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Students offer advice from own study abroad experience

Meredith Davis

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Students interested in studying abroad have enough to worry about: packing, figuring out cell phone plans, budgeting and saying goodbye to friends and family. Forgetting an item once you’re overseas, packing too much or not knowing how to approach the locals are common problems. But seeking advice from students who have done it all before can be the difference in a trip filled with adventure and a trip filled with anxiety.

Lindsey Cobb, a junior majoring in chemical and biological engineering, studied abroad during summer 2012 in Cape Town, South Africa with 15 other UA students. Her trip was service-led and -oriented, providing a different experience from other study abroad programs.

The four-week program focused on an ideology each week. Week one was for adventure and included visiting an ostrich farm, cage diving and riding elephants.

Cobb’s experience with service through Global LEAD is what she believes set her trip apart.

“I don’t want to be cliché in saying that it was an eye-opening experience, but it truly was,” Cobb said. “I would definitely encourage students doing study abroad experience to seek out opportunities for service while abroad, as well as take some time to really build relationships with locals.”

Cobb recommends carefully paying attention to the weather in your study abroad location. She used packing lists she found online to make sure she had every necessary item and familiarized herself with South Africa’s tipping customs.

In addition, Cobb recommends plenty of reading material for long flights and a set of warmer clothing, just in case. Staying active was also important to Cobb.

“Insanity workout videos – they require no equipment, and you will eat too much,” she said.

Cobb also stresses the importance of scholarships for study abroad opportunities.

“Now that I am studying abroad for a second time, I have definitely done my research and am hoping these scholarships can cover some of my travel expenses,” Cobb said.

During summer of 2013, Cobb will be studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark on another University-led program.

“Go with an open mind; most of your learning will happen outside of the classroom,” she said. “One of my favorite mottos from the trip was, ‘Fear is temporary, but regret is forever.’”

Elizabeth Abernathy, a junior majoring in international studies and French, traveled to Florence, Italy during the summer of 2012. She was inspired by her Italian language classes but then switched back to French, which she had studied in high school. Abernathy lived with an Italian family during her trip.

Abernathy focused on packing light for her one-month stay but said she wishes she had bought more items to take home.

“I was too focused on not spending money because studying abroad is already an expensive thing to do. However, you have to realize that you might never go back to that place, or at least for a long time, so you should just splurge while you’re there,” Abernathy said.

Abernathy had class during the week and spent her weekends traveling to Viareggio Beach, Rome and Cinque Terre. The Alabama in Italy program suggested a phone carrier for the group, which Abernathy said was incredibly helpful when keeping in touch over the weekends.

Despite living in an Italian household and touring the area, Abernathy felt a fundamental part of her trip was missing: meeting Italians.

“I lived with an Italian woman and had dinner with her every night, which was really great,” Abernathy said. “But as for people our age, we mostly just met a few other international students at our school and travelers at hostels. If we could’ve had Italian conversation partners or some other way to meet people, that would have made the program more meaningful.”

As for general advice, Abernathy encourages students to get to know the people you’re traveling with early on and avoid feeling rushed.

“Some of my best memories of Florence are when we just were hanging out somewhere, taking it all in, having a good time,” Abernathy said.

For more information on study abroad programs, visit

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Students offer advice from own study abroad experience