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Zander Willoughby

My Five Favourite Pieces of Study Abroad Advice

by Zander Willoughby | Apr 10, 2017

It seems that advice columns are all the rage this month at Manchester. In life, there a leaders and there are followers; sometimes it’s ok to be a follower. Here’s some study abroad advice that I’ve found useful during my time in France, Nigeria, & Palestine, both in practice and what I wish I’d started doing sooner:

Say Yes to Everything *with due prudence*

Classic advice from any ‘Top Ten Study Abroad Tips’ list, but valid. I would argue that the farther out of your comfort zone, the better the story. Rather it’s the crazy idea, the nonchalant picnic, or the spur of the moment trip, you can’t know what could’ve happened unless you’re there to make it happen.

Eat Everything

Whether it’s barbecued sheep brain in Palestine, miyan kubewa in Nigeria (Fufu and okra soup eaten by hand), or andouillette in France (Sausage made of pork and/or beef intestines/tripe. There’s a fan club for it if this piqued your interest. It’s the AAAAA: Association Amicale des Amateurs d'Andouillette Authentique), you won’t know if you like it if you don’t try it! They’re all delicious, by the way (Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern on the Travel Channel was always one of my favourite shows). Also, the local tradition dishes are traditional for a reason. There’s something special about having a tarte flambée in Alsace, a pretzel in Germany, shwarma in the Middle East, jollof rice in Nigeria, clam chowder in Boston, etc, etc. It just doesn’t taste the same anywhere else.

It’s Ok to Take a Nap

I think this is where I diverge from conventional study abroad lore. There’s nothing wrong with taking a nap now and then. If you have three weeks to see nine countries and you may never travel outside of the US again, ok, wake up at 5 am and do your thing. When you’re studying abroad, it’s your chance to start over a bit. Those who rush to see every single little thing in their host country never get out of the mindset of traveling and into the mindset of living.

You Will Never Meet Anyone You Can't Learn Anything From

When living abroad especially. In such a divisive time in the US, and in Europe as well to an extent, we live in bubbles in life and on the internet. One can understand a place or an issue by talking to those involved. The question, “What does Europe mean?” will draw a very different answer depending on who you ask, especially with France’s elections coming up in two weeks. Globalization means something very different to the Ghanaian bus driver in France (Shoutout to Ibrahim, the coolest bus driver ever), the international relations student, and the Le Pen / Trump supporter. If you walk away from a conversation without learning something, you’ve lost an opportunity.

Travel Alone

Not all the time, but try it out. Personally, I love everything about traveling alone except dinner time (No one wants to be that guy in the corner eating by himself, maybe I should’ve read point #4). You pick where you go, what you see, what you eat, what time you wake up, and, for my fellow aspiring old people, when you go to sleep. Traveling alone also forces you to interact with new people and speak the local language, or at least to attempt to (which inevitably leads to even more adventures). It shows you your limits and edges of your comfort zone, which is about a third of what studying abroad is all about.

What’s your best travel advice? Any good stories related to these? I’d love to hear them! Comment below or tell me on Twitter at @ZEWilloughby!

ZanderWilloughby
Zander E. Willoughby ’18 is a Political Science & French major & Peace Studies minor, and a former Multicultural Affairs Programmer, Student Senate Vice-President, Model U.N. Secretary-General and more. He is currently studying in Strasbourg, France at the Institut d'Études Politiques at Université de Strasbourg. His future plans include working in International Relations or International Law, hopefully within the U.N. system.

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