Shanell Peterson is an official CAPA blogger for summer 2016, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A journalism major South Dakota State University, she is studying abroad in Dublin this term.
I’ve only been in Dublin, Ireland for a few days as I write this post, but I’ve already learned a great deal about traveling and the country itself.
These are the top 7 tips you should know before going abroad.
1. Pack light. (I mean it.)
My university told me to pack a medium-sized suitcase for this trip and I thought they were crazy. For most of my international travels in the past, I had packed a large bag for two-week excursions. How could a medium size suitcase possibly support my 8-week excursion needs?
Despite my skepticism, I did what they asked of me. They had mentioned buying shampoo, conditioner, soap, etc. in Ireland when I got here, so I only packed travel-sized portions of those things. And boy, am I pleasantly surprised with the results of this decision!
Packing light allowed me to easily maneuver the airport and around the city while looking for the place I was to receive my housing assignment. (Even though the handle of my suitcase had apparently broken off during the flight.) I was able to socialize and get to know my housemates while they unpacked since my unpacking was super easy. And, since I had travel-sized portions of products like shampoo and conditioner, I didn’t have to worry about buying those things my first few days.
2. Ask the phone store cashier a million questions.
Prior to coming to Ireland, I had lightly researched phone options. I had decided that the cheapest option would be to buy a prepaid phone. CAPA connected my group with a discount phone store shortly after arriving. I picked the cheapest prepaid phone I could find and bought it. However, to my dismay, I found out that one of my friends got a much better deal for much cheaper after asking the cashier a variety of questions. My suggestion for students looking to buy a phone abroad would be to ask as many questions as necessary to get the best deal.
3. Craic (pronounced “crack”) is slang for fun in Ireland.
The people here keep saying “craic.” I’ve heard it on the street, during my internship, and I even read it in an Irish newspaper. For any American student coming to Ireland, you should know that they are not referring to cocaine. (Thank goodness! I was so nervous!)
4. Think about what you’re going to make in your own kitchen.
My first couple of days here I spent way too much money on food. While the foodie in me is happy about this, the broke college student in me is not. My suggestion for anyone going abroad for an extend period of time would be to plan super easy, basic meals. This is much easier on the checkbook. Luckily, CAPA provided me with pots, pans, silverware, and more. This makes cooking meals a breeze.
5. Coordinate times to call your family back home.
I’ve been here for days and I haven’t had the chance to talk to my family yet. I’ve been texting them, but it is just not the same. How can I tell them about all my adventures in a few texts?! By coordinating times to talk with you family prior to leaving, you will be able to concentrate your energy on figuring out other things (like where your classes are).
6. Bring one towel for showering that you aren’t particularly attached to.
Towels take up a lot of space in your suitcase. But, again, it’s a pain to buy towels or laundry soap in the first couple days. So, bring one towel you don’t care about leaving in your host country at the end of the trip. This allows you to shower when you arrive in your host country and also opens up extra space in your suitcase for souvenirs when you fly back home.
7. Think about what you’ll want to do on the weekends.
You have a limited number of super free days during your study abroad experience. You won’t want to waste this time! Some of my plans include traveling to the Cliffs of Moher and exploring Dublin on my own.
Throughout my trip I’m sure I’ll gain more tips and tricks. Stay tuned!
Shanell's journey continues every Thursday so stay tuned.