so my sister is leaving to study abroad in europe for the semester in a few days. i studied abroad for a summer in college. it was a blast. here are my tips i’m giving my sister that i thought i would share.

first and foremost: every college student should be required to study abroad at least once. the experience is second to none. you learn, you live, you make mistakes. it’s the best way to literally jump in head first and learn to swim.

  • be polite. don’t be an asshole american. try to fit in as much as possible. if you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask. as long as you are trying i’ve found most people will be as helpful as possible.
  • immediately acquaint yourself with a map of the city in which you will live. locate where you will be staying-circle it. keep a map with you at all times. will come in handy for drunken nights.
  • don’t give your local cell phone number out of boys you barely know. foreign men are persistent. that’s all i will say.
  • cobblestone streets are not conducive to heels. stick to platform style wedges or flats. trust me.
  • learn to do your hair with fewer tools. converting energy is confusing. just ask snooki. therefore, try to keep your beauty routine to a minimum. plus, europeans are a lot less maintenance than american girls. not a bad thing.
  • don’t be afraid to try new foods. but just in case, find a fall back on any menu—an item you could eat anywhere.
  • limoncello is not your friend.
  • get used to climbing stairs.
  • enjoy europeon coca cola while you can. so bad, but soooo good.
  • knowing your way around a train station will come in handy. always double check to make sure you’re on the right train before it leaves the station. learned this one the hard way.
  • when you are missing home and need a pick me up, mcdonalds will do. although don’t expect to find the mcdonalds you know and love from home. 
  • take every cheesy tourist picture against your better judgement. throwing coins in the trevi fountain in rome. holding up the leaning tower of pisa. running down the spanish steps. do it, despite how foolish you think you look.
  • the best way to get to know a city—walk. just start and keep going. you’ll end up exactly where you want to be.
  • don’t be afraid to ask directions.
  • take a table outside.
  • when in venice, splurge for the cheesy gondola ride. the pictures alone are worth it. make sure you find a really outgoing gondolier that will sing to you.
  • when traveling on the weekend, learn how to pack a really good/small bag with the least amount of things as possible. remember, you get to carry it everywhere!
  • there is a lot to be said about visiting a beach.
  • don’t be shamed into constantly having to do things. sometimes the best days are unplanned and not touristy at all.
  • if ever offered a boat ride by a somewhat shady older italian man at the cinque terre, politely decline.
  • write everything down. everything. one day you’ll want to read it. trust.
  • keep an open mind. take everything in stride. if you don’t keep high expectations, you will constantly be pleasantly surprised.