JC’s Declassified School Survival Guide: Studying Abroad


Photo credit: Jc Canicosa

JC Canicosa

In a university full of SoundCloud rappers, eccentric professors and school budget cuts, JC Canicosa — that’s me — and the Wolf try to do the impossible, create a guide that will help you survive Loyola.

*cue theme song*

Bonjour! That’s “hello” in French.

These are just some of the things one picks up on the streets of Europe, as studying abroad opens you up to a whole new world and often can feel like a whole new new-college experience. It’s different. It’s exciting. It can even be a little anxiety-inducing, and that’s okay. Whether you’re traveling through foreign countries you can’t even pronounce or studying in an area where every one more or less still speaks English, here are some tips for studying abroad.

Your results may vary.

1. Don’t hide who you are. From my personal experience, Europeans are fascinated by Americans. Lots of my friends have gone on and on about how much they love my accent. My flatmate even said that it sounded like an action hero’s like Jack Bauer or Ethan Hunt. That being said, the cultural infatuation is mutual. One of the best things I’ve ever heard to this day is my mate go “Ya boy, ya-yeet” in a heavy Welsh accent. Being immersed in an entirely new culture is guaranteed to bring out a whole new side of you that maybe you didn’t even know about.

2. Look at the world through the eyes of a 5-year-old. Remember when you were a kid playing “Pokémon” and just started up in a completely new region, or watching “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and the gang traveled to cities built on mountains or an underground spirit library? Remember the excitement of exploring these magical worlds we grew up in: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Camp Half-Blood, Narnia. Childlike wonder is an underrated currency, but essential in exploring new cities and new cultures. If you go to Budapest, Switzerland or the Philippines with even half of that childlike excitement of exploring the “Pokémon” world or Hogwartz as a 5-year-old, it’s going to be an unforgettable experience.

3. Hey, now you’re the foreign kid with the weird account that no one can understand. Not so easy from the other side, is it? An insane revelation for me is that in some countries, the cultural barrier can be just as, if not, more alienating than the language barrier. For example, when I was at a restaurant in France, I asked a waiter “Hey, where’s the bathroom?” “Huh?” “The bathroom.” I get back a black stare. “The toilet.” “Ohhhh,” said the waiter as he pointed in a direction. Apparently calling the restroom a “bathroom” is a very American thing. Who knew? But in all seriousness, it’s definitely an eye-opening perspective to socially interact in a culture in which you are the outsider. One you won’t regret having.

4. Budgeting is probably the most important thing you can do abroad behind studying, I guess. Not just in currency exchange, but the whole culture of spending could be entirely different. For me, even though the pound was worth a little bit more than the dollar, I was still met with shock when my flatmates found out I spent whooping 26 euros at a grocery store when I would probably spend at least twice as much at a Walmart or Rouses back home. And, even with travel, I’ve been backpacking Europe for my second week now, and travel passes and hostels are the way to go. The further ahead you plan your trip and budget, the less of a headache it is to deal with later.

5. Remember that you’re doing this for you. This isn’t for your your friends and family back home to see you doing all these amazing things. It’s for you to experience and get the most out of. I highly recommend staying off or deleting social media entirely on the first week of your travels or immersion at least. Your friends’ 2 a.m. F&M’s Snapchat stories can wait, and you’re going to be glad they did. It’s so much harder to be present and experience what’s going on around you when you’re constantly plotting which angles you want to hit for your Instagram in the Sistine Chapel. Comedian and director Bo Burnham has hit on a lot of amazing social commentary about social media. Here’s one of them. “What do we want more than to lie in our bed at the end of the day and just watch our life as a satisfied audience member. I know very little about anything. But what I do know is that if you can live your life without an audience, you should do it.” said Burnham.