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Traveling While Abroad

April 5, 2012

Traveling While Abroad

by Darci Miller

My backpack is packed, my tickets are printed, my passport is at the ready and my camera is fully charged. My train to Paris leaves in exactly three hours and one minute and from there, a few friends and I begin a three-week backpacking tour across Europe. Our stops include a city I’ve wanted to visit since the fourth grade (Copenhagen), the world center of the Olympic movement (Lausanne), one of my favorite cities in the world (Venice) and two cities in which I was considering studying abroad (Munich and Berlin). Am I excited? You could say so.

Studying abroad is the perfect opportunity to achieve any travel dreams you may have. Money is, of course, an obstacle but there are ways to travel on the cheap, especially in the European Union. For an extended trip like mine, the Eurail pass is a great option, letting you choose your number of travel days and countries. There are also Megabus deals between countries starting at next to nothing, plus discount airlines.

Airlines can charge an arm and a leg for checked baggage so it’s smart to fit everything you need into a carry-on or backpack. Invest in a sturdy one and remember to pack light! Bring clothes that can easily be mixed and matched (and ladies, a great space-saving option that gives you tons of outfit choices while traveling is bringing shorts and tights instead of pants if it’s warm enough!).

It’s also important to remember to book travel as early as you can to save on transportation and hostel costs. When it comes to hostels, try to stay in places that your friends have stayed in before you; personal recommendations are always a plus. Don’t be too worried about sharing rooms with strangers, either: Most places have lockers where you can keep your stuff safe and most people staying in hostels are in the exact same boat as you.

As for an itinerary, my friends and I don’t have one. We know when we have to be at the train station and we have a list of things to do in each city but that’s it. We’ve discovered that part of the fun is wandering around and seeing what we stumble across – don’t be afraid to leave some things to chance!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier, the better!) and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big and believes the sky’s the limit. This semester, Darci is studying abroad in London and will share her international experiences here.


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March Madness Alternatives

by Darci Miller

They say that April showers bring May flowers but March brings March Madness. This is the time when college basketball fans feverishly compile brackets and glue themselves to their TVs. I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all lost someone to March Madness, as the afflicted individual shuts themselves away from society for several weeks, but there’s always the chance that your bracketology wasn’t quite up to scratch this season. If your top seeds were eliminated early on, you may find yourself with a March entirely free from basketball obligations.

So what to do with yourself? Now that it’s officially springtime, you could always venture outdoors. Temperatures are rising and flowers are beginning to bloom, so there’s no better time to sit in a local park and take a break.

On the flip side, isn’t it just about time for midterms? I know it gets harder to study the warmer it gets (as I sit here watching interviews with “The Hunger Games” cast instead of writing a paper) but summer is on the horizon and I know you have some gas left in your tank, right? Hey, if I can write 2,000 words about Brutalist British architecture, you can handle your class assignments, too!

The coming of summer also means that the search for the perfect internship is in full swing. Though it’s fairly late in the season to be getting into the internship game, there are still countless positions looking to be filled. Now’s a great time to brush off your resume, hit up the campus career center and start applying.

Bank account looking a little dry? There’s never a wrong time to be applying for scholarships for next semester! (Though, if you’re reading this on the Scholarships.com blog, I’m sure you already know that!) Trust me: As someone who received a $4,500 stipend for a little extra study abroad wiggle room, I can tell you that it’s worth the effort.

See, just because your basketball team is a lost cause doesn’t mean March has to be!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier, the better!) and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big and believes the sky’s the limit. This semester, Darci is studying abroad in London and will share her international experiences here.


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The How and Why of Interning and Volunteering Abroad

by Darci Miller

In this day and age, the world is an increasingly small place, as one only has to foray into the world of blogs and forums to make contact with people thousands of miles away. We may not exactly live in the “global village” that Marshall McLuhan predicted back in the day but we’re certainly closer than society has ever been to that point. What does that mean for us college students? Well, I think it goes without saying that the job market is a changing place. It is far from uncommon for a company to be multinational and deal with clients from around the world so this makes a basic knowledge of international relations – as well as knowledge of another language...or two – a definite plus.

Experience abroad can be turned into a marketable quality when you’re on the job or internship search. Most interviewers are more concerned with experience than they are with grades so if you’re abroad, don’t be afraid to skip the occasional class if it means getting out there and immersing yourself in the culture of your new home. Some events only come around once in a lifetime and can often be much more valuable than a perfect attendance record.

Even better? Get work experience abroad! In an international job market, this experience is invaluable and will be looked upon extremely favorably by employers but be sure to do your research ahead of time. For example, college students get “work placement” in England rather than internships, so opportunities are few and far between. Before you leave your home university, email companies in your study abroad destination and tell them you’re interested in working for them...even if they aren’t advertising any positions – that’s what a friend of mine did and she nabbed herself an internship in London for the summer!

Another crucial tip is ensuring that you have the proper work clearance. If your visa is incorrect, you could end up being deported or banned from ever returning to the country. Each country’s border agency or immigration office should have details on its website; the process is a pain (trust me, I’ve been there) but it’s definitely worth it: My Tier 4 student visa has allowed me to volunteer with the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and I couldn’t be happier!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier, the better!) and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big and believes the sky’s the limit. This semester, Darci is studying abroad in London and will share her international experiences here.


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MythBusters: The Study Abroad Edition

by Darci Miller

Hello from the beautiful city of London! I’ve been here for a month and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that the study abroad experience is just as wonderful as everyone says it is. It’s also given me the chance to put some study abroad myths to the test.

Myth #1: Study abroad is 90% partying, 10% studying. This certainly depends on what kind of student you normally are and what kind of lifestyle you lead at your home university. Europeans do go out more than Americans but “going out” often means drinking a pint with some friends at the local pub and not necessarily getting all dolled up and going clubbing. And once assignment deadlines start looming, you are going to have to hit the books.

Myth #2: It’s too much money. It’s very easy to study abroad in a financially responsible way. If you go through a program hosted by your home university, any financial aid you have will (or should) transfer. After that, it’s all a matter of using your money in a smart way. Also, check online and with your study abroad office to see if there are study abroad-specific scholarships you can apply for. I got $4,500 from Miami’s study abroad office and it’ll be funding all of my travels and then some!

Myth #3: It’s dangerous and/or scary. It’s drilled into our heads before we leave that pickpocketing is a big threat in Europe but as long as you’re smart about your belongings, international cities are no more dangerous than cities in America. And living in a new country is certainly a jarringly different experience but it’ll only change you for the better.

Myth #4: Europeans all dress a certain way and you need to fit in. Everyone in London looks like they’ve stepped out of a fashion magazine – well-dressed and attractive – so if I wear a Miami t-shirt to class, I stick out like a sore thumb. It’s ok, though: Regardless of how you dress, people will know you’re American as soon as you open your mouth.

Myth #5: You’ll have more free time than you know what to do with. I’m taking four classes and each is two hours per week with Tuesdays and Fridays off. I’ve become a champion napper but I’ve also done a ton of exploring. You’re abroad for a short time – don’t waste it!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!


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British School vs. American School

by Darci Miller

Upon arriving in London for study abroad, I was initially amazed by how normal everything felt. I mean, everyone speaks the same language – how different could things possibly be? But two days later, as I was standing in an endless line and waiting to register for classes, I realized that some things here might not be quite the same.

While the lack of a language barrier definitely helps (we all know what a “lift” is, right?), the British school system does its own thing. Most British universities are three years rather than four and get this: the first year doesn’t even count. That’s right! If Brits want to slack off their entire first year of “uni,” they absolutely can. Of course, it’ll affect their ability to get work placement but it won’t mean anything when it comes to their degrees. This means a whole ton of drinking and skipped lectures followed by two years of mountains of work.

In America, handing in an assignment means printing it out and giving it to your professor. Not across the pond: Each assignment needs some sort of cover sheet that’s provided to you on Blackboard (or the “Virtual Learning Environment”) and needs to be handed into the department office. Not the lecturer or seminar tutor, but the department office. Does this make sense?

The grading system is different as well. One hundreds are completely unheard of: Eighty is basically the equivalent of a perfect score so don’t freak out about getting a 60 – that’s a decent grade here! There are all sorts of different labels assigned to seemingly arbitrary numbers and not even the educators have any idea why it’s done like this. Trust me, I’ve asked.

And then, of course, there’s registering for classes. British students only take classes in their “course,” or major so when associate students attempt to take classes in multiple courses, the online system isn’t equipped to handle it. You may be able to take out books from the school library using a touch screen and a scanner, but you have to run around to the different departments and have them physically sign you up for classes. I never thought I’d miss waking up early for my registration time back in the states!

Bottom line: No matter where you study abroad, you’re going to have culture shock, even if it means writing papers with footnotes instead of in-text citations. Just smile and chalk it all up to experience!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all '80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!


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Adventures in Visa Acquisition

by Darci Miller

You may think your study abroad experience is going to be all fun and games but in its early stages, I’ve found that it’s anything but. While I know it’ll be more than worth it in the end, it’s a lot to handle: Not only is there paperwork for your home university but sometimes there’s also the added benefit (note the sarcasm) of applying for a visa. Here are some things I’ve learned about the process so far:

Most importantly, though, remember the stress will pay off. In a few months, you’ll be abroad and having the time of your life!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!


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College Class Trips: Are They Worth It?

by Darci Miller

When I got to college, I assumed that class trips were a thing of the past. And for two years, I was right. So when I found out there was an opportunity to travel to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming with my travel writing class, I was pretty blown away.

My professor told us that the school would pay for hotel expenses, our admission into the park and dinner on two nights, while student participants had to shell out money for flights (several hundred dollars!) and lunch for several days. Like my fellow virtual intern Kara Coleman said, experience is often more valuable than education but would this be worth it? My parents seemed excited about this opportunity for me and offered to pay, so it was settled: I was going to Wyoming.

We left at the crack of dawn on a Thursday morning and returned at almost midnight on Sunday. Luckily, The U's fall break fell on that Friday and travel writing is one of my two classes on Thursday. Getting out of my one other class was relatively simple – it was a school-approved absence – but I still had to figure out how to deal with the time I now wouldn’t be able to spend doing homework. In the time leading up to the trip, I was also scrambling to get ahead on my newspaper duties: I’m the opinion section editor and had to work double time so I wouldn’t leave the rest of the staff in trouble during my absence.

The trip itself was such a great experience! Grand Teton is absolutely gorgeous and it was really cool to get to know some of my classmates (and my professor!) better. I don’t know when else I’d ever get the chance to go to Wyoming, let alone write about it. And guess what? The newspaper got along mostly fine without me. (When I turned my phone on after a full day of travel, I saw a frantic text from the managing editor. Can’t win ‘em all!)

In trying to gain experience, don’t just do what looks good on your resume. Taking opportunities like these give you the chance to expand your horizons, see and do new things, and handle a different kind of stress.


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Recognizing Your Responsibilities

by Darci Miller

I grew up with parents who were very involved in my life. I don’t mean that in a bad way – they were as involved as any good parents should be – and was grateful they always made sure I finished my homework, was on top of my deadlines and didn’t forget an appointment.

I didn’t realize any of this on a conscious level until I began attending college. Suddenly, I had somewhere to be on a certain day and only I was responsible for staying organized and reminding myself about it. If any of you have applied for study abroad, I’m sure you know what I’m going through: During the last week of September, I realized that the October 1st deadline had crept up on me. This set off a week and a half of printing documents, scheduling appointments with the study abroad office as well as my academic advisor, getting my transcript, writing essays, etc.

It’s a little overwhelming figuring out what I needed and trying to schedule around classes and work and life. Luckily, I quickly learned that I need to write things down. I’ve become dependent on my planner, whiteboard and Post-it notes to help me manage my time and tasks. In the last few weeks alone, I’ve made dozens of lists of things I need to remember to do. This method works for me but if it doesn’t work for you, figure out what does before something falls through the cracks.

Sometimes I still wish I woke up to notes on the table scribbled by my dad – “get form signed” or “talk to your advisor” – but now I know I can handle life’s responsibilities by myself. To this day, sometimes keeping track of everything feels like a full-time job but I’m proud to report that my study abroad application was submitted (in full!) on time. I’d call that a success.

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!


Comments

My Final Study Abroad Checklist

by Darci Miller

In preparing to study abroad, I’ve been alternately packing and scouring the Internet for lists of important things to pack. When it comes down to it, there are several things that I will not – and cannot – leave the U.S. without!

  • 1. Power adapters. Voltage and wattage are different across the pond and all of my American electronics will be rendered moot if I don’t come prepared – it would be a sad day if I couldn’t charge my computer or straighten my bangs! If you’re going abroad, check to see what adapters you’ll need, as they vary from country to country.
  • 2. Clothes to layer. I’m heading to London and the weather there can be all over the map, so everything I’ve read advises dressing in layers. This would be a smart choice for anyone studying abroad in a country in which temperature varies between seasons. T-shirts and a handful of cardigans will carry you through winter and spring, while long-sleeved shirts are useless as it gets warmer.
  • 3. Familiar, comfort items. Photos of friends and family are obvious but since I’m a sap, this really includes anything that’ll remind me of home or people that love me. Though I may rarely wear my headband made out of a t-shirt hem, seeing it on my desk will remind me of the night my friends and I made them.
  • 4. My GPS. I’ll have limited data on my phone while I’m study abroad and going over my limit isn’t an option. For those days I plan on exploring the city, I’ll throw my trusty TomTom named Peter into my bag and be good to go. I’ll only get lost in the culture, not because I made a wrong turn!
  • 5. An across-the-body bag. A definite necessity, especially for the ladies. They’re much harder for muggers to steal and you have the added bonus of keeping your belongings right next to your hand.
  • 6. Important documents. This may sound like a huge “duh” but I definitely need to remember to print out whatever I’ll need for my first few days – visa, confirmation of enrollment, orientation notes, etc. Anything to make the transition a little less stressful!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!


Comments

Out with the Old, In with the New

Leaving Campus Activities to Go Abroad is Hard but Worth It

December 20, 2011

Out with the Old, In with the New

by Darci Miller

Earlier in the semester, I ran into an acquaintance in the study abroad office. We were both waiting to meet with the same adviser, so we went in to ask our questions together to save time. During the course of our chat, she mentioned her hesitancy to go abroad. Her reasoning? Not wanting to leave her activities at Miami. Specifically, she’d have to withdraw from a prestigious e-board position with her sorority.

I totally got where she was coming from. I had to leave my position as opinion editor of the newspaper, finding a replacement wasn’t easy and I don’t even know if I’ll be able to get back onto the editorial staff when I return. I also have to take a semester away from my campus job and opt out of a journalism field experience program I’m in. It was a difficult decision but now I can let you in on a little secret: The world won’t stop, clubs and organizations will stagger on without you and you will still be you even without a laundry list of responsibilities to your name. These accomplishments are already on your resume so stepping away won’t be a massive blow – in actuality, employers like seeing international experience so going abroad will make you a more appealing candidate!

As someone eagerly awaiting her departure date (January 4th!), I can’t say from experience that studying abroad will be worth it but I have no doubt that it will be. (Hey, when else will I have the chance to live, play and work in a foreign country with the knowledge that my parents won’t let me go hungry?) While you may not be able to get back onto that e-board, everything will still be there when you get back. If you’re studying abroad with a program sponsored by your school, on-campus jobs and organizations can’t hold one semester away against you. If you’re enrolled with the school abroad, you’re allowed to come right back like you’d never even left. So email your bosses, apologize to your sorority sisters and hire those replacements – the world awaits!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!


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