I received the best advice of my college career the first semester of my freshman year. I was sitting in the coffee shop talking to a senior about his college experience and he told me that his biggest regret was never studying abroad, and if I ever had the opportunity I should ?take it in a heartbeat.? I kept this advice in the back of my mind, but I never really gave it serious thought until this past summer.

As I crossed the Atlantic on my way to London, I wondered ? was he right about the magnitude of the experience, having never studied abroad himself? Was it really going to make that much of an impact upon my life? Was it worth the time and the money?

The answer to all of these questions is undoubtedly yes. While abroad the majority of your days are going to be spent at work or class, or possibly both ? this is inevitable and unavoidable. Yet, it is not nearly as mundane as may be expected. Go into everyday with the mindset that you will make the most of your opportunity, don?t just sit at your desk boring yourself with tedious work. Interact with your co-workers as much as possible.

Trust me, they won?t realize that you aren?t working because they are as interested in your culture as you are in theirs. The days will fly by and you will become accustomed to their way of life in no time.

When the formalities of work are out of the way, it?s on to the fun part of studying abroad ? the night life. Forget about what time you have to get up in the morning and how long the day will be if you are hung over from going out every night. Do it anyways. It?s worth it.

Don?t waste a single minute that you could be out at a bar, at a club, at a play or even walking around the streets just people watching. One of my co-workers even commended me for being able to show up on time everyday and get all of my work done after so many late nights on the town. She knew I was there to get the ?full experience.?

Unlike the U.S., there are no open container laws, at least not in London, and people start drinking at lunchtime. Having a few glasses of wine in the afternoon, on company time and company dime of course, is also not uncommon.

This is not to say that you should spend all your time drunk, or that you have to drink to have a good time while abroad, but it is a major part of the European lifestyle. Whether you enjoy your Guinness or not, just get out there and immerse yourself in the foreign culture.

So this is what advice I have for you, potential world traveler. Party all night, and work all day. Drink the Irish beer and sample the French wine. Mix with the locals and don?t waste a minute. Heed my advice ? it is brief but true.

Some of these examples may be slanted a bit towards London, but the bottom line is that it doesn?t matter where you go ? it is an experience that will open your eyes wider than you ever thought possible. Most importantly, it will stay with you forever. Whatever you do, just don?t become the senior who tells the freshmen about the regret of not studying abroad.

Stockton is a junior and can be reached at jstockton@campustimes.org.



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