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By Alexis Zamora
Communication ’16

Editor’s Note: University of St. Thomas offers group study abroad programs in nine countries and individual study abroad programs in 11 countries. Study abroad scholarships are available to assist students with their goal of studying in other countries. In this spotlight article, Alexis Zamora shares her tips for studying abroad as a university student.

As a sophomore at the University of St. Thomas, I had the amazing opportunity to travel abroad to Barcelona, Spain. I was familiar with international traveling since I had taken an eight-day trip to Japan with a group of 23 student ambassadors as part of the Kakehashi Project. I found out about both opportunities through UST’s study abroad program.

Through both of my experiences, I learned some tips for studying abroad that I wanted to share with other students to help them when planning an international trip.

1) Don’t Travel Abroad without Travel Snacks

I am notorious for over-packing, but when traveling for weeks at a time, it’s impossible to bring everything you think you’ll need in your luggage. I’d advise organizing your outfits ahead of time, and be practical on what you bring to make the most out of the room you have.

A big life-saver for me, was bringing a lot of travel snacks with me. Here are some suggestions I have for travel food:

  • Protein Bars
    These are quick and easy, and come in handy in between activities. It’s not common that you’ll find protein bars abroad, so be sure to bring enough!
  • Fruit Snacks
    These are also easy to eat while you’re on the go, and are small enough to fit in your backpack or pockets.
  • Oatmeal
    Oatmeal packets make for a quick breakfast and are convenient and offer carbs to start your day. The best part is, these are light enough to bring where you can throw a lot of packets in your luggage.
  • Peanut Butter
    Peanut Butter makes for a great travel snack and is not common abroad. It pairs well with a banana, or bread and is a healthy way to get your protein in for the day!

Student travel in Spain

2) Do a Little Homework: Demonstrate Your Intercultural Competence

Having the ability to communicate appropriately with people of other cultures is important when traveling abroad. Although I’m not fluent in Spanish, having basic knowledge went a long way. When you have the cultural knowledge, it not only makes you feel more comfortable and prepared, but it makes communicating with the native people much easier. Even with my broken Spanish, the people in Spain were wanted to practice their English with me which made for a unique learning opportunity.

Student travel in Spain - Cass Batlló by Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona, Spain.

Cass Batlló by Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona, Spain.

3) Plan Ahead and Do Travel Research

Doing adequate travel research will make the most out of your traveling abroad experience. I personally like to do research before traveling to a new place so I know ahead of time what I would like to do and see. This helps me make a game plan when I arrive. Although it’s nice not having a agenda, you only have so much time so you might as well make the most out of your trip!

Student travel in Spain - Plaça de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain

Plaça de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain.

4) Be Adventurous When Studying Abroad

Have an adventurous spirit when traveling abroad, and be hungry to explore! Don’t panic if you miss the train or forget what stop you need to get off at; there is always an alternative. When I traveled to Japan, I realized it was hard getting around on my own because I couldn’t read any of the train signs. Although it was a bit uncomfortable, I ended up meeting some wonderful people who helped me and even took the time to accompany me to my destination! You never know what kind of adventure you might encounter during your once in a lifetime experience as a study abroad student.

Student travel in Japan - visiting with students at Saitama University.

Alexis Peltier and I visiting with students at Saitama University.

5) Try Food From Different Cultures

Don’t be picky; try all of the international food! While I was in Japan, I made sure to try all the food even if it looked strange or smelled funny. Be brave and taste everything in front of you!

Student travel in Japan – traditional Japanese breakfast

Traditional Japanese breakfast. All meals are served with rice.

6) Live in the Moment

Living in the moment to me is the most rewarding. You’ll experience so much from the people and the food, to the mountains and oceans, and taking it all in is an amazing feeling. You can learn a lot in the classroom, but experiencing it first hand and understanding different cultures and people is unexplainable which is why I love traveling abroad!

Check Out Study Abroad Locations at University of St. Thomas

Well, what are you waiting for! I hope my overview answered the questions as to why you should study abroad. Now that I’ve equipped you with helpful international travel tips, you just need to decide if the UST travel abroad program is right for you.

Are you still debating where you’d like to travel? The Study Abroad Program at the University of St. Thomas offers undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to pursue life-shaping experiences throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia while earning college credit. Study abroad experiences expose students to global diversity through individual and group programs. Check out the study abroad locations , and familiarize yourself with the Study Abroad Program by downloading the University of St. Thomas study abroad brochure. You will be glad you did.

Student travel in Japna - terraced rice fields in Kamogawa, Chiba.

Me in the terraced rice fields in Kamogawa, Chiba.

About the Author — StThomasHouston

The University of St. Thomas is the only Catholic, liberal arts university in Houston, Texas. We have 35+ undergraduate majors including STEM, Nursing, Business, Education and Pre-Med. Located in a vibrant urban environment just minutes from downtown and the famed Texas Medical Center, we welcome students of all races and religions to our diverse and collaborative campus.

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