21 Gifts for Someone Studying Abroad

If someone you know is studying abroad and you want to get him or her the perfect present, look no further. Here are some useful and budget-friendly items that your departing friend will love.

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  1. Passport holder – I love mine!
  2. Travel size toiletries – this is useful for long flights or weekend getaways
  3. Travel size refillable bottles – for extra conditioner, shampoo, etc.
  4. City guide book – for those who have not completely switched over to the internet
  5. Space bags – these will come in handy when they are trying to stuff everything in his or her suitcase!
  6. Portable phone charger – an absolute must for long days spent exploring
  7. Power adapter/converter – there are cheap packs that come with several types for a worldly traveler
  8. Journal – so your friend can write about his or her experiences
  9. Neck pillow – to assure comfort on long flights
  10. Luggage tag – so your friend knows which bag to grab!
  11. Toiletry bag – help your friend stay organized in the bathroom while abroad
  12. Phone camera lens – there are lenses you can attach to your cell phone to increase the quality of photos. Some are expensive, though!
  13. Earbuds – something that will come in use on long flights or road trips
  14. Microfiber travel towel – these are quick-drying, lightweight and do not take up much room at all
  15. Stain removing stick – something small that will come in handy when your friend least expects it
  16. Travel money – there are many pre-paid cards that work overseas
  17. Translation tool – whether it be a digital lesson or book, having a guide to the country’s language is always useful
  18. Money necklace – there are different types of wallets that can fit under clothes that are useful for traveling abroad and keeping money and passports safe and out of sight
  19. Card protector wallet – these wallets keep credit and debit cards protected from scanners that crooks use to see through normal wallets and steal information
  20. “Open when…” cards – these will not take up much room and are the perfect idea for when your friend is feeling unsure, missing home or just might need some motivation
  21. Something sentimental – there are so many gifts to remind your friend of home, from a keychain with his or her state or a necklace with sand from his or her favorite beach
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Easily Overlooked Study Abroad Expenses You Should Know

It may seem that there is a never-ending list of tasks to accomplish before you study abroad, and that makes it easy to overlook the small details. Specifics such as how you are going to get around town or if you will have a plate to eat off of your first night may not be at the top of your list of worries, but they are something to keep in the back of your mind as your trip approaches. Here are some easily overlooked details that you may want to unpack from the back of your mind before you unpack your suitcase when you get to your destination.

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Wi-Fi

Everyone has different living arrangements while abroad. Something everyone uses that you may not think about is how you are going to access the internet, assuming you are not using data 24/7. Some housing may come with Wi-Fi, while others may not. In that case, there will be Wi-Fi plans available similar to data plans in the United States. I suggest doing some research about the Wi-Fi situation of your abroad housing before you get there so there are no surprises.

Living Essentials

It would be easy if you could just simply transport your whole dorm room to your abroad location, but unfortunately, that is not an option. You may have enough space to bring every toiletry necessary while away, but you are going to realize there are still some things you cannot live without. Save some money for living items you may forget about until you need them such as silverware, a stand-alone fan, a mirror, or small commonplace items such as tape and scissors.

Books

You already paid for your flight, your visa, your abroad housing and tuition, and maybe a change in your phone plan. With all the things being taken care of and paid for prior to arrival, it is easy to forget that you will need to purchase textbooks once classes start. Try setting a chunk of money on the side before you leave so it does not hurt as much when you have to dump hundreds of dollars away as soon as classes begin.

Public Transport

Something many students overlook before going abroad is the travel expenses once they have arrive at their destination. This is more than the expensive first cab ride from the airport to your accommodation. Most likely, you will not have a car while abroad, and although campus may be easy to walk through, going to the food store, beach or a museum may not be as foot-friendly. Luckily, companies like Uber have helped ease the burden of transport necessity, but definitely think about public transport and those costs so you have some money to cover.

Bank Charges and Exchange Rates

Depending on where you go, you may gain or lose money due to the exchange rate between American currency and the currency of your location. Make sure you are aware of this rate so you don’t have a heart attack when your 200 dollars turns in 150 euros. Also, be aware of foreign transaction fees and ATM charges, which can add up. I loved my TD Bank debit card because there were no transaction fees through the bank and I know other people used the pre-paid VISA TravelMoney card. There are many ways to ensure you have protected, fee-free money, so do your research and you will find an option that works for you.

Extra Fun

I am sure you plan on traveling to other locations while abroad, and you probably have money saved for that. However, there are the “little things” you will find yourself doing that you may not have planned. For instance, while in Australia I attended a music festival I did not learn about until I was abroad. I also ended up spending a hefty sum of money on clothing shopping, which I definitely did not expect at all. It is always smart to have extra money for the extra “extras!”

Medical

As much as we may sometimes deny it, we are only human and we get sick. If your illness is worth a trip to the doctor, be aware that you will more likely than not have an out-of-pocket expense, even if you have traveler’s insurance. It is smart to set an “emergency money” stash aside for times like this.

There are so many things that may not seem big, but make a huge difference once you are abroad. Use this list as a reminder as your trip gets closer, and you will be ready to go with a plan once your feet touch foreign soil.

Thankful for Study Abroad

This time last year, I was fully aware that I was studying abroad in Australia the following semester. However, at the Thanksgiving dinner table I shied away from fully admitting it to my great aunts and uncles, because of the slight chance something might go wrong. Now, at this Thanksgiving, I did not have anything nearly as exciting about which to speak, but I have even more things for which to be thankful. To everyone and everything I interacted with during my time studying in Australia: this is for you.

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To the friends I made while abroad, it would not have been the same without you. We spent endless days studying, exploring beautiful Perth and making the best stories from wild nights out on the town together. We figured out what it is like to live in a new country together, and nothing can replace that. Even the people who I interacted with less constantly were so welcoming and open to me, and I knew that I had supports anywhere I turned. To the people I met who were friends by association, you enforced the importance of self-honesty and evaluation in me. You helped me stand up for my values and realize it is acceptable to not be friends with everyone, and to continue to surround myself with positive influences. The memories will live on forever, and you will never fade from them.

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Because I studied abroad, I am able to be alone. I was never good at sitting with myself and my thoughts; I always had to be surrounded by people. However, being abroad and not always having a thousand friends to choose from and obligations to fill, I found myself more easily ready to take a step back and relax. I was able to reflect on my own thoughts and appreciate my time alone, and for that I am thankful. Now, in America, I look forward to the time I have with myself to do homework or just let loose.

I am thankful for AIFS, my study abroad company. Without AIFS, I may not have found the perfect program or have been able to make my study abroad dreams come true. Additionally, being an Alumni Ambassador has given me a chance to continue my abroad experience, gain a network of travel-passionate people and develop my professional skills. These are things I never expected from a study abroad program.

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To the professors, professionals and volunteers I interacted with on my trip, I will forever be thankful we came in contact. You reminded me that there is good in the world, and despite popular opinion, one does not necessarily have to look far to find it. All my professors seemed so passionate about their subjects, and it made sitting in class while I could be at the beach a little better. To the volunteers who made me pancakes every Friday morning, those are times and the tastes I will forever miss. Any helpful stranger I came in contact with, from our trip leaders to random guides in Thailand who let me use their phones, your kindness truly made a positive impact on my endeavors. A little bit of love can go a long way.

There is always so much to be thankful for, and I am thankful for that. Studying abroad has taught me so much about myself and how I see the world. There is not a day that goes by during which I do not think about Australia and I will forever be thankful for all I got to do during those magical months of my life.

 

Keeping up with AIFS

My travels have subsided, but my aspirations to see the world have not. I have been fairly quiet this November, mainly because this semester is a Merry-Go-Round of finishing assignments just to get on another ride. However, I have also been busy working with AIFS, the company through which I studied abroad.

As a way to keep in touch with my travels, I applied to, interviewed for and attended a

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A photo from training with AIFS

three-day training session in Stamford, Connecticut for the AIFS Alumni Ambassadors program this past summer. Some may assume this is just a way for AIFS to capitalize on its students. However, what I love about AIFS, besides the program in which I participated, is that it is not going to be offended if someone does not choose to travel abroad with the company. Instead, our managers tell us that we are here to promote study abroad on campus, and not just AIFS.

The agenda of each ambassador differs and depends on what his or her home institution’s study abroad office will allow. For example, some study abroad offices will let AIFS Alumni Ambassadors present to Greek life and resident halls, while others will not. I have spent much of my semester assisting with open house study abroad sessions and completely revamping Hofstra’s study abroad Facebook page. It has felt surreal speaking to students about the beginning stages of their abroad journeys and being able to reflect from my own experience to help them.

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Tabling with another club at my school

The best thing about the AIFS Alumni Ambassadors Program, though, is that it cares about the ambassadors. The program requires a mid-year resume and LinkedIn critique during which each ambassador receives a one-hour phone call. On top of that, each ambassador is required to create an online portfolio with an area to explain how study abroad impacted him or her. Additionally, at training, the ambassadors were given tips on how to relate their study abroad experiences to applicable traits in the work force. I think this is an awesome edge to have over competitors.

I have no idea what kind of experience I would have had during and post-trip if I had studied with another company. As I said in a previous post, keeping in contact with my abroad experiences has really helped me navigate my return to home life. I am quite pleased with my after-abroad experience I have gained through AIFS and I am excited to help others realize their study abroad dreams.

 

 

Fall Concert Series 2.0: Lil Wayne

“NO WAY WE ARE GETTING LIL WAYNE AT FALL FEST OMG (insert crying emojis)” is exactly what I tweeted when I found out the rapper was coming to Hofstra for Fall Fest. I was excited because being a two-time Grammy winner and having a mountain of songs under his belt, Wayne was one of the biggest names Hofstra has probably ever hosted for fall fest. I was excited for sure, but I also knew that I could not name a “Wheezy” song or lyric if my life depended on it.

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Photo: Sam Bussell

Fast forward to Fall Fest. I have been working for hours backstage and all of a sudden security kicks everyone out, even my bosses who put the show together. Lil Wayne did not want anyone backstage. Next thing I know, he pulls up in a blacked-out Escalade and literally walks from the car to the stage. The crowd goes wild. I, on the other hand, was wondering what I was doing there because I literally did not know what he was saying or recognize any of the lyrics.

From an objective view, he put on a high-energy performance. He rapped live and seemed excited to be on stage. I was worried he would not even show up, considering a week earlier he cancelled a show because he did not want to undergo any security measures. Wayne shouted out Hofstra and preached to the crowd three things he wanted us to know: first we were nothing without God. Second, he was nothing without us. Third, he was nothing without us. Yes, number two and three are the same. Yes, I used G-rated language, unlike him. He actually performed a bit longer than he was expected to, so that was a nice addition. My favorite part, of course, was when he sang covers and his own part in “The One,” which also features Justin Bieber. Only if Justin was actually there…

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Photo: Trent Campbell

The reaction from the crowd was pretty mixed. I saw people bouncing to the beats and having the time of their lives, but I also noticed other people awkwardly going along with Wheezy. I talked to some people afterwards, and the feedback I received from students matched what I saw in the mosh pit.

Hofstra sophomore Kyle Byrne said, “Wheezy is an amazing performer. I liked when he sang throwback songs, too, that I didn’t know.”

On the other hand, Julia Barry, a junior, noted, “The performance was less than subpar.”

I can confidently say that if you know his music, it is a much better concert to attend. My overall reaction is that he put on a better show than I expected, but he is not someone I would purposely see live.

Fall Concert Series 2.0: Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars was dripping in Finesse as he opened his 24K Magic World Tour at The Nassau Coliseum in Long Island with his song “Finesse.”

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Outside the newly renovated Nassau Coliseum

I’ll have to say, I was surprised when he did not open the show with “24 K Magic,” the first song on his 24K Magic album and, obviously, the name of his tour. That is exactly why I loved the show: Bruno does not do what is expected, instead he allows his creativity to flourish and leaves us feeling refreshed after every song.

Bruno’s funky style attracts people of all ages and from all different backgrounds, which was highly evident as I skimmed the crowd: there was a young kid behind me and a group of racially different older ladies dancing up a storm in the section over from me. The ability for Bruno’s artistry to bring so many different types of people under one roof to celebrate him and his music is extraordinary.

Bruno is the epitome of what a talented musician is. The downfall for many pop artists that I notice is their inability to focus on their vocals during a live performance because they are too focused on dancing and running around the stage. However, Bruno makes his moves and powerful singing look as if he could do both in his sleep (he probably can).

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Another thing I appreciate about Bruno is that he stays true to his band, The Hooligans. In matching baseball-style shirts, they all animatedly moved about the stage, never missing a step or a note on their guitars and horns. I enjoy how much Bruno seems to appreciate his band with how involved they are in the performance, but still giving them a break during an extended version of “Just the Way You Are.”

The great thing about an artist like Bruno Mars is that he has so many songs that the concert ends up being a perfect mix of old and new. About the first two thirds of the concert consisted of his 24K Magic songs, during which he strutted his stuff on the color-blocked stage to songs such as “Straight Up and Down” and “Chunky.” Bruno’s goofy personality shined through when he and The Hooligans sat down and posed for the crowd to take photos and post them on Instagram. The last third of the show consisted of some of his biggest hits, including “Grenade,” and “Marry You,” which is my personal favorite. Bruno almost had me in tears during his pianist-accompanied “Just the Way You Are” with his soothing, yet strong voice and emotion pouring from his lips.

Bruno packed the show with a whopping 16 songs, with his encore consisting of “Locked Out of Heaven” and “Uptown Funk.” Between the strobe lights and booming indoor fireworks, the audience could never get bored. I am certain, though, that even if it was just a huge stage and Bruno with his guitar and microphone, it would be an equally thrilling show.

 

Fall Concert Series 2.0: Tash Sultana

I am no longer physically in Australia, but I would like to say my trip was extended until October 5th, when I saw Melbourne native Tash Sultana perform at The Brooklyn Steel.

After falling in love with her music and seeing her at Groovin’ the Moo music festival in Australia last semester, my roommate Sierra and I searched to see if Sultana had any American dates. Before we knew it, we had tickets in our inboxes and a few months of torturous waiting ahead.

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Sultana at GTM 2017

The wait was well worth it. I remember the calming vibe that she radiated into the crowd at GTM that allowed me to get lost in her folk-reggae music, despite the enormous mosh pit of rowdy people in which I was standing. Not to my surprise, she did it again, but this time it was even more beautiful. For one hour, Sierra, the hundreds of people that filled the space and I swayed our heads to her peaceful vibes.

Sultana opened up her solo show by laying out the house rules: Don’t ruin the fun and accept everyone. She called the the old steel manufacturing plant-turned concert space a “house of love” and wanted everyone to feel comfortable and safe. She then transported the whole crowd to a place of serenity and positive feelings as she effortlessly created music right before us.

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Sultana at The Brooklyn Steel 

Sultana is a looping artist, so she creates all the sounds right then and there and plays them over each other, resulting in beautifully layered melodies. She is definitely someone who can pick up any instrument she sees. Although I could easily listen to just her guitar, trumpet, pan flute and synthesizer playing all day, her raspy and sweet, but strong voice adds a whole new dynamic to her tunes. She is almost hypnotic to watch as she passionately bounces to her dreamy songs.

Before she wrapped up her show, Sultana gave a motivational speech about purpose, during which she said, “You will never find your calling because your calling will find you.” This is the perfect reminder to anyone struggling with their identity and goals. Being the vehement, wild artist she is, she played until the exact last second her manager would allow.

I also have to give Sultana credit for bringing such a thrilling opening act along. When I arrived at the venue, I was not excited to hear the opening act because I was there, of course, for Sultana. However, The Pierce Brothers, also from Melbourne, absolutely blew me away. The twins were unbelievably animated on stage and really brought the energy with their indie rock/pop music. Between their energizing attitudes and playing of multiple instruments, including the didgeridoo, the brothers encompassed what a talented opening act should be.

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The Pierce Brothers

Sultana exemplifies sincere talent and passion. Being in the same space as her one more time was unbelievable and I left wondering when the next time I will see her is. I suppose you can take me out Australia, but you cannot take Australia out of me.

Lake George: Good Eats

The only thing that motivated me through the whirlwind of September was my weekend getaway to Lake George at the end of the month. It was an extra special trip because my mom and step-dad let me come along with them and helped me surprise my grandparents and aunt. The astonishment on their faces when I arrived was priceless and the consistent “I can’t believe you’re here,” statements made the four-and-a-half-hour drive to and from well worth it. While my only full day there was overcast and rainy, the weekend’s redeeming quality—besides being with my family on a trip for the first time—was the food.

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The Silo

Between its history and mouth-watering food, The Silo is aesthetically appealing by sight and taste. The original silo of the restaurant was used to house corn and then was repurposed alongside two local 19th century farms which were combined and made into The Silo Country store in 1982. At first, the breakfast and lunch area was small, but business began to boom and several changes were made to expand the eatery into what it is today. The Silo is bombarded every morning with hungry guests and long wait times can form. I suggest getting there by eight in the morning to avoid long lines.

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Stuffed French toast

The Silo offers everything from buttermilk biscuits and gravy and giant pancakes so large that they only serve two to cheese quesadillas and crab cakes. I can personally vouch for its stuffed French toast which is filled with cream cheese and berries and finished off with whipped cream. The warm, thick, cinnamon coated bread was complimented beautifully by the sweet cream cheese and berries. I barely used syrup, which is unusual for me, because it tasted so nice without it.

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Silo’s cider doughnuts 

If there is a long wait and you are too hangry (hungry and angry) to wait for food any longer, try The Silo’s delicious cider doughnuts from the country store. They have a delicate taste that would be paired perfectly with some warm apple cider. The best part is they are only one dollar each, $5.50 for six or $8.50 for 12 donuts.

Adirondack Pub and Brewery

 The Adirondack Pub and Brewery began as response to the high quality European beers John Carr experienced during a backpacking trip. He decided to brew his own after being unable to find something in America that competed with anything he tasted in his travels. People became interested in his brewing, which led him to start his own brewery in the center of Lake George Village in 1999. To this day, people can visit for quality ales and comfort food.

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Pretending to taste the beers..

The pub’s selling point is its tasting option that comes with six beers that the staff chooses each day. If you find one you cannot live without, they sell huge jugs of their ales and lagers to take home. The Adirondack Pub and Brewery prides itself in using fresh, local ingredients to produce beer that can be comfortably drank any day of the year. This is an experience that beer fanatics do not want to miss. And if someone is not into beer, the pub’s food is exceptionally tasty as well.

Ambrosia Diner

Is the wait too long at The Silo? You can’t decide what you want to eat? Ambrosia is a classic American diner offering a range of foods from paninis, soups, steaks, and fish to eggs and pancakes. I enjoyed the Anastasia Pancakes which were slathered with Nutella and sprinkled with banana slices that sent my mouth into a sweet, chocolate-filled bonanza. The rest of my family was also satisfied with their delicious and large portions. The family who opened a diner in 1984 still owns and operates its now three locations, so I am confident the rest of the food at Ambrosia will taste like it was right out of their own kitchen.

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Anastasia Pancakes

If I had more time, I am sure I could have sunk my teeth into more delicious food, but I guess that will have to wait until my next adventure!

 

Lessons From my First Week of Senior Year

 

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Hofstra students are almost one full month into the semester. So much has happened over the last few weeks that I feel as if I have been in this month for three years. It is crazy to me that I experienced my first day of senior year just a few weeks ago and the things I learned in the week following still are deeply imprinted in my brain.

Text that person

The second day of school I tweeted, “Honestly, text that person for two hours even though you were supposed to do homework. You might find something useful and intriguing.” I am not saying to repeatedly ignore homework, but if you want to have a conversation, have it. Whether it be your best friend, a new friend or a relationship you’re trying to build, the people surrounding you have so much to offer and can help you realize things you may not have thought about while struggling over that math homework.

Love or die

My professor presented us a quote from poet W.H. Auden: “We must love one another or die.” While these words alone have infinite meanings in different contexts, my professor explained that research has pointed to love being a factor in a longer life. Love is incorporated into Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. People need love to feel a sense of belonging, and they need to give love to have a sense of purpose. Love drives passion in the world, and without it, there is no motivation to evolve into our best selves. What I take from this is to show compassion, be kind and be there for those around you, and they should reciprocate. Without love, if we are not physically dead, we might as well be emotionally gone. Love makes the world go around; don’t be the one to stop it.

“You never know when you are creating a memory, so make it a good one.”

Make those memories

During class, my professor also told us her favorite quote: “You never know when you are creating a memory, so make it a good one.”  I definitely did not learn this, because I am already a firm believer in this philosophy. However, my professor saying this during the first week of senior year really hit close to home. It was a reminder to live life to the fullest and make the most out of every moment given, because at the end of it all, I do not want to look back and be disappointed.

Although I have been in college for three full years, I feel that the most memorable knowledge I have acquired is about life in general. I welcome any lessons my last year of undergraduate schooling has in store with open arms.

Tips on Transitioning to Your Home Institution Post-Study Abroad

Jumping on a plane to a new country with no friends or family? No problem. Returning home to a summer job the first day I am back? Sure. Going back to school to my loving friends and campus activities? Who knew it would be so hard.

I am one who can easily swallow my emotions and not let myself be too affected by the unknown. I think it took me a few hours to feel comfortable in Fiji and a matter of days to feel at home in Australia. However, returning to my old life at Hofstra University is a whole different story. For me, culture shock was not a huge problem, but reverse culture shock—difficulty to readjusting to one’s home environment after a period of time away—is highly apparent.

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In hopes of helping someone else who may be in denial that this is a thing like I was, or who is going through something similar, I have compiled a few coping tips from myself and others who have studied abroad:

Get into a routine

I cannot stress this enough: do not sit around and wait to feel better. Patterns help one feel a sense of belonging and purpose. Whether it be a new job or a weekly lunch date with your friend, some sort of schedule can help ease you back into your old life.

Trust your friendships

Shannon Kelly, a Hofstra University alumna, says that so much can change over just one semester, but your friends will be there for you when you get back. “It will take a bit of time to settle back in, but remember that if they’re a good friend, they’ll be happy you’ve grown and they’ll be patient and supportive of you as you adjust to being back.”

Plan a trip

Do you still have the desire for adventure? Planning a small trip by yourself or with friends is the perfect way to feed your need to travel. Life is all about making memories!

Share your experience

Nicole from Minnesota State University says, “Volunteer or work in your study abroad office to get connected to interested students and you can help someone else go abroad!” You may not be able to study abroad again, but helping other students realize their dreams may help you feel accomplished and more connected to your abroad journey. Plus, you have an all-access pass to never stop talking about your memories.

Blog

I may be biased, but blogging relieves much stress from my mind and helps me stay positive about life in general. You may not be in your foreign country anymore, but there are oodles of post-experience topics about which to write.

Stay in touch

Brian from St. John Fisher College says it is important to reflect on your experience. “Keep in touch with your friends you made abroad. Print out pictures of your memories or do something to your dorm that reminds you of studying abroad.” Staying close with your study abroad friends is especially useful because they may understand what you are going through. Plus, reminding yourself of your adventures allows you to be more thankful they even happened.

Find a forum

There are many blogs and forums dedicated to people facing similar issues. Try searching the web for some chat forums to ease your post-trip pain.

Affirmations

One of my favorite things to do is write down what I am thankful for or at least write down happy thoughts. Pick a photo once a week from your abroad journey and write about a time associated with that photo. On the other hand, you can simply write positive remarks about your memories. You will be smiling in no time!

Post-trip anxiety is normal. Don’t feel discouraged about being unhappy about your return to pre-abroad life; take it as a learning experience. Hopefully you find use out of some of these tips and can work yourself back into your routine!