Why You Need To Study Abroad In College

The summer before my Junior year of college I studied abroad in Costa Rica and it was the best experience of my college career. One of my minors is Spanish so I chose Costa Rica to help me fulfill those requirements, but it ended up being the perfect choice for me for so many reasons.

Studying abroad is only an option while you're in school

You need to study abroad in college because you will never have this opportunity again. Sure in the future you can travel, but not for school credit and you will not be living there for an extended period of time. You also get to know locals your age, which is another experience that is often left out while traveling.

Plus, the older you get the more roots you put down. You'll want to start a family, buy a house (maybe), have a 9-5 career, whatever. These obligations are not going to allow you to travel for more than a few weeks at a time. While you're in school is your time to figure out who you are and have as many experiences as possible, and studying abroad is a must-have experience.

It is the experience of a lifetime

Especially if you are traveling to a place where English is not the first language, like I did. Personally, I believe studying abroad needs to be required to graduate because it really broadens your horizons. The reason why Costa Rica was a perfect choice for me is because I'm such a high-strung busy body. I always feel like I need to be doing something and I never take the time to relax. Costa Rica was the opposite. For example, while on a city bus the driver stops in the middle of a busy street, gets out, and orders a coffee from a cafe, gets back into the bus, and continues to drive. Everyone on the bus reacted as if this was totally normal and stayed so calm. After this trip I became much more patient and collected.

You also have to see the world. It is so much bigger than your tiny little version of the world that consists of your home, school, and job. You need to see how other people live and what they live for. This reduces ignorance, too. You can always tell who is a world traveler and who stays within their community. Be the world traveler.

You will learn the language...

If you are studying a language you absolutely have to study where they speak the language. There is no other way to become proficient. Before Costa Rica I did not have the confidence to speak in Spanish even though I could understand and write in it. You have to become immersed in the language and have it everywhere around you 24/7 to switch your brain from translating between the two languages and simply thinking in both. While I was abroad I had dreams in Spanish (and still do sometimes) so this really is important.

Traveling is super cheap

And you have people with you to figure out traveling abroad with you so it's not so scary. My most favorite memory of Costa Rica was when we decided to travel to a particular beach on our own and planned it ourselves. It was so much easier than I had built it up to be and I'm so glad I did it. You're paying to study abroad so see as much of the world as you can while you're there!

A few last things...

  • Your college will help walk you through the whole entire Study Abroad process, and most likely has exchange programs that are the bomb (it's what I did) so ask for those.
  • Research the country you are going to so you understand the social dos and don'ts. Each culture has their own customs and you need to make sure you are seen as polite while you are there (you are representing the U.S. after all)
  • You can always study abroad. Don't make excuses that it doesn't fit into your schedule. You have electives you can use up, or you can add a few more credits to future semesters. Don't make excuses to miss out on this opportunity.
  • Travel alone. Don't bring your boyfriend or best friend abroad with you. Meet new people and use this time to be confident in yourself and your independence.
7 Ways To Make Finals Week Stress Free

If you want to know how I graduated with a 3.75 GPA, while working almost full-time and going to school more than full-time (18 or 21 credits each semester)… here’s how!

1. Go to Class During the Semester

I know this sounds too easy, but seriously this is the number 1 reason I never stressed out during finals week. I went to almost every class and was mentally present during each class. This meant I had much less studying to do than my classmates because I didn’t have to learn content for the first time on my own. PLUS you will ALWAYS get a better grade on an essay exam if you use the professor’s own wording. If you write down almost word for word how they described something, you cannot be wrong (obviously) and by going to class every day you learn the teacher’s speaking style so you can mimic it on your essay.

2.  Take Notes in a Notebook and Transfer Them To A Word Document

Studies show you remember what you physically write down much more than typing, however, going through your notebook to fill out a study guide is time consuming. If you transfer what is on your notebook to a word document you are not only going over the lecture and studying that way, but when finals week pops up you can CTRL + F and find the answers to the study guide questions much, much quicker.

3.  Sleep

Finals week was when I would sleep the most. My sister (the psych major) confirmed that sleeping is when your brain processes memory. That means the less sleep you get, the less you remember. Nap every day, get your 8 hours, take 2 naps if you can. This is why going to class is so important, if you do not need to teach yourself the material you missed by not going to class, you can use that time to sleep and meditate and you’ll be in much better shape to get an A on that final.

4. Download the Quizlet App

If you need to memorize things for class, you need this app. You can study flashcards on the bus, in the car, in line, anywhere as long as you have your phone. This is the sole reason I could take Spanish as a minor with all of the vocab memorization. When it came to the final, I knew all the words because I would study flashcards on the shuttles and when I got to class early.

5. SLAY

During the semester slay your assignments, work hard on them and get good grades. When it comes to assignments, such as a midterm paper, your professors are available to help you and would honestly be thrilled if you showed up to office hours to make sure you have an A-paper. And guess what happens when you get A’s on assignments? You don’t have to worry about your final because your grade is already pretty stable. If you don’t need your final to help you pass a class, then you’ll be much less stressed, trust me.

6. Use Your Resources

You have the best minds in your state at your service for FREE. Go to free tutoring with one of your friends you met in class (assuming you took my advice in 15 Things to Do Your First Week of College). Go to free writing labs to write kick-butt papers that will get your grades solidified before finals. Talk to your teachers during office hours. Do everything you can. You’re only in school for 4 years (unless you further your education). Kill it by taking advantage of what’s available to you, because when you’re no longer a student you can’t take back all of the things you didn’t do.

7. Remind Yourself That it’s Temporary

I cannot even count the number of times I told myself, ” In ___ days this will all be over and I’ll be sleeping in until 12:30pm“. Just keep repeating this to yourself. Finals week is only a week and you’ve prepared for it, and you will not have to worry about them after your last one.

The Top 8 Things I Regret From My Time In College

1. Not Joining More Clubs

You’re probably sick of people telling you to join clubs because they seem like a lot of work, and I thought so too. I honestly wish I would have joined more. A club is where you meet your network. It is what you write on your resume to have employers view you as “skilled’ without experience. This is how you stay too busy for toxic relationships. Being in a club is how you have cool, college experiences.

2. Waiting until my Senior Year to Intern.

This may or may not come as a surprise, but when you graduate from college, employers already want you to have years of experience for an entry level job. I know this sounds absurd, and believe me I was flabbergasted myself when I was looking for a job after graduation, but it’s true. However, an internship will give you that experience and help you get a job right out of college. PLUS most jobs are found within people’s network, so who you intern with could potentially hire you, or know of someone who would hire you. Interning is priceless and absolutely a must while in college.

3. Focusing on a Relationship

Unless your relationship is hassle-free and never makes you worry or stress-out, don’t have one. Just end it or put it on hold until you graduate. It is really hard to slay an exam when you’re significant other is fighting with you about your plans for the break afterward. Just trust me on this, there are plenty of ways to curve the loneliness that do not involve relationship-drama.

4. Getting a Car

It’s super nice to have a car if it’s paid off, or was a gift, or won’t hurt you financially in any other way, but I was not in that situation. Having a car payment to worry about on top of student loans, and working, and rent, and food, and gas, and books, etc, was way too much stress for an 18 year old. Save your bills for when you graduate. Embrace public transportation or a bike. For real, I could’ve taken trips with the amount of money I spent monthly on a car that literally just took me to a job I worked to pay for the car.

5. Getting a Dog

I love my dog to death and he is amazing, but I wish I was getting him now in my life rather than when I was a student. It was hard finding sitting for him whenever I wanted to travel. My parent’s had to watch him for months at a time when my life was too hectic to be home. So much money was spent on food, shots, veterinary care, etc. I know how hard it is to say no to a dog (hence why I have one), but get a fish until you graduate and a new puppy can be your gift to yourself for finding a job. Dogs also need a ton of exercise and studying at the dog park in January in the snow was not my most favorite memory of college.

6. Being a Hermit

I was super busy in college, and I used that as an excuse to not go out and do things and meet people. This made my life more difficult. If I missed class, it was hard to get the notes because I didn’t know the people in my class. When people invited me out I said no and now my networking pool is much more shallow than I would like it to be. Meet as many people as possible and stay in touch with them!

7. Letting Family Drama Stress Me Out

Leave family at home. This is why it is critical to move out, even though it is so much cheaper to live at home through school. Even if your parents went to college, they will not understand you and your life and they will be so stressful. They don’t try to be, and we love them, but this is the time where you’re setting the foundation for the rest of your life. It is really hard to make sure you’re on the right path in your life if you have to come home and hear your parent’s plan for you every night.

8. Not Setting Goals

I wish I would have set more goals for myself in college and worked towards actually achieving them. I would have been more successful now had I had done so.

15 Things To Do Your First Week of College

1. Find your buddy

This person may not be your forever friend right off the bat. It could be someone you met in high school, at orientation, your new roommate, it doesn’t matter. As long as you get along make this person your buddy for your first week. Go to all of the Welcome-Week events that that your school is offering with your buddy, at least until you can find a better buddy, because you’ll have more confidence meeting new people.

2. Meet as Many People as Possible!

Speaking of meeting new people with your buddy, this is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. I cannot stress this enough. I spent most of my first weekend in college in my room reading and waiting for my best friend to get off work to hang out with someone. DO NOT DO THIS. This is your weekend to meet as many people as possible because your network is going to be so important in college. You never know if these people will be in your class and be able to take notes for you when you’re out, or if they have hook ups to free food, or if they’ll become your best friend for the rest of your life. Plus, people are never more friendly than the first week of college, because they’re all looking for their group of friends, too.

3. Be a “Yes-Person”

No, but really. Not only will saying “yes” to all of the opportunities help you to meet new people, but you will have great experiences and do things you’ve never done before. This is the week to get outside of your comfort zone, because after the second or third week of school you will have your routine in place that will revolve around classes, a part-time job, and your tight group of friends. It is never easier to have great experiences than it is your first week.

4. Find Your Classes BEFORE Your First Day

I was lucky to have attended a summer transition program that helped first-generation college students adapt to life on campus. My sister just started her freshman year, and she was lucky to have me to show her where all of her classes are on campus so she doesn’t get lost on her first day. If you are not lucky enough to have an experience like this, then the day before classes start, go around campus and scout your classes. Do it with your buddy and you can meet other freshman too who will probably be doing the same thing.

5. Stock Up on Comfort Food

This applies to college in general. This is not the time in your life when you’re going to get in amazing shape, eat a raw, vegan diet, and run marathons, unless you already do these things or have a ridiculously easy major. Your mental health is going to be so important during this huge transition in your life and you’re going to feel lonely and miss home. Make sure you have foods from home stocked up to make you feel better. Disclaimer: This does not mean you can eat only fast food and junk, you need to stay sharp for a multitude of reasons, and if you’re sick you’re missing class, so make sure you’re also eating reasonably healthy.

6. Buy the Large Pack of Emergen-C

College will be one of the most stressful times in your life, no matter what your parents say. When you’re stressed your cortisol levels are raised and you are at a greater risk of getting sick... not to mention there are thousands of students surrounding you all the time, especially in your dorm. Drink a packet of Emergen-C every day. You will also have more energy and Vitamin C is good for your skin, nails, hair, and everything else that relies on cell health. This seriously saved my life in college.

7. Mark Every Assignment in Your Syllabus

Buy a planner or familiarize yourself with a calendar app and as soon as your professor gives you the class syllabus. Take 5 minutes and write down every single assignment and when they’re due. It is almost impossible to fail a class where you have turned in every assignment (almost). I color coded my planner and crossed off each assignment as I did them, but do what works for you.

8. Set Goals for the Semester, Year, and Next 4 Years

Studies show you are more likely to complete a goal that you write down. Write down your goals for this semester, (get a 3.5 GPA, join a club), the year (make the Dean’s list, find a summer internship, etc) and for your college career (graduate with a job, get into Law School, etc). This is vital to your success in college.

9. Take Your Roommate Agreement Seriously

You’re roommate might seem great now, and hopefully they always will, but you never know what can happen to flip that switch and you need to be prepared. If you’re not okay with dirt, say so. If you’re not okay with boys spending the night on weeknights, say so. Make sure you get it in writing and that all parties sign. This is crucial to keeping the peace because it won’t be personal when you ask them to change their behavior, it’s simply what was agreed upon. I wrote a post on how to have a healthy relationship with your roommate that you should also read because your roommate relationship is key to your happiness.

10. Meet Everyone On Your Floor

Especially if they’re keeping their door open, go in and introduce yourself, add them on Snapchat or Facebook, and be super friendly (plus it’ll help you remember their names). You never know when you’ll need someone to let you into the building because you forgot your key, or if you need them to turn down their music so you can sleep, etc. Having this fundamental relationship, no matter how basic, makes this MUCH easier. PLUS people are generally more respectful towards people they like, so make them like you and you eliminated a plethora of problems.

11. Meet Your R.A.

And get their phone number. My R.A. was never in her room and when I needed her for issues relating to my roommates she was nowhere to help. If I would have gotten her number that first week it would have made my life so much easier, and during the first week asking for people’s number is normal… halfway through the semester it’s just weird.

12. Spend Minimal Time in Your Dorm

I’m sure your roommate is great and binge-watching Netflix is a hard habit to break during free time, but you need to be meeting people and I doubt you can do that from your dorm. Go to the cafeteria, hang out outside if the weather’s nice, go to places near campus, and bring your buddy. You have no excuses on this one, even if you have to study, you can do so from Starbucks and not your dorm. Like I said, this is the week where everyone is the friendliest.

13. Meet as Many People In Your Classes as Possible

THIS IS SO IMPORTANT. Do not go into class on your first day and sit by yourself with RBF and not talk to people, like I did. Sit by someone who looks friendly, preferably who is already talking to people, and introduce yourself and exchange social media. For real you are going to need them, you will get sick and need notes, or need help studying, etc. You need contacts in your classes. Plus, chances are you’ll get along with them because you have something in common… this class.

14. Fix Your Crappy Schedule

Have an 8AM class? Drop that crap. Have a Friday class? Drop it immediately. Taking a class about a topic that bores you to death? Drop it. Your professor tells you their class is going to be ridiculously hard and everyone who has taken it has hated it? Drop it. Unless it is the ONLY class and you NEED it to graduate, drop the class and replace it. Most colleges have a degree progression plan that you can go off of to see that classes you need so you can replace them. The first week is also a feeding frenzy because people are constantly adding and dropping classes to fix their schedule, so join and enjoy your semester. Make an appointment with your advisor when you think you have a good schedule to make sure you’re okay if you’re unsure how your class database works.

15. Call Your Family

They’re going through a transition, too. Call them and catch up to ease their nerves. PSA: When calling/FaceTiming your family always do so before an event you need to go to so you have a reason to go and say goodbye. A perfect time is an hour before a class starts, this makes saying goodbye easier and you have allotted yourself a time limit to talking to them, with an activity afterward to keep you from getting homesick.