Studying abroad is, in a word, a whirlwind. Between the frenzy of packing, the nerves before you depart and the excitement once you arrive in Europe, you’re bound to make a few ‘boo boos’. It’s okay; it happens! To make life a little easier from the start, here are five mistakes American students should avoid while studying in Europe.
1. Creating a budget… in US Dollars
Budgeting for your semester in Europe is extremely prudent. Some students like to meticulously set a daily allowance for themselves, while others have a more relaxed estimate of what they can spend. It might seem silly, but a common mistake American students make is setting a budget for themselves in US Dollars, and then forgetting to take the foreign currency and exchange rate into consideration. For Americans studying where the Euro or Pound is used, the US Dollar doesn’t stretch so far (sorry guys!). A student in Prague, however, has a great exchange rate. Remember to do the math before you leave, or you’ll quickly blow your budget!
2. Over-tipping- or worse, not tipping at all
Enjoying a nice meal out in Europe is a great thing. Sorting the bill can be awkward, however, if you’re unsure about tipping. Tipping cultures around the world vary, but as a rule it’s normal to tip less in Europe than in America. Ask a local what amount is appropriate before you go out. A good rule of thumb is that if you receive table service, you should pay some sort of tip. Double-check the bill, however, as the tip may be included. While I’m sure your server won’t stop you from over tipping, it’ll definitely hurt your budget!
3. Put down dress #11 and stop over-packing!
Yes, we’ve all done it. We’re packing for a trip and think, well, if I make fancy European friends and get invited to a cocktail party, I will need this fancy dress/pair of shoes/tiara…whatever! If you have to think twice about it or come up with a crazy scenario in which you will need something, stop it. You are officially over-packing! Put down the prom dress and walk away. When other students are struggling with heavy luggage in the airport and you’re gliding along with one manageable bag, you’ll thank me. And remember, Europe is home to some of the best shopping in the world. If you’ve forgotten something, it’s an excuse to go shopping!
4. Ignoring the culture of your host country
Americans have a reputation for being a bit rowdy. While some Europeans love us for it, others might find your enthusiasm for college football a bit tiring. Always read a situation and discern when it’s acceptable for you to let loose and when you should use your inside voice. Your actions also reflect your attitude. For example, in Italy, visitors must cover their shoulders and legs to enter a basilica or cathedral, so cover up! Respect these cultural differences, and think ahead so you don’t offend others. Remember, as an American studying in Europe, you are representing your country! Make Uncle Sam proud by making an effort to respect the values and customs of your host country.
5. Not taking advantage of living in Europe!
There will always be that one student who is studying abroad in Europe, but doesn’t experience anything new. He or she will opt out of trying fabulous new cuisine and find the closest McDonalds; instead of meeting locals, they will only befriend other Americans; or they will not make an effort to learn about and explore their host country. Why study abroad if you only want to recreate a mini America overseas? There is nothing wrong with enjoying things that remind you of home, but don’t miss out on new opportunities and experiences you can’t enjoy in the US! Europe is full of so many exciting things- new foods, languages, different cultures and historic sites, so try to enjoy as much of it as you can!