How’s the money situation?
Get money BEFORE you go abroad. You do not want to land in a foreign country with no way of purchasing food, bus tickets, or a taxi. If you’re more courageous than I am, you could wait as long as possible and exchange currency at the airport before you leave the U.S. or when you arrive in Europe.
I chose to order currency through my bank, Bank of America, because the only fee they charged was $7.50 shipping no matter what the total amount being exchanged was. This way I receive enough Euros to last me my first week in France, and enough British Pounds to last me for a few hours in London Heathrow airport.
How will you continue to get money? I’m not trying to advertise Bank of America, but they do have partnerships with major banks throughout Europe such as Barclays in Great Britain, BNB Paribas in France, and Deutsche Bank in Germany. This partnership allows me to use my debit card at the ATMs of these partner banks without being charged an additional fee.
If you have a bank with this sort of arrangement, you can save a little extra cash. Saving cash is the name of the game in order to buy more food, clothes, drinks, and souvenirs in a country where $1 only buys you 0.70 Euro.
What should I do before I leave?
Get to know who you’ll be with!
You will be spending a major amount of your time with a new group of people, so break the ice before you show up! Our group started introducing themselves in an email chain to share a little about themselves. Naturally, it transformed into a Facebook group where there is a opportunity to collaborate with each other, ask questions, and get acquainted with new friends from across the country.
Even if you don’t feel like interacting with your study abroad group too much before you arrive, it’s always extremely helpful to have a network of people that are going through the same experiences as you. Having the opportunity ask last minute questions will be very helpful as you begin to approach your departure date. In addition, seeing how the others are preparing for the trip and hearing what questions they’re asking might remind you of something you would have missed or forgotten.
What’s the deal with hostels?
Hostels vary quite drastically between countries and you want to make sure you do your research in order to be confident and feel safe where you will be sleeping.
How many people are you traveling with?
The room rates usually vary depending on the size of the room, which means the number of beds per room. As expected, it always seemed cheaper to stay in a larger room. That brings me to…
What’s your comfort level?
Private rooms definitely came with a higher price tag during our research. So, you may want to seriously evaluate how much you’re willing to pay for that added luxury. Also, if you’re traveling with a group of four (or any group size), you may be able to reserve your own room, but making reservations for an even larger room (say eight person) may be cheaper. Again, it comes down to you and your group’s budget and preferences.
Shop around and investigate!
During our search we found a hostel that consisted of a series of very large tents that held 30 cots. This is an extreme example, but be sure to know exactly what you’re getting into before you get there so there’s no surprises. The last thing you would want is to come from a very long day of traveling or sightseeing and having to suffer through an uncomfortable situation.