My 10 tips for studying abroad

My 10 tips for studying abroad

Molly Martin ‘19

Overlooking Athens, Greece


Many Messiah College students have an affinity for traveling, whether it is taking a trip on their own or seeing the world through a study abroad program. Traveling is exhilarating but not always easy, as I learned from my recent cross-cultural trip to Greece. Here are ten tips to consider before you find yourself zipping up your suitcase, winding through the airport security lines, and buckling your seatbelt for takeoff.

1. Rain jackets and sneakers are your new best friends.

Besides holding onto your airplane blanket to keep you warm at night and serve as a beach towel for the kid on your trip who forgot one, a jacket and a good pair of sneakers will save your life. Even if you wake up to a beautiful sunny morning, add a waterproof jacket to your bag. In Greece, the gods like to make it rain for about an hour and then hurl the sun at you to burn you to a crisp, all while you hike up the side of a mountain. That being said, we walked over 20,000 steps a day, so wear sneakers, too. Your feet will like you, and that is all you really need, right?

Stadium in Greece


2. Journal.

I like pretty notebooks… but I like eating gelato by the sea and walking through the ruins of Ancient Greek cities more. Journaling is a miserable black hole of time consumption; however, spending a few moments each night writing about your day will be very important in the end—especially because most cross-cultural trips require written responses. At the very least, keep a running list of the places you went to and the inside jokes you made with your friends to look back on.

3. Be responsibly irresponsible.

AKA: Do not get injured, but go ahead and climb into sketchy tunnels. Cliff jump into the Aegean Sea. Feed a stray cat. When in Greece, right?

4. Never turn down an opportunity.

Actually, a friend of mine gave me this advice a few weeks before I left, but I am relaying it to you as well. I made some awesome friends in the first few days just because I agreed to climb up to the top of a monument and look out over the city of Athens in the middle of the night. You may never get the chance to do some of these things again!

Group of students in Greece


5. Always use the free bathroom.

Yes, even if it is a Turkish toilet. Free bathrooms are a blessing.

6. Create a capsulized wardrobe.

I understand we do not all have this packing talent, but the next time I travel, I am logging into Pinterest and planning out every single outfit. One of my friends took the time to capsulize her wardrobe before leaving home and we were definitely jealous of how put together she looked while we trekked all over the country.

7. Make a house stay a priority.

I really recommend spending part of your journey with a host family, at a tiny bed and breakfast like my classmates and I did, or at the very least, befriending some locals. Meeting people outside of the general tourist areas is how you learn about a different culture firsthand: its values, morals, language, attitude and lifestyle.

8. Talk to people.

This is actually a lot easier than you think, and probably because everyone else on your trip is just as desperate to make friends as you are. Talk to strangers wherever you travel. A few months ago, I was in Greece talking to two women in French at the top of a castle in Nafplio! We also became friends with some other college tour groups, a few Israeli travelers on the beach, and a really sweet British couple at our hotel. So reach out—you never know what friendships may come of it!

9. Eat. Everything.

Here is my philosophy: you are going to walk it all off anyway (we put in about nine or ten miles each day), so have two crepes for lunch. Also, where else are you going to have honey straight from the comb, corn from a street vendor, real Greek yogurt, or a gyro with tzatziki sauce?

10. Take time to relax.

Students wearing sandals in Greece


Listen: traveling with thirty people is not always a walk in the park. Even though I love people and exploring, I process things like an introvert. About half way through the trip, I had to take an afternoon to nap and chill by myself for a little bit. Whether this means spending a night in, doing your devotions, quietly gazing out over the farmland in Meteora, or going for a run, quiet time is a-okay!

So, Messiah students, do you think a cross-cultural trip sounds like an experience of a lifetime? Check out the trips Messiah has to offer—and they’re coming up—by clicking here.