The Spectator’s holiday gift to you: A three-page guide to studying abroad

Story by The Spectator Staff


Don’t wear sweatpants or pajamas out in public – even to class – if you don’t want to stand out as an exchange student. Nobody wears comfy clothes outside of their home in Australia. The Australians dress well and are very fashionable. Personally, I bought a ton of clothes over there because their clothes were so great, so if you’re at all into clothing, make sure you have space in your suitcase to bring stuff back.
When it comes to going out in Australia, the bars try to maintain a bit of a dress code. Girls don’t have much to worry about as long as they don’t go out wearing pajamas. However, guys can usually not get into the bars if they’re wearing sandals and/or shorts.

For girls: things like curling irons, flat irons, and blow dryers can still get fried even when you’re using a converter. I had a blow dryer and flat iron short out on me, so I ended up buying things there (and they were expensive). If you can, try to get in touch with someone who has been to Australia and see if they would want to sell you any of these things if they have them.

Laura Sukowatey, Perth, Australia, Spring 2007

Wear dark jeans that are on the slimmer side. Focus on clothing that is versatile and not too casual. No sweatpants or athletic shorts. Don’t wear shirts with huge American logos. Athletic shoes are meant to be worn while playing a sport, not when going out or going to class. All in all, people in Sweden are very trendy compared to people back home, so don’t be afraid to dress a little trendier than you normally do.

Isaac Borofka-Webb, Vaxjo, Sweden, Spring 2010

Dress a level up. No one in Europe wears sweat pants and tee-shirts. Dress in layers … t-shirt under a button-down or cardigan. A lot of girls wear scarves, flats and skinny jeans. Guys wear a lot more fitted clothes than they do here.

Melissa Boerst, Thessaloniki, Greece, Spring 2010

Bring some fun items associated with American culture that you can’t get in Europe, like red plastic “party cups,” Lucky Charms cereal, Nerds and other chewy candy. You might feel silly packing these items, but English students flat-out asked me if I had any Lucky Charms or party cups with me when I got to the dormitory. First items to buy: an umbrella and a blow dryer (do NOT bring one).

Also, the only students that used backpacks on campus were Americans, so consider bringing a large purse or just carrying your things to class every day.

Danielle Ryan, Winchester, England, Spring 2008

Summer in South Korea is extremely hot and humid. However, most places have air conditioning, so bringing some light layers are a good idea, just in case. Most people dressed fairly nicely and not a lot of shorts and t-shirts were worn. Many Korean women wear heels everywhere, but that isn’t very practical for all the activities in the International Summer School. I mostly wore jeans and flip flops, which may have made me stand out, but I already stood out anyway. Bring what you’re comfortable in because there will be a lot of walking throughout the whole program.

I accidentally had a picture of my family on my memory card while I was over there, and lots of people I met were super interested in seeing what my family looked like and where I came from, so if you can, bring some pictures from home to show people.

Melanie Moore
South Korea, Summer 2010

The main way to spot an American in Europe, especially Italy, is by the kind of shoe you wear. Try to avoid white sneakers as they stick out like a sore thumb. Dress appropriate to the weather. Although 60 degrees Fahrenheit sounds warm to us, many Italians would still be wearing jackets. Thus if you’ve donned the sandals and shorts, you’ll probably stick out!

Lindsey Mittendorf
Rome, Italy, Spring 2010


The Perth, Australia program has a 10-day Outback Excursion trip (pictured right) for international students. Going on this trip is an absolute must – I can guarantee you won’t regret it. It was my favorite part about my trip to Australia. You’ll get to see the real Australian outback, meet other international students and overall it is just a great time!

If you have the time and money to travel to New Zealand, I would highly recommend it. The country is absolutely gorgeous, no matter what the time of year. They also have lots of opportunity for adventurous activities like sky diving, bungee jumping and white water rafting. If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, there is a company that does tours of The Shire filming set!

Laura Sukowatey, Perth, Australia, Spring 2007

If you’re studying in England, you should definitely get a railcard. It saves you 30 percent on every train trip you take – after two or three trips to London, you’ll already have made your money back.
For trips of only a few days, pack very light and only the essentials. Re-wear pants and shirts – the people you meet won’t know and the people you’re with won’t care since they’re doing the same thing.
And always, always keep your passport and credit/debit card on you. That way, if everything else is stolen, at least you have a way to get back to where you need to be.
If you don’t know the language, write down some useful phrases and carry them around with you. You may not be able to have conversations, but most people will be pleased that you at least tried instead of assuming everyone speaks English (which is definitely not the case in some countries).

Carolyn Tiry, Winchester, England, Fall 2010

Do as much traveling as possible. Take advantage of low-cost airlines like Ryanair when in Europe and also consider a Eurail pass. Stay in hostels and don’t be too afraid of large group rooms. In the end this will only help you meet a lot interesting people doing the same thing as you. Stay flexible.

Isaac Borofka-Webb, Vaxjo, Sweden, Spring 2010

When you study abroad, you may want to travel to additional countries. If you travel to these countries via plane, here are some tips:

This won’t be the most comfortable trip of your life. You’re flying cheap so expect a low amount of amenities. You may also have to fly into weird out-of-the-way airports. You may also have to spend the night in the airport, but remember the reason you are doing this: to save money. Keep your
chin up.

Pack light. You are going to travel on economy airlines so any extra baggage will cost you. This may require wearing the same clothes twice, but hey, cheap is cheap. I was able to fit enough into my small backpack to last me three or four days.
Bring a towel. You will be staying at a hostel unless you make bank. Hostels can be terrible or great but even the great ones don’t provide towels. If you want to bathe,
pack one.

Plan ahead. Find out where your hostel is. No really, find out explicitly where it is. This won’t guarantee that you won’t have trouble finding it, but it’ll help. For instance, I went to Munich and that airport is almost an hour outside of the city. You need to figure what train will take you to the city proper. This may be a cliché but it holds true: a little planning goes a long way.

Get to the airport on time. This is important all the time, but it is especially important after a weekend trip. You will be tired, possibly (probably) hungover or maybe sick as I was in one case, but you still need to get up and give yourself a couple of hours to get to the airport.

I waited in line for almost an hour at Amsterdam’s airport before I got to my terminal. Luckily, the terminal had a delayed opening otherwise there would have been trouble. Don’t let a weekend of fun get ruined because you needed an extra hour of sleep.

Sam Rosenberry, Harlaxton, England, Fall 2009

Being in South Korea puts you in a great position to travel throughout Asia, so if you have the time, definitely take advantage of it! The university offers a couple trips on the weekends throughout the program, and I would say take advantage of all of them. I got to go whitewater rafting and went to the Demilitarized Zone, which are things I never would have imagined I would do in my life. Take some time to explore on your own, you’ll become more self-sufficient and you’re not at the mercy of anyone else’s schedule but your own. Get a subway map as soon as possible. The subway system is really easy to use and once you get the hang of it, you can travel so much more.

Melanie Moore, South Korea, Summer 2010

In Costa Rica, the bus is cheap and it is very versatile. It will take you most anywhere in the country which makes traveling so easy. I would recommend going to see as many places as you can. Especially the beaches are so beautiful.
In Europe, traveling through the city is often easy because of public transportation. You can also walk most everywhere in the big cities. Seeing different aspects of different cultures is something very rewarding, so grab a few friends and go

Stacey Epping, Central European Travel Seminar, Summer 2008
Costa Rica, Summer 2009

Traveling around in Europe is so easy, and pretty cheap in comparison to the U.S. In Spain, it was very cheap to travel by bus and that was my main transportation around Spain. (While) you would think that traveling by train or bus would be cheaper… flights are actually more cost-and-time effective. You can get flights for less than 30 euro! However, make sure to check out the rules and regulations for luggage and such, because there are hidden fees that can increase
the price.

Jenna Baxter, Valladolid, Spain
Fall 2009


I saw Invictus before I went, which was interesting when I went to go see a rugby game.

Ellen Voermans, Stellenbosch, South Africa, Summer 2010

Most English students recognized Wisconsin from That ’70s Show or as the destination of Colin in the romantic comedy Love Actually, so it helps if you are familiar with both of those. Also, consider brushing up on your MTV knowledge, because many students assumed I was familiar with the network (which I wasn’t) and wanted me to compare real life in America with what they saw on TV.

Finally, watch Green Street Hooligans. One English student made us watch this movie before attending a football (soccer) game so we’d know not to mess around.

Danielle Ryan, Winchester, England, Spring 2008

You might want to prepare yourself with some That ’70s Show. Most people in Sweden won’t know where Wisconsin is, but they will know the phrase “Hello Wisconsin!” Watching Hockey can also be an asset. They have a very competitive league and many of the best players in the NHL are from Sweden.

Isaac Borofka-Webb, Vaxjo, Sweden, Spring 2010

If you’re going to Ireland, I would recommend reading something about their history. It’s really interesting, and it still plays a huge roll in the country today since Britain still controls Northern Ireland. If you have a hard time getting interested in a history text, read some of the Irish Century series by Morgan Llywelyn, its a fictionalized version of Irish history that’s really engaging and not far from the truth.

If you’re going to Austria, no one has heard of The Sound of Music. If they have heard of it they’ve never seen it, unless they studied in the U.S. and were made to watch it by their friends. If you really like that movie, take it with you to show your Austrian friends, and go on the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg; I’ve heard it’s good.

Allison Shantz, Limerick, Ireland, Spring 2006
Graz, Austria, Spring 2008

For England, I would say the obvious basics to watch and/or read before you go are Harry Potter, Jane Austen and Shakespeare. This may seem stereotypical, but I’m telling you, I did not go a single weekend without referencing any of them. I even took a Shakespeare class while I was abroad because I felt like I could read it and then go to the place it was written. I think it made me appreciate them more because I had physical and not just a fictional experience with them. Also as a side note, go and see every play you can while in London, Shakespeare or not. It’s well worth it.

Monica Baltich, Harlaxton, England, Spring 2009

If you’re traveling to England, it’s absolutely essential to have seen at least one episode of Blackadder (most people would recommend season two or three). It’s the quintessential British sitcom, features the short list of great British comedians, and is immensely popular. My friends referenced it all the time, and I felt rather left out until I had seen it.

On the flip side, once they learn you’re from Wisconsin, most Brits will assume you live in a town like Point Place from That ’70s Show, so that’s a good one to have seen as well.

Carolyn Tiry, Winchester, England
Fall 2010


In the country (you travel to), get a cell phone with a prepaid plan. That way, you only have to pay for what you use and there’s no messy contract to deal with. To talk with friends and family back home, I recommend e-mail, Facebook and setting up a blog where you can let people know what you’re doing and post pictures. Skype is a good way to call people for free or very little money.

Allison Shantz, Limerick, Ireland, Spring 2006
Graz, Austria, Spring 2008


A lot of people will enjoy the fact that you are American and appreciate some of your attitudes and mannerisms. However, there are stereotypes, like being a poorly dressed, ignorant, over-drinking slob that you might not want to fall into. Don’t be ashamed of who you are or the fact that you are American, just remember that you are there to experience new things. So stay
open minded.

The biggest problem I had was adjusting from our convenience culture. In the U.S., you can have what you want when you want it. In other countries, especially Sweden, you might have to wait and adjust your lifestyle.

Isaac Borofka-Webb, Vaxjo, Sweden, Spring 2010

Don’t go out and get wasted and act like a stuck up idiot. That’s what they expect of Americans … show them something different.

Melissa Boerst, Thessaloniki, Greece, Spring 2010

If you haven’t yet studied abroad you really should. You’ll never get a chance like this again to go immerse yourself in another culture for this length of time, and for the price. It might cost more money than you feel comfortable with, but it’s worth so much more in the experience and maturity you’ll gain. Take the chance, go somewhere new, put yourself in debt and in the end it will all work out.

Allison Shantz, Limerick, Ireland, Spring 2006
Graz, Austria, Spring 2008