Summer is here and with it comes the sweet freedom from all things "school related" for many. However, there are some teens, which have been accepted into a prestigious league. They have been chosen to study abroad. These rare opportunities are an exciting way to learn about a different culture, along with all the varied subjects that entails, such as historical sites, languages, foods, books, and other interesting topics. It may be the first time many teens are away from home for an extended period of time, and being in a different country has its own sets of rules in order for you to stay safe and return home with a smile on your face.
One of the first items on your list should be to get an International Student ID Card (ISIC). This card will not only help identify you if needed, but it can also be used at the airport foreign currency shop Commission Free, to transfer US or Canadian dollars to the country's currency. It costs $22 to get the card, but will save you $100's. You can also use this card for discounts on sightseeing, restaurants, museum admissions, movies, and more.
Pack lightly. Baggage fees are outrageous. When packing toiletries, use travel size bottles, once you reach your destination, you can opt to purchase larger sizes, depending on your length of stay. You will also want to fit in when it comes to fashion, so plan on buying some clothing while there.
Speaking of fitting in when it comes to attire: Do not wear clothes that identify you as an American. Learn what is acceptable to wear, especially for females. Learn the cultural standards when it comes to dress. This includes colors, shorts, scarves, and other accessories. Also, never mock the dress codes or come off as offensive to the natives of the country.
Travel in groups. One of the best ways to stay safe is to always travel with someone else, particularly someone in your host family or hostile that knows the terrain and standard practices.
Blend in with the locals. Speak in the native language as much as possible. Do not be loud and obnoxious. Be aware of cultural manners and follow them. Visit local sites with the necessary brevity or awe of the experience. Natives are proud of their monuments, museums, and other cultural artifacts.
Keep you important papers safe at all times. Take care and keep your passport and other important documents safely hidden, preferably in a lock box. Study abroad students will have an ID of some sort from the program they are attending. With that ID and your ISIC card, you should be covered.
Do not flash your wallet with lots of money in it or your brand new mobile phone around. This will only draw attention to yourself and make you are target for thieves and pickpockets. Never keep all your money in your wallet, only take with you the amount you think you may need. Keep the rest safely locked away.
The rest of these may seem like common knowledge, but they are important to remember, especially when you are in a foreign country.
Never walk alone at night.
Keep all drinks safe and with you. Never leave a drink on the table and step away. Anyone can easily slip something into drinks or food, so be extra cautious.
Try not to talk about politics, religion, or other "charged" discussions. You can answer questions sweetly and try to blend in, but it is best to stay away from hot button issues.
For girls, make sure you know what the trends for dress, shoes, hair, and even make up are before you go out.
Bring pictures from home of family, places, and other photos that make you smile. It is also nice to be able to show you host your family.
Keep a daily journal. It will become a lasting piece of memorabilia.
Overall, have fun and enjoy your surroundings. This will be the trip of a lifetime and one you will want to remember for many years, so take many pictures, notes, and immerse yourself in the culture. And, here's to a happy and safe return!