How to Prepare to Study Abroad

Studying abroad can be one of the best times in a student’s life. It gives you an opportunity to explore new places, try new foods, and experience new cultures. Many people see study abroad courses as trans-formative experiences that change the way that you view the world. However, there is much to think about and plan before getting up and moving to a different country for a semester, a year, or any extended time. Here are four important things to do and figure out before going abroad.

Prepare Proper Identification


When traveling to another country you will likely need a passport. If you do not already have one, obtaining one can be a semi long process. It is important to think ahead and get your passport sorted out before it is too late. It is important while overseas to keep your passport and identification stored in a safe place. Losing your ID or passport can create massive problems while abroad.

Sort Out Your Money


You will likely need a different currency when traveling abroad. It is necessary to either change your currency to the local one, or to find a credit or debit card that works overseas and has minimal charges that you can use. Airports tend to be an expensive place to exchange currency so seek out alternative places such as some banks.

Phone Plans


Figuring out a phone plan is important for study abroad programs, as using a domestic phone overseas can really run up your telephone bill. Different carriers have different options and it is important to look through each one and figure out which one is the most cost efficient and works the best for you.

Safety Protocol


It is important to be safe overseas as you will be in a place that is unfamiliar to you and will likely not have as much family and friends nearby to lean on if you need help. It is important to create a safety plan to ensure that you will be safe and able to enjoy your study abroad to the fullest!

Comment below with your study abroad tips and experiences!

4 Alternative Spring Break Ideas

With March just around the corner, Spring Break will be here before you know it. With more free time than usual, you may be tempted to spend the entire break watching cat videos but there are plenty of alternative Spring Break options to make the most of your time off.

1. Travel

Vacationing over spring break is an obvious and popular choice. Shake off your cabin fever from spending all winter indoors with a nice getaway. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or exotic (although it certainly wouldn’t hurt) to be an amazing vacation. For any traveling needs like finding out flight, hotel or car rental prices, is one of the leading search websites in doing so. World Map

2. Volunteer

Spending time helping others is always time well spent. Spring break is a fabulous time to help out around your community or in another city. Some colleges even offer programs to volunteer in communities abroad. Habitat for Humanity is a great organization to get involved in as a student, for more information, you can see if your college has a campus chapter at  

Habitat for Humanity

3. Get Organized

The middle of the semester is a good time to get organized. Clearing out old papers from last semester and cleaning up your living space will make a huge difference in your work ethic and stress level. When you are throwing all those papers away, remember to recycle. Its a great option to take when getting organized because not only are you cleaning up, you are doing something good for the environment, and if you would like to know more about recycling check out Earth911.

 Messy desk

4. Revamp and Refresh

With winter gone, a new fitness routine is in order. Spring break is the perfect time to trade in your treadmill run for a run in the park or on the beach. Fresh air and sunshine are sure-fire ways to motivate your workout (and let’s face it, summer is getting dangerously close). If you would like some work out encouragement, check out some of the videos on Fitness Magazines website that you can use during your routine.


Try out this list and you’ll feel refreshed and ready to take on the rest of the semester by the end of the break!

WARNING: By the end of your awesome spring break you may feel an urge to start a countdown to summer break. Side effects include procrastination, loss of motivation, and an urge to burn textbooks.

The Hardest Part About Studying Abroad

Our planet is beautiful. Everywhere you look you can find awe-inspiring natural wonders, amazing cultural icons, or huge testaments to the brilliance of mankind. I firmly believe that all college students should spend some amount of time studying abroad (if they can afford it). Being immersed in an entirely different culture can be terrifying, but at the same time, it can teach you so much about the world around you. But that’s not even the best part of traveling the world. Learning about others, helping others, and being forced to adapt to new areas can teach you things about yourself that you never would have learned otherwise. For most students the hardest question is actually quite a difficult one: Where should I go? As much as I’d like to answer that by saying you should go everywhere, that advice wouldn’t really be feasible. That being said, here’s my attempt to help any students along with their destination decision.


Europe: I, myself, would LOVE to study abroad in Europe at some point. I’ve already been to Italy, Greece, and England, myself. An AMAZING advantage to traveling to Europe, is that every country is so close, and every cultural area you could possibly want to see is literally a two hour drive away at most. You can easily just decide that you want to go to the Edinburgh castle in Ireland, even if you’re staying in Italy! One drawback to this, however, is that a short summer or winter session might not be enough for you. I highly recommend staying for a full fall or spring semester to truly experience all that you can. 

Asia: I will start off with a warning. Many cultures and traditions in Asian countries WILL be quite….hard to understand at first. If you’re ever to experience culture shock, it’ll occur when you make the transition between America, and, for example, Japan. I’m not saying this is a bad transition at all! However, for a little while, you probably will feel out of place. The time I spent in Japan was possibly one of the coolest and most interesting, but at the same time, I had NO CLUE what I was doing. If you ever want to experience a culture that is completely different from our own, DEFINITELY go to Asia. I guarantee you will come back with a different perspective on life, in addition to some fun stories!

Africa/Middle East: At this time, unless you’re planning on going to help other people, traveling to this area might not be the best idea. Unfortunately, it’s become dangerous to travel in the Middle East, and being American isn’t exactly the best label you could have. However, nothing helps you grow as a person better than helping others in need. There are many college organizations, such as Engineers Without Borders, that help villages and towns that are suffering. This might be a great way for you to really expand your horizons and do some good for the world!

Just remember, be prepared when traveling abroad! There are lots of resources for inexpensive travel plans for students and tips on traveling safe, so read up! Also, try to learn as much of the language as you can. It will definitely help you, and locals always seem to like it when you actually try to speak their language. Hopefully this will help with any decisions you might be making in the near future!

I would say “Bon Voyage!” but I would never forgive myself for being so cliché.

The Travel Bug: Tips and Tricks for Saving Money Abroad

Lately, I have had the absolute worst case of wanderlust.  Instead of directing my energy towards my senior portfolio like a good little journalism student should, I’m daydreaming about sipping café con leche in Madrid, and sailing the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean in a fabulous white boat.  The travel bug has taken over, and I think it’s here to stay.  That is, until I can afford a one-way ticket to Europe.

Ever since I took my first trip abroad at the age of ten, I have always had a longing to see what that great big world has to offer.  Europe was first, and in the years to follow, I found myself in Asia and Africa, each trip making me more and more eager to travel.  My desire is now at an all time high, but unfortunately, my savings account is at an all time low.

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you too have little money, due to something I like to call the poor college kid syndrome.  Luckily, traveling doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg, if you do it right.  Consider these money saving tips next time the travel bug comes over you.

1.  Rethink your strategy.  It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of a glamorous vacation.  You know, that first class ticket to Paris, expensive hotel suite with a million dollar view of the sparkly Eiffel Tower, and a nightly dinner of caviar and champagne delivered to your room by a handsome Frenchman dressed in a Louis Vuitton tuxedo.  Well I got news for you sister: Your budget won’t even get you past security if this is what you’re expecting!  Remember, you’re there to explore a new culture, not to see how many designer botiques you can visit in a week.  Change your expectations and stay open-minded, and you’ll find an endless number of affordable options!

2.  Try Couch Surfing.  Yes, this really does exist and it is exactly what it sounds like.  Pick a country, or five, and browse thousands of profiles of friendly people eager to host you for FREE in their home.  I know it sounds sketchy, but millions have done it in over 193,000 cities around the world.  The best part?  Instead of paying big bucks to stay in a stuffy hotel, you get to learn all about the cultural and area attractions from a friendly local, and you can spend your money on delicious eats instead! Visit to learn all about it!

3.   Booking your flight.  You can never be too prepared when it comes to traveling.  As soon as you start considering a trip abroad, begin checking airlines for flight prices.  Websites like lets you compare several different airlines to find the best rate.  Look for reservations months in advance, and continue checking back every few days.  As soon as you see a drop in the price, snag that seat.  It’s common for travelers to wait for prices to drop dramatically, and then end up missing out on great deal.  As long as you check those prices regularly, you’ll recognize a price decrease when you see it!

Bon Voyage you world travelers!

New City, New Sites: Salt Lake Travels

When I moved to Salt Lake City for the summer I set big expectations for myself. I was going to be outdoorsy, hike, and climb mountains.

I’ve been here for a month.

I’ve barely seen the salt lake (Does from the plane count?!). I haven’t climbed any mountains. I have hiked or even seen any trails.

I’m clearly lagging behind.

Utah is beautiful—home to parks, mountains and wildlife. A photographers dream! Yet here I am, working full time and missing the “sites”.

Or am I?

I came here for an internship. I should definitely take advantage of the scenery. I have to. But just because I haven’t camped in the mountains doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced some of the best things about being here.

I’ve created a routine.

I go to work. I head to the gym. I shop for groceries. I drive around singing and dancing to Call Me Maybe while looking at the mountains.

Sounds like fun to me.

I will definitely do things more “Utah”. But I think it’s cool that I fit in. I feel like a local—I could really live here. I’m not site seeing or trying to fit everything in all at once.

I’m relaxed. I’m enjoying the scenery, even if it’s from a distance. (It’s hard to miss the landscape—just look out a window!)

Internships are semi-permanent. The work isn’t always fascinating but then again, there’s more to life than your 9 to 5. I’m learning that now by being here.

I know I’ll get around to everything else, but for now, I love the little things—Like making dinner (not from a dining hall), and going to dollar movies, and experiencing the heat, minus sticky humidity!

I have a month left here, I’ll be curious to see what takes priority—the sites, or the lifestyle.

Only time will tell!

When in Italy…go to the Amalfi Coast!

One of the best parts of studying abroad is having the opportunity to travel—even more than you ever anticipated. Different countries, different cities, there are no limits to where you can go if you can find the time. In Florence, there are several agencies to help plan weekend and day trips wherever you can imagine—in and outside the country. After one week in Florence and learning our way around our smaller city, seven of us (among like 100 total) took a three day trip to Amalfi Coast through Florence for Fun. If you’re in Italy and can only take one trip, this is the one I’d recommend.

 After an eight hour bus trip from Florence (this part isn’t so fun, but sleep will make it go faster) and a short night in a hotel, we traveled to Capri via another short bus ride and a 45 minute long ferry. Once off one boat, we quickly got on another for an hour and a half long tour around the island. But at the beginning of our tour, we had the opportunity to enter the Blue Grotto. The grotto is famous for its crystal clear blue waters, made even more special with the boat guides singing opera that echoed off the small cave walls around us. If you’re claustrophobic and considering this trip, I’d carefully consider this part: to get into the grotto, you need to lie on your back or risk losing your head—seriously (well, sort of…it probably wouldn’t come off, but it wouldn’t be a fun injury!). Besides the Blue Grotto, tons of other grottos are around the island with many homes of the famous, like Armani, tucked into the hills. If you’re interested in shopping, walk around the designer stores, like Missoni and Chanel, for the season’s latest. And don’t forget a fantastic seafood lunch at Isidora’s—their spaghetti with clams is to die for.

The following day was all about the beach and Italian shoes! We drove down to Positano, about 45 minutes from our hotel in Sorrento. After trekking down thousands of stairs and all complaining about shaky legs, we immediately headed into La Botteguccia, famous for its beautiful handmade leather shoes. You can customize your shoes however you’d like, with a wide variety of colors and styles—it took forever for all of us to decide! The shoes are higher in price, starting at 45 euro for the most basic design, but it’s completely worth it: the shoes are fitted perfectly to your feet for ultimate comfort—a necessary when walking all over Florence. After an exhausting morning of shoe shopping, we headed to the free beach with black sand that turned into rocks—without our new sandals made yet, our feet got hot, hot, hot! But the Mediterranean has crystal blue water, tons of sea glass to collect, and a mild temperature perfectly suited to counteract the scorching sun.

To round out our long weekend, the group headed to Pompeii first for an intense history lesson. Reading about what happened at Pompeii is bizarre enough. Going there and trying to believe your eyes is even more difficult to grasp. So much, from the original marble floors, a mosaic in the entrance to a now mostly destroyed palace, pottery and even bodies have been completely preserved in almost perfect form. All the ruins were beautiful—even the brothels with strange frescoes of different sexual acts and the stone genitalia to signal these places of the night.

Topping off the amazing weekend, we traveled for another 45 minutes to Mount Vesuvius, or Mount Vesuvio as they call it here. The hike is only about 20 minutes all the way to the top, but what they don’t tell you is you need to make it up pretty steep, soft gravel—no matter what shoes you’re wearing, you’re going to slide a bit on the way up, and definitely on the way down! The views are so worth the effort though. Make sure you have plenty of water and take a bathroom trip before hand (they only have port-a-potties), to stay comfortable during your hike. And definitely don’t grab any of the rocks on your journey, unless you’re ready for some majorly bad juju.

All in all, the Amalfi Coast is a must-see when in Italy. You can’t go wrong with beach time and handmade shoes, that’s for sure!

Summertime: What a Trip!

I love to travel. There is something about taking a trip that gets me so excited. Whether it’s by plane, or train, I absolutely love going places. A trip means one of two things, you get to explore and see a new place that you’ve never been to before, or you get to revisit a favorite spot and revel in memories and past times. Traveling is an automatic win-win.

In fact, truth be told, one of the major reasons why I chose to go to college so far away from home was based on the possibility of adventure and exploring. My college mascot turned out to be the “Explorer”, but that was just a huge coincidence! Every semester I hop on a plane and head to school. Then once classes end, and my bags are packed, I head right back. However, the last two summers have been different.

Instead of staying home, which is a trip in it of itself, I decided to spread my wings a little further and explore some new territory. Last summer I went to London. When I wasn’t working or taking classes I was exploring and taking in everything the city had to offer. This summer I bounced around again. A few weeks ago I moved to Salt Lake City, Utah for an internship. It’s completely different than anything I have ever experienced. I’m from Kansas, go to school in Pennsylvania, and had never stepped foot in Utah until this summer. It’s an adjustment, but it’s also an adventure.

The summer is a perfect time to branch from the norm and experience something new, even if it’s just a vacation. You can take a road trip, book a cheap flight, or grab a group of friends and find a new adventure ground. And what’s the best part? You won’t be there forever. School starts in August. You can have your fun, see if you like it, and if not, be back in time for class.

So how do you decide where to go?

Your destination will depend on a couple of things. My travel spots have always been related to work. However, they don’t have to be! If you want to find an internship or job away for the summer, I would recommend searching early. Make arrangements in place that’s new, but also has connections—if you know people there it will at least make your summer transition smooth, and less lonely!

If work isn’t your priority but you’re looking for a summer getaway or fun place to explore, check out the bookstore. Look at books, search websites, and most importantly, check your budget. Does it make sense to road trip with your roommates across the country, or can you pick an equally fun spot closer to home?
Whatever you choose, I advise you use the summer break to your advantage. Once you graduate and pick a place to live it will get harder and harder to take trips and explore for the sake of exploring.

– Ring Queen

Study Abroad: Finding Your Way

We’ve been situated with our host families for about 5 days now, and the directions are becoming a little easier. So, for those you of you planning to go abroad in the future, here are some tips to start getting familiar with your surroundings.

First of all, be prepared with maps. The more you have, the better. Every map is different, and some will tell you stores or restaurants, or better views of streets. Sure, you risk looking like a tourist, but if you’re in classes there is no time to get lost—especially if you don’t know the language. Florence isn’t a huge city, but if you’re elsewhere it might not be so easy to find your way around. Plus, it’s not like you need to unfold an entire map and stop dead in the middle of the street. Fold your map to the section you need, so you’re more discrete and it’ll help you get your bearings quicker. Then you can simply tuck it into your pocket or bag, and take it out when necessary. If you pay to have an iPhone or smart phone that works abroad, you have it even easier: Google Maps! But still, make sure you pay attention to where you are so you don’t have to rely on help your whole stay.

Another way to help learn your way around is traveling in groups. Of course, at night especially, it’s safer overall to travel with at least one other person. But even during the day, working with someone else to get to your destination will prove extremely beneficial. Together, you can figure out different routes and determine where you are going faster. Like they say, two heads are better than one. Also, this is a great way to go on an adventure and get off the beaten path a bit. Instead of using your map, just venture around and see what you find (trying to pay at least some attention to where you are so you can visit these places again sometime). One of the best ways to explore a new place is to just go out without any real destination in mind—and a nice way to possibly avoid some of the overcrowded touristy areas.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you speak the language, ask people on the streets for directions—I’ve done this without speaking Italian, too, since pointing and nodding can go a long way. Talk to your host family if you’re staying with one, or the professors/school employees. They’re there to help you and they won’t be rude about giving you directions if you need them. Also, school friends may have already found cool routes to go on, so pairing up or asking around can be very helpful.

I have the worst sense of direction in the world, and I’m doing just fine so I’m sure you can figure it out too. Good luck, and happy adventures!

– ToonyToon

The Do’s & Don’ts of Airplane Travel

I’m on a jetplane and oh the places we will go! Airplanes symbolize travel and transportation. Right away you know that if you find yourself on one, you are traveling somewhere either foreign or domestic, to or from a state, or maybe if you’re lucky, to another country!

Airplanes are my primary mode of transportation to get to and from school each semester. I live in Kansas and travel back and forth a few times a year. I’d like to say I’m super familiar with these contraptions we call planes, but as a rising senior I feel like that’s still an understatement. In the last 6 semesters alone I have traveled on at least 16 flights, not including random trips. I have made several observations as to what constitutes acceptable travel habits, both on and off the plane.

Let’s start in the airport. The airport is the starting point of your travels. You arrive, check in, get situated and make your way through the terminal and security checkpoints to eventually end up at your gate. Now I have always had a rule that you should look semi-decent on planes. You never know who you might meet on you travels and you should always come prepared. However, there is a line. When I say you should look nice, that could mean a nice top, or cute outfit—fit with travel accommodations, of course.

Let me explain. Planes are crowded; airports can be big, and hard to maneuver. A cute outfit, or comfortable clothes can be both practical and stylish. I wouldn’t advise heels, 5 hundred bracelets or accessories, bulky belts and large amounts of metals. Why you ask? Well let’s think about it. Big belts, bunches of bracelets and any kind of metal will most likely catch you up at security. You slow down the line just thinking about taking it all off to go through the line. And if not just for the sake of others traveling, by wearing less complicated clothing, you will save yourself time and have a much more streamlined airport experience.
And why no heels? This one should be easy. You have to walk in airports, often for a while. Save your feet, and the rest of the plane passengers by just leaving them in your bag. Even the safety card makes you remove them in the event of a crash landing as to not pop or rip the inflatable slide—so let’s just be over prepared and not wear them to begin with. We will all thank you.

Alright, so we’ve made it through the airport, let’s move now to the plane.

It’s important for all travelers to understand that planes are confined spaces. There is limited room, shared air, and tons of people. So what does that mean? How should you act? My number one ‘do’ of airplane travel and pretty much the only thing you should remember when traveling is simple. Consideration. That’s all. Be aware of those around you. Regardless of how long your flight is—two hours or 20—make sure you are being considerate of you seatmates and everyone in the plane. Don’t talk extra loud, or bring a bag that takes up more space than an actual person. Something else to think about is the food you bring on a plane.

Here is a real story. Once on a plane, my seatmate brought on board a small box. I thought to myself, “Hmm that seems interesting. I wonder what it is?”. It was a picnic. A full sized, fully complete, picnic. She proceeded to eat everything inside quickly and aggressively, sparing no crumb. Now ordinarily I wouldn’t have minded. But it was only smelly, messy food. She got it all over her hands, and seat, and by default, me. Not considerate. Not pleasant.

So to wrap up, regardless of what you wear, or where you’re going, take time to think about your journey. Examine your options and how your travels will pan out. If you’re going to walk a lot, no heels. If you are flying and have to go through security, go light on the metal. And whatever you do, be considerate of those flying around you. No smelly fish sandwiches and crunchy chips. Please.

– Ring Queen

Traveling on a College Budget

Nothing beats a nice weekend trip to a not-so-far-away city or a mini vacation to another state after a long week of tests and due dates. While it’s fun to travel, it can be hard to coordinate if you don’t have a car with you on campus. Even without your own chauffeur, you can still travel fairly easily these days with a variety of options. And you don’t even have to dig in your couch cushions for some extra money!

MegaBus has become a popular option for college students looking to get from one city to another. They have routes that go virtually anywhere, including the ever popular NYC to the more obscure like Frederick, Pennsylvania. Though ticket price varies, you can travel from your school to another state for as little as $50 round trip. That definitely beats filling up your car with gas multiple times or searching for plane tickets at the last minute. Just remember it is a bus with a lot of other people—be prepared for a neighbor if you’re traveling alone and make sure your iPod is charged!

If you’re planning your trip ahead and traveling a bit farther, plane tickets might be your best bet. Besides Orbitz and and Priceline, you have another option that can often find you tickets for an even better price: Student Universe. This site is dedicated to giving students the cheapest plane tickets possible. They also offer deals for hotels and activities, much like Orbitz and Priceline—though with this site, you really do get the best price possible. So when you’re searching for your tickets, don’t forget to go to this site and fly for less.

Though many people don’t really think of it today beyond being in Sherlock Holmes movies, the train can be a relatively cheap way to travel. Yes, it takes longer than the plane (but what doesn’t?) and often the bus, but it could be more efficient for your bank account and less worrisome when going a long distance than having to confusingly transfer buses. Amtrak offers a variety of reservation options and departure times so you can figure out the lowest cost trip for you. Plus, traveling by train just sounds fun and old-timey.

If you do have a car, an easy way to save money on your trip is to carpool. Since you’re likely not going on a vacation by yourself, pack your car with your friends. Not only will all of you pay little in travel expenses by splitting the gas fill-ups, but you’ll also have a lot of fun while you’re traveling by playing car games. This option will also give you more freedom in terms of departure times, and you won’t have to worry about missing your connections.

Besides saving money on your actual travel costs, you can pad your bank account by getting good deals on where you crash for the night. Bed and Breakfasts are usually cheaper than the average hotel, though some of the really fancy ones can eat up your budget. Check sites like BNB Finder for deals on stays anywhere in the country. And don’t rule out hotels either. There are plenty of chains and other hotels who will offer deals for the amount of nights you stay, number of people in your group or just depending on the time of year. Factor Expedia, Priceline and Orbitz into your search. Hostels are also a cheap way to spend a night on your stay…but make sure to thoroughly do your research first so you don’t end up in a horror movie.

And don’t forget, depending on where you’re traveling to there’s always camping—meaning you can get rid of hotel costs all together! Just make sure you remember the bug spray. And pay attention to where the bathrooms are (if any). Also make sure you all stick together and don’t follow any strange noises in the woods.

As always, be safe and have fun on your travels while you save some Benjamins!


I’m reading Am Gov 2011