at the John Felice Rome Center 🙂

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You can jumpstart this process by doing any of the following things:

  • Make an effort to learn the language, even if your program doesn’t require that you take it.
  • Take a trip to the grocery store. If you know people’s stomachs, you know their heart. Pop in your earbuds and get to know the local grub.
  • Take a preplanned walk around your city. Bring a paper map with you and wander. Which brings me to….
  • Find a place that’s yours. Maybe it’s a special bench, overlook, of café. Anything that you can call your own will help ease the transitional homesickness.
  • Talk to a counselor. If you’re still feeling down in the dumps, don’t be embarrassed about going to speak with the counseling office at your study abroad program, or the international students coordinator if you’re at a university. Their job is literally to make your time abroad the best time ever.
study abroad homesick tips

My “special place” — Il Pellicano Gelateria

4. The Acceptance Stage

You might make it to this stage, you might not. But after weeks, months, or even years of cycling through the previous stages of culture shock, you will get to the point where you can simply accept your new culture for what it is. It doesn’t mean that you understand it – or even like it – but you can function just fine and feel joy, not resentment.

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Practice Self Care

While you’re still navigating homesickness abroad and the stages of culture shock, try these “quick fix remedies.”

  • Set up a weekly Skype session with the person you miss most. And don’t cancel!
  • Watch a familiar show. If you binge Pretty Little Liars in America, keep up with it in Australia. The characters can be like old friends and bring sense of normalcy to your new life.
  • Create a routine. On Tuesdays you have lunch at the café down the road. On Wednesdays you Skype with mom. On Thursdays you do laundry. Stability is a great way to combat homesickness.
study abroad homesick tips

Friends in Firenze.

Now go forth and prosper! And you can cry. That’s totally okay.

If you’re studying abroad this semester and need to vote in the American elections, click here. 

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