Travel

study-abroadAs the semester comes to an end, the majority of us are focused on surviving finals week and getting home for the holidays. However, many students, myself included, are preparing to spend time studying abroad for a few weeks, or even a semester. Although I am now very excited for my trip, my education abroad journey has not been all smooth sailing. There are a million and one things I wish I had known when I began planning my trip abroad. Here are just a few tips that I hope will make the process a little easier for anyone who is considering education abroad.

START EARLY: I repeat, do NOT wait until the last minute to start planning your trip (like I did). Although it’s not impossible to plan an education abroad trip last minute, it is definitely more difficult. If you are at all interested in studying abroad, go meet with an education abroad ASAP. Different programs have different requirements. It is absolutely never too early to get started!

 
Decide where you want to go: One of the most important education abroad decisions you will make is where to go. One of my majors is Spanish, so I chose to study in Seville, Spain in order to complete the requirements for my major. Many colleges offer many areas of stud. But, you need to think about which cultures and experiences will benefit you the most academically. No matter where you go, you will have a great time and make awesome memories, so make sure it’s going to pay off towards your degree.

Find a friend: Chances are, you know someone who has studied abroad in the past. Use them as a resource! Don’t annoy them of course, but ask them to get coffee or lunch with you someday so that you can ask them questions and advice.

Don’t let money stop you: If you’re anything like me, you may be hesitant about education abroad because you think you can’t afford it. Surprisingly, my semester abroad is going to cost me less than a semester at my home university. Now, this may not be the case for everyone. But I promise, education abroad fees include A LOT. And, you can usually apply any scholarships, loans or grants that you receive at your current school to education abroad fees. There are also TONS of scholarships available to students who want to go abroad.

Although a good GPA, campus involvement and leadership experience are all important aspects of an impressive resume, education abroad gives students an advantage over the rest. Employers and graduate programs love seeing that a student has studied abroad. Not to mention, I have never spoken to a student who regretted their education abroad experience. Have any questions or suggestions of your own about education abroad? Let us know in the comments section below.

Home for the Holidays Contest Final Version (3)

Everyone’s favorite season has finally arrived! It’s the time of year when ice skating downtown with friends every weekend is the norm, drinking hot chocolate and eating sweet treats daily is acceptable, and heading home to spend time with family and friends is what every college student looks forward to the most. I, like most students, love being away at school for the majority of the semester. However, as soon as Mariah Carey Christmas carols hit the radio and bells start ringing for The Salvation Army outside of the local grocery store, my anticipation to get home for the holidays begins.

Although we all look forward to heading home for the holidays, we at eCampus.com understand that for some, it can be difficult to get there. No one should have to spend their holiday in a deserted college town for lack of traveling expenses. Now, with our help, hopefully no one will have to! We are proud to announce our Home for the Holidays contest. We are celebrating the season of giving by paying for one student to travel home for the holidays. One lucky winner will receive a $300 check to spend on travel expenses this holiday season. Whether by plane, train or automobile, we want to send you home for the holidays!

To enter, simply answer the question “What do you love most about going home for the holidays?” through our Facebook or Twitter page. For Twitter, tweet your answer to @ecampusdotcom using #homefortheholidays. For Facebook, visit the eCampus.com Facebook page and click on the Home for the Holidays link at the top of the page.

For those of you who will be traveling on your own dime this holiday season, don’t forget to check out Orbitz.com for top travel deals.

Good luck and happy holidays from the eCampus.com team!

This month my roommates and I went on a last-minute overnight trip for the Fourth of July. The best part? I spent less than $50 for the entire thing (hotel, travel, food and fun)! One of my roommates received an email on July 3 from a travel site (think Travelocity, Expedia, etc.) saying that there were still rooms available in select cities for the fourth. We decided on St. Louis since it was only a few hours for us to drive, and we booked a room for just under $100. We stocked up on cheap snack food and we were on our way!road trip

 

As annoying as they can be, emails from these kinds of websites can let you know about great deals or sales they have going on that you wouldn’t know about otherwise. In this case, we were able to celebrate the holiday in a really fun way without spending more than we can afford. I decided to make myself an email account that is strictly for “junk” mail that I give to stores or restaurants when I have to provide one. Although I don’t check it everyday, I do check it at least once or twice a week to see if there’s anything good going on, but this way I can keep my actual email’s inbox clean without missing out on great promotions.

 

Living on my own this summer has taught me the importance of saving my money. Like most college students, I’m always on the lookout for ways I can cut costs, but that doesn’t mean we can’t treat ourselves to a weekend getaway. Whether it’s a weekend excursion to see an away game for your college, or a spring break trip to the beach, we just have to be smart about planning and use the resources available to us! If you are planning a trip that requires a flight, be sure to check out this travel site that offers cheap airfare just for students.

What ideas do you have for affordable weekend trips? We would love to hear!

 

Interning from home and in the city (New York that is), going to school in New Jersey and California (and Italy) and meeting people from all over the place is hard to keep up with.  The biggest piece of advice I can give anyone split between places: live where you are.

Whether you are returning back to school or studying abroad, focusing on where you are is important.

Personally, I have gotten very good at keeping in touch with people.  Between Facebook, Skype, iChat, cell phones and snail mail, there is no reason not to keep in touch with your closest friends; but problems occur when you get so wrapped up in all of that communication and start neglecting reality.

While studying abroad, I noticed some students staying in their apartments Skyping home instead of going out.  Ensuring your family you are safe and keeping in touch with friends every so often is one thing but missing out on once-in-a-lifetime experiences to sit in front of a screen is another.

A lot of this is caused by not wanting to say goodbye to someone before you leave.  Saying goodbye is hard.  As Rory Gilmore says in episode “The Long Morrow”, “There’s nothing good about a goodbye. It’s a very poorly named ritual.”

Realize when you go off to school or off to study abroad, you aren’t saying goodbye to your friends; you are saying see you later.

Another thing to realize is before going away for a semester, you know what you are leaving behind, but you have no idea exactly what the semester will bring.  Getting excited for the months ahead will get you in the right mindset when you find yourself at school instead of with your friends from home.

When apart from your friends, or someone who is “more than friends”, no matter what you do, you will miss them.  A part of growing up is realizing that no matter where you go, you will be missing someone.  Accepting that fact and enjoying the people you are around and the place you are is important.

Some fear the regret of losing touch, but realizing you aren’t taking advantage of the place you are is just as scary a thought.

The underlying piece of advice to all of this is balance.  There are lots of ways to balance exploring where you are and living in the moment with keeping in touch with friends.

Keep a blog, use social media and chat up or text your friends, but be sure to spend more time in reality than on a keyboard.

 

One of the biggest challenges and most rewarding aspects of studying abroad is getting to know and become comfortable with your host family—and to have them feel the same way about you! It takes time and happens gradually, but if you both put in the effort, you’ll leave with a new home and an extended family waiting for your return. Having a host family was one of the most nerve wrecking aspects at first—what if they don’t like me? What if we don’t get along? What if it’s horrible and I feel like I can’t be at home? Though they were all valid questions, you just have to be open and honest with your host family and slowly start to get to know one another.

You might not be instant friends with them, especially if you’re from completely different generations on top of being from different cultures. It might be hard to communicate if there’s a big language barrier, but you have to try. The more effort you show in getting to know them, the more they’ll come to appreciate you and want to be open with you. It’s the same thing as meeting a stranger in America: slowly start to teach each other about yourselves and as time goes on, you’ll (hopefully) be more comfortable and become better friends. So don’t get into the nitty gritty details right away—especially with Italians, who are known for wanting to keep their privacy with people they don’t know well. Maybe the first night focus on talking about yourself: why are you studying here, what your family’s like, things you don’t like to eat, etc. But also try to get them to engage as well, by asking them questions too or giving them room to interject. Even if it’s frustrating and you don’t know what to say, just remember that in a week or less all of your efforts will pay off.

To further help your relationship with them, you need to be considerate and respectful. Don’t let garbage and clothes pile up around your room. Italians pride themselves on keeping things neat, and many other home stays elsewhere—even if the family doesn’t care about organization—would appreciate you being able to pick up after yourself and not make a mess out of their home. You are a guest in their house first and foremost, and no matter if you become a new family member by the end, you still need to respect their rules and boundaries. Though they don’t set a curfew, be conscious of the time you come home and the amount of noise you make when you return.  Also be aware of how much time you spend in the bathroom, how much/little you eat of what they make you and how you interact with any friends they have over or pets they have. It’s not that you’re being tested per say, as much as you should be respectful and aware of how you’re acting in someone else’s house.

After time, you and your host family will grow to be more accepting and understanding of the others’ behaviors and likes or dislikes. You’ll be able to talk freely and fall into their habits of how long to spend in the bathroom, a normal serving size at dinner or how neat you should keep your bedroom. The more you integrate yourself into the culture and try to learn from your host family, the happier all of you will be and the better experience you’ll have. So just jump right in and learn, experience and grow. This opportunity is all about you and your hosts learning from one another, so why not make the most of it?