While most Americans are preparing for another semester of illegal underage drinking, rigorous class schedules and close attention to punctuality, some of us are setting sail toward exotic locations. We may gain gelato weight and may even be pickpocketed within the first month (tag yourself, I’m the person being pickpocketed), it’s worth it for the Instagram likes.
Here’s some advice that I wish I had given myself before I left the country for a whole semester. Yes, various sources told me similar things, but no one as funny or low-key as me did, and I am willing to be that person for you. You’re welcome in advance.
- Packing: Do not fall for the Big Luggage Conspiracy that convinces to check two suitcases. Honestly, all you really need is a bandana tied around a stick containing your parents’ AmEx and a can-do attitude. You will seem extra charming if you engage in some soulful jug-blowing, so make sure your bandana can fit the empty jug too.
- Making friends: The easiest way to forge a bond with someone is through hardship, and what’s harder than flying economy for eight hours, being served a mediocre dinner and then only being able to use your phone if there’s Wi-Fi? If you start complaining loudly enough, you’ll eventually attract other people with your privileged, whiny and overbearing vibe. Foolproof.
- Culture shock: It’s totally okay to be fearful and suspicious of almost everyone in your host country. But don’t let that stop you from making friends with other American college students! These people will be your surrogate familia, so to speak, so make sure they are open to new things, like pregaming at midnight instead of 11 p.m. and drinking mojitos instead of vodka sodas. Getting out of your comfort zone is what studying abroad is all about.
- Living arrangements: For me, the best way to get adjusted to my host family was to treat them just like my family back in the U.S. That meant interacting with them when they fed me, and then retreating into my bedroom to watch Netflix when they weren’t offering me food. I set this precedent on day one and have not had an issue with them since. Once they became really comfortable with me, I started taking long, hot showers and leaving my belongings all over their home. It’s been a dream.
- Other logistics: You can get an international phone plan, or wait until you arrive in your destination to purchase an international SIM card. Either way, if you don’t have enough data to post killer Instagram stories of you clinking glasses during the day because you’re legal and it’s just, like, a different culture here, then you might as well go home. Data will also come in handy when you go out to crazy discotecas and want everyone back home to see them. You know they will because you’ll be posting at, like, 10 p.m. their time, but then they’ll do the calculation and realize you’re partying at 4 a.m. your time, and it will be amazing.
- Crimes: If you can get your phone stolen, you’ll instantly level up. Post a self-congratulatory Facebook status about how “everything happens for a reason” and it’s probably best that you unplug from our modern online toxicity, and share your new international phone number complete with an exotic country code. Finally, your friends will be forced to constantly take photos of you, and you’ll have a reasonable excuse! Totally a win-win.
With these tips, told to you in my signature tone, you too can rule the entire world just like the imperialist American you are.