Before You Go:
- Apply to scholarships. I cannot stress how important this is. I received a scholarship that paid for my airfare in full simply for applying. Not only did this knock out nearly $1200 that I would have had to pay for a round trip plane ride, but my school handled the booking, and I was saved from the stress of having to book a flight.
- Do your research. Just because you might be exempt from having to do things like book a flight doesn’t mean you should expect for everything to be laid out and taken care of. I didn’t know until an hour before seat reservations opened up that passengers can reserve seats on a flight for free 24 hours in advance with British Airways. Same goes for all other aspects of your trip, such as learning rules about tipping, common courtesy, and use of currency in your new country.
- Pack smart. Make sure that your research includes a potential packing list. A lot of your favorite American food might not be available in another country, so if you don’t think you’ll be able to survive without your Reese’s Cups, pack a few. In addition, your 110V curling iron won’t work in a country that only takes 220V, so don’t pack it. You’ll save yourself space and a lot of disappointment when it doesn’t work and you blow a fuse.
- Square everything away with your bank and phone service. Make sure you know how you will be paying expenses while abroad, and how you will be communicating with friends and family back home. Consider purchasing an international credit card and a pay-as-you-go phone.
- On the plane, always accept what the flight attendants hand out. The UK apparently requires some sort of “visitor form” that I was required to fill out before going through Border Patrol, either on the plane or in line. Believe me, it was a pain having to do the latter because I couldn’t hear what the flight attendant was saying, and decided I probably didn’t need the little slip of paper he had in his hand.
- Be careful about your belongings. Shoulder-strap bags are a good idea to deter purse-thieves. I keep mine in front of me, zippered closed, with my hand on it constantly. We’ll see how it works out.
- Expect hidden expenses. Required bus ride from London Heathrow Airport to Oxford Central Station: £24.
- If you have a kitchen, take advantage of it. It will save you a lot of money not having to go out for every meal, and even if you weren’t originally a good cook, like me, you’ll find that it can still be very fun and rewarding!
- Talk to locals. This might be a bit harder if you don’t speak the language, but I encourage everyone to at least try! In England, it may seem like a no-brainer because everyone speaks English, but in actuality the culture is such that people don’t really talk to each other in the street. Still, talking to residents is a great way to find out more about the culture and the town. You may even find your favorite restaurant this way!
- Expect to a have a great time! Enough said. It’s nearly impossible not to enjoy yourself when you are in a different country.
More coming soon…..