Written by Olivia Sutton (U.S.-Indiana)
As a girl who couldn’t even sleep over at friends’ houses as a child, I was the last person you would expect to study abroad. So when it was time to board the plane from Cincinnati to Atlanta and then finally to Stuttgart, Germany, emotions were running high. It was a strange mix of excitement, nerves, and fear, but most of all I couldn’t wait to see what Germany had in store for me.
Now that I'm back home in the Midwest, I can look back on my study abroad experience and know without a doubt, it was the best five months of my life. Here are some tips that I think help in guaranteeing that your study abroad experience is second to none!
1. Pick the right school
Some people have a specific country, language, or program in mind that weighs heavily on which school they pick. Whatever your reasoning is, be sure to research your options thoroughly. I knew I wanted to study in Germany, so I looked at programs with a strong business curriculum, but also schools that weren’t too “American.” Some universities teach exclusively in English or are in touristic cities, so the authentic German atmosphere I wanted would have been missed. Tübingen was the perfect blend of business courses and a whimsical, storybook German town that welcomed me with open arms.
2. Be all in
Before I embarked on my journey, my mom gave me some good advice: “say yes to whatever is offered.” Of course, don’t partake in illegal activities or anything that makes you really uncomfortable, but if something is outside of your comfort zone, give it a shot. A few times when I thought I was too tired or something was happening too late, I remembered that advice and said yes!
My trick to breaking out of my comfort zone was to be all in during my study abroad experience. I wanted to make great friends and experience new things, and if I was afraid of that or always stayed at home, I would’ve missed out on some great people and times. If you always say no to new things, then why are you studying abroad?!
A study abroad trip is so short, so put all of your energy during this little time into your adventures. Live in the present and put your heart and soul into your new home; I promise it will pay off. Leaving Germany, I have never felt so comfortable in my own skin and it’s all thanks to being all in and living it up every day.
TIP: Rainy weather? Grab a trash bag from the hostel before you leave (or anywhere!) and protect your suitcase!
3. Treat everyone you meet as a future best friend
When I landed in Germany, I knew a few acquaintances from Butler, but that’s it. My first priority after surviving and not getting robbed was making friends, which is good because friends actually help you survive and not get robbed. I am not a judgmental person by nature and typically get along with everyone, but when studying abroad, it’s so important to treat everyone as your future best friend because they just might become one! You don’t want to burn any bridges or not put yourself out there. The people I met abroad are the reason my experience was so amazing, and I am so lucky to have a long list of best friends from all over the world.
The blog posts featured in this section are written by friends we've made around the globe that want to share their experiences, lessons they've learned, and tips and tricks.