The Amateur Travelers Guide to Preparing for Your First Trip Abroad

For the past twelve weeks I have been over 200 miles away from home and I’m about to go even farther. This got me thinking about how being only one state over from my school and family was preparing me to be an ocean away from them. I’ve had the luxury of embarking on quite a bit of domestic travel in my lifetime, but my most impressive (and only) international destination has been Canada. For us Washingtonians that’s like going next door, i.e. not that impressive. Here are three tips that really helped me prepar e for my departure to the Netherlands!

Start in Your Own Backyard

Urshula and friends taking pictures of their shadows on the Tacoma pier
Me and friends exploring Tacoma, WA

You don’t have to go very far to experience the unfamiliar. If the first time you’re surrounded by people unlike yourself is on a study abroad in a different country, the immediate culture shock might be a little intimidating and hard to cope with. One of my favorite things about living in the Seattle/Tacoma area is the wide array of people and subcultures you’ll come across. This can be as simple as going to a new restaurant with a cuisine you’ve never tried or just talking to neighbors and coworkers to learn about their cultural backgrounds.

Now Go a Little Bit Further

Ursula in front of a coffee shop at a street fair in Portland, OR
Me at a street fair in Portland, OR

Now that you’ve explored your own city it’s time to get a little bit more adventurous. An important lesson I’ve learned is that travel is not limited to grand excursions to Croatia or picnics in front of the Eiffel Tower. I spent the entire summer at an internship in Portland, OR. I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest my entire life, so I wasn’t really expecting anything new. To my surprise, I learned quite a bit just from meeting locals and experiencing the city with other travelers. In my journey to becoming a non-amateur traveler, the time I spent in Portland is just as important as my next trip.

Research, Research, Research

So, we’ve officially got the travel bug now that the city excursions and day trips are out of the way. Now it’s time for the deep dive into preparing for studying abroad. I’ve never been on an international flight, had to exchange currencies, or needed to ask my bank if they’ll charge me international transaction fees. These are all important things to get checked off of my to-do list, no matter how intimidating they seem. Besides looking into the logistics of your program abroad (passports, visas, booking flights, etc.) take the time to research the history and sights you’ll come across when you get there. I promise that doing so will make it that much more impactful when you see it in person.

We’ll see how these tips serve me as I embark on my biggest trip yet!



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