How to get the most out of your study abroad experience

By: Elizabeth Harris, @elizharris32


It’s that time of year again! Many students have made the life-changing decision to study abroad in the destinations of their dreams this summer. By this time last year, I was accepted into Ohio University’s Politics in Paris Program. I had my flight booked, I was researching everything and anything about Paris, and Europe in general. My over-all excitement level was through the roof. Studying abroad was the best decision I ever made in my life, and I would give anything to go back again this summer. Here are some tips for first-time study abroad students to make sure you have the best study abroad experience possible!

1. Embrace every single moment

It may sound cliché, but it really does’t hit you how amazing of an experience you had until you get home and it’s all over. Take several moments “to soak it all in” and realize how lucky you are to be in the country of your dreams.

2. Travel to other cities as much as possibly 

The world has so much to offer; every city is different. Especially if you’re studying in Europe, traveling from city to city can be extremely inexpensive. Utilize student travel opportunities, as well as discount airlines; I found a round-trip flight from Ryanair that went from Paris to Barcelona for only $100. In addition to Barcelona, I also went to Amsterdam and the French countryside. You do not know when you will have the opportunity to be back again; take advantage of as many travel opportunities as possible.

3. Don’t let the metro scare you. 

It may seem intimidating and daunting at first, but the metro really is not that scary. It is an extremely efficient way to travel from place to place. You can easily download several different apps, that don’t require Wi-Fi, that will tell you the exact route to take when going from one destination to another.

4. Become really close with other students in your group 

Your group becomes your family throughout your time abroad. You will spend every day with these people. So, even if they may not be the type of people you would normally hang out with, try to establish friendships, you may be surprised. Your study abroad friends may end up being the best friends you will ever make in your life.

5. Bring a selfie stick. 


The selfie stick has become an essential travel companion for many travelers. If you use a selfie stick, your pictures will inevitably be amazing snapshots and memories to keep and cherish for a lifetime.

6. Keep an open mind

There are many different serotypes of the various cities throughout the world, which are not necessarily always true. For example, that the French are all rude. I found that most French people are actually extremely kind. Also, keep an open mind when trying new foods, using new modes of transportation, meeting people of different cultures, and much more.

7. Secure your belongings

Pick-pocketers are everywhere, especially in highly populated tourist areas and the metro. Make sure you are always aware of your surroundings and keep a hand on your purse at all times.

8. Wander 

Sometimes you will find the best hidden treasures when your are least expecting to. Take the time to simply wander the city you call home during your time abroad. Without setting a destination, see what all the city really has to offer you. (As long as you are wandering in safe areas, of course!)

9. It’s OK to look like a tourist! 

Chances are most other people around you will be tourists as well. Embrace your inner-tourist. Take thousands of pictures, do not be afraid to carry around a map, ask for directions, and overall have fun!

3 Inconveniences of Traveling Made Easier – by Apps

By: Erin Golden, @erinngolden

Traveling is easily one of the most rewarding experiences there is. Seeing other cultures, experiencing new people, and coming back completely enlightened, are all benefits of traveling this wonderful world of ours.

As anyone who’s traveled knows, however, it isn’t always “fun and games.” Sometimes the most frustration comes from some of the most common traveling situations.

  1. Delayed/changed flights. Ugh.
  2. Currency conversion (no one said PR people are good at math).
  3. Wandering the streets looking for someplace to eat (when you’re already starving). 

But with the wonderful world of technology and smartphones at our feet, there are a few apps that can help you navigate these specific situations.

1. Flightview. This app allows you to track and plan your trips, and more specifically, your flights. Once you plug in your flight information, you can save the flight to a  specific “Trip.” On this “Trip,” you can add multiple flights – all of which will be saved for you to access later. Flightview then sends you push notifications for delays, boarding times, take-off and landing. I’ve also found this app extremely helpful when traveling with friends and family who may be on different flights, because you can monitor their exact arrival time, gate number and also receive a message when they’re on the ground. And – it’s free!


2. Convert. This app proves handy when you’re visiting a country where the currency is wildly different from yours. The convert app lets you choose any two currencies and use it in a very similar way as a calculator. It proves extremely useful when you’re shopping around and need a quick conversion.


3. Foursquare. Foursquare might be an app that has recently changed and expanded in its “check-in” system to it’s partner app called Swarm, however Foursqaure itself is a mind-reading master when it comes to dining in new locations. When you’re traveling to a new destination, hopefully you’re not craving McDonald’s. Instead, hopefully you’re craving amazing, local food! Foursquare pulls from your current location and time of day to suggest good eats near you. It also gives addresses, hours of operations, and directs you to your GPS, if you decide you need help getting there.


Of course there will still be complications when you travel, but using these apps might just help ease the pain a little bit.

What To Do To Prepare For A Study Abroad

By: Emma Perrin @emma_perrin17


For as long as I can remember, it’s been a dream of mine to study abroad. By the time I began my journey at Ohio University last fall, my longing for adventure had already kicked in and I immediately began researching how I could make my dreams of international study a reality. I was recently accepted into a study abroad program in Barcelona, Spain for spring semester, and I couldn’t be more excited! But I’m quickly realizing that living abroad for 4 months is a big responsibility that requires a great deal of planning. Below are a few tips based on my own experience for anyone who is interested in taking the steps toward making their own travel dreams come true!

  • Getting Started. Your first step should be to meet with one of the advisers in the Office of Education Abroad. They can offer valuable guidance when it comes to building the experience that will be right for you. They’re always willing to answer questions about the study abroad process (which can at times be a little overwhelming), so don’t hesitate to utilize this valuable resource!
  • Funding. Studying abroad can be a huge financial investment, but it’s more doable than a lot of people think. Ohio University offers a large number of study abroad programs, which students can apply university financial aid, and they also offer other scholarships to help fund the costs of studying abroad. With a little extra research, students can find assistance from outside sources as well, such as national awards, blogging and photography scholarships, and help from local organizations like rotary clubs.
  • Passport/Visa. If you’ve never traveled abroad before, getting a passport should be very high on your to-do list. Generally, it takes 5-7 weeks upon application to receive a passport, so don’t delay! If you wait, you could run the risk of not getting a passport in time. Also, many countries require visas to live there for an entire semester, which also take about a month to process. In the case of Spain, visa applicants from Ohio must travel to the Spanish Consulate in Chicago to apply in person. While such processes vary from country to country, it’s worth checking out early so as not to run into any conflicts!
  • Classes. While the adventure of moving to another country for a few months is exciting, you have to remember that you are going to study! When you are deciding on a program, make sure that they offer classes that you will be able to put toward your degree. Plan to meet with a transfer adviser in your college who can help you determine which classes can transfer to Ohio University credits. Make their job easier by being prepared for that meeting: Print out the syllabi for the courses you plan to take abroad (which should be available online) and take them with you.
  • Research, research, research! Take some time to get to know the country and city that you will call home for a semester! Consider things like what immunizations you may need and the country’s currency exchange rate. However, also use the time before you depart to get excited about experiencing the food, music and history of another culture! Knowing what to expect will help you feel less nervous when it’s time to board your flight, and will help you feel more at home when you get there.

Traveling is a wonderful way to broaden your horizons and gain perspective on the world and your place in it. If it’s your dream to study abroad, it’s never too early to get started!

Diversifying my Skills: Documentary Filmmaking

 1622881_773739329321709_239015431_nTwo months ago I had one of the most amazing and stressful experiences I have ever had in my 19 years of life, the opportunity to study abroad in Quito, Ecuador for a documentary filmmaking program through Ohio University. I was not exactly prepared when I walked into my first class session during fall semester – because this was my first experience ever working with film beyond the mediocre short movies I made using a digital camera and a trial version of Final Cut Pro. During the first week, we split up into the four documentary groups we would work with for the entire trip.

Over the next few months we started preparing for the trip by finding contacts, doing pre-interviews and laying out the overall concept of our film. Those class and preparation sessions taught me a lot about film, but when we landed in Quito and got to work on producing the documentary, I realized just how much I was going to learn. Here are the five basic lessons I learned about documentary filmmaking while on an amazing adventure in Ecuador.

  1. Always Have a Backup for EVERYTHING: This means having backup batteries for your camera and audio equipment, a backup camera, a backup microphone, a backup tripod, quite literally a backup everything. I can’t even count the number of times a camera dies during a shoot or the amount of audio problems we had with the lavalier microphones (the personal ones that hook onto the interviewees shirt), and had to use the backup audio from the RODE microphone (the one that attaches to the top of the camera). Having a backup means you at least have something to work with even if it’s lesser quality than what you were hoping for.
  2. You Have to Learn to Roll with the Punches: Things don’t always work out with filmmaking, especially with nonfiction documentaries, and you need to learn to adjust to the issues. Traveling to Quito we didn’t know many places to set up a shoot at, so much of the time we went to our interviewees homes. We had to do our best to control the settings, but its hard to control when a child yells or a dog barks, and it’s impossible to control when the sun goes down or a cloud changes the lighting. For all of these problems you need to learn to adjust, whether it’s reshooting that portion of the interview or entertaining a 3-year-old girl by going to watch Finding Nemo with her.
  3. Film is HARD: I’ve been around a lot of people who work in photography or film, and I always knew the technical aspect must have been difficult, but I never realized just how difficult. I went into Ecuador thinking it’s a camera, they’ll tell me how to set it up and I’ll press record. Definitely not the case. You have to shoot manually in film because the automatic settings will adjust to the slightest change and usually overcorrect. So every setting needs to be set manually, and that is something I still cannot do. I would try and help set up the camera, and I could set up the frame, but then I had to have Gretchen Kessler (a film major in my group) come and set focus, aperture and basically everything else you can think of.
  4. Audio is HARDER: Now this may not be the case for everyone, but from what I experienced dealing with, audio is on a whole new level. Recording the audio itself isn’t difficult at all, other than the cruel and unusual punishment that is holding the boom for an hour interview. The real difficulty with audio is listening. While recording audio you have to make sure there is no background noise – background noise can come from something as small as the buzzing of a light bulb. While you’re recording the audio you have to make sure there are no peaks in sound and no unwanted noises or echoes. If there is an issue the only thing you can do is ask the question again until you get the right sound.
  5. Editing Takes a Special Type of Patience: I enjoy playing around on Final Cut Pro just as much as the next person, but when it comes to making a documentary you don’t realize the amount of video you have until you start editing. I would estimate we had over 15 hours of video that we had to be cut down into a 12-minute documentary. Thank goodness we had our own personal editing king, Jarrett Lehman, to shift through hours upon hours of film and edit everything into our final piece, and my first documentary.

I learned a lot during my experience in Quito, from a filmmaking and a cultural perspective. This past winter break has prepared me for a lot for my future in Journalism, and has given me a new sense of respect for all the hard work that goes into documentary filmmaking.

You can watch our documentary, “Ecuador, The American Dream” here.


Becca Zook is a sophomore studying Strategic Communication with specializations in South American Studies and Sports Management. You can follow her on Twitter at @BeccaZook.

International Travel for the Inexperienced Traveler

QuitoIn less than a month I will be traveling to Quito, Ecuador for a study abroad trip and I could not be more excited! Considering I’ve only been on a plane twice in my life and have only had one real experience abroad, preparing for this trip has been a pain in my backside. So here’s the basics of what I’ve learned so far in my how-to on preparing for traveling abroad:

Get a passport (if you already have a passport check the expiration date): I know you’re sitting there thinking, “Thanks Captain Obvious! I’m going out of the country of course I need a passport!” But let me tell you something, Lieutenant Sarcasm; putting off getting your passport can turn into a big problem.

I had a passport from my freshman year of high school, but unluckily for me it expired within five months after my study abroad. In order to leave Ecuador you need to present a passport with at least six months validity. (I recommend checking your country of travels policy on validity.) So I took my drivers license, old passport, social security card and another government issued I.D. to the post office to renew my passport. Because I was a minor when I got my first passport, those four forms of identification weren’t enough. I also needed my birth certificate and a copy of my birth certificate. Basically the only thing they didn’t need from me was a list of my ancestry and a written note from the doctor that delivered me stating that I was, in fact, myself.

I did eventually end up getting all thirty forms of the necessary documentation, filling out the application and getting my picture taken. A half an hour and $150 later, I had ordered my new passport.

Purchase your plane tickets: Make sure you have enough time to get from terminal to terminal if you have a connecting flight. I, being the inexperienced flyer I am, made sure I had plenty of time between flights… six hours to be exact. You know just in case I can’t find my terminal or get lost in the airport for five and half hours. On second thought, I’m probably going to regret that layover choice.

Pack light: You’re going on a trip, not moving you’re entire life to a foreign country. I realize you might really like those black studded heels but realistically you’re never going to wear them! Leave them behind! Only pack the necessities and when you’re dragging your suitcase through the airport by yourself, you’re going to thank me. Check ahead of time to see if you’ll have access to a laundry facility, because if so, only take enough clothes for a week. Just think the less stuff you bring, the more room you’ll have to take things back!

Embrace a more natural look: You don’t want to lug 50 different hair products or tools to another country, trust me. And this goes for the men too! Leave the hair gel behind! Take only what you need. I promise that you’re not going to want to spend an hour getting ready when you could be out exploring.

Adapters, Money, Identification, Etc.: If you plan on using any electronics you’re going to need an adapter. Research the type of outlet used in the country you’re traveling to and buy a couple adapters of that type. When traveling you don’t want to be carrying around all your money in case you get pick pocketed. Your best bet would be to take the money you will need for the day with you when you go out and leave the rest in the safe at your hostel or hotel. Same thing goes for identification; take COPIES of your passport with you and leave your original passport in your safe. In foreign countries your United States driver’s license will not work as identification, instead use a photocopy of your passport.

In Quito the American dollar is widely accepted so I won’t have to worry about changing currency, however they aren’t going to be able to break large bills for me either so I’ll be taking mainly smaller bills (10’s, 5’s and 1’s) and change.

The Not-So-Stand-Out American: Basically try not to look too American and tourist-y. Blend into the culture; wear clothing that doesn’t make you stand out. The more out of place you look, the easier target you are for pick pocketing and petty theft. If you make an effort to keep your belongings on or in front of you, you definitely reduce the risk of theft, but if you’re wearing name brand clothing that is obviously expensive you are basically holding up a sign inviting thieves to target you.

Last but definitely not least,

HAVE FUN! Traveling is fun and exciting. You get to experience a new culture with interesting customs, foods and languages. Many people don’t get the opportunity to travel so take advantage of it. Take risks and do something new! Personally, I have this crazy fear of sharks but while abroad I’ll be snorkeling with sharks and other tropical fish in the Galapagos Islands. Granted I might have a minor anxiety attack, but I’m still going to! Take chances and do something that you’ll remember forever; make the thousands of dollars you’re spending worth the trip. Don’t spend too much time stressing the little things and just look forward to the great experience ahead of you.

Travel safe and wish me luck in Quito! I’m going to need it with those sharks!

-Rebecca Zook is a sophomore studying journalism with a minor in studio art. Follow her at @BeccaZook.

Study Abroad Tips for a First-Timer

Study abroad tips for a first-time traveler, by a first-time traveler

Oper LeipzigThis summer, I had the opportunity of a lifetime studying abroad with the Scripps College of Communication in the historic city of Leipzig, Germany. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, but it wasn’t without its challenges. Here are a few things I learned as a first-time international traveler that will hopefully be useful to future Bobcats looking to explore the world.

Understand conversion rates for temperatures, distance, currency and anything else. “It’s supposed to be a nice day. I think it’s going to be 25 degrees,” one of the German students remarked as he talked about the weather. I was confused – to me, 25° is cold! It took me a second to realize he was speaking in terms of degrees Celsius, and 25°C is 77°F – very nice weather indeed. It might take a while to get used to hearing measurements given in meters and liters and degrees Celsius, so try to gain a basic understanding of the system as soon as possible.

No matter how open-minded you are, expect culture shock. Other countries do certain things very differently than we do in the U.S. From paying a small fee (about 50 euro cents) to use most public restrooms to the lack of air conditioning in many buildings, I experienced my share of minor inconveniences while abroad. And be prepared for reverse culture shock upon coming home as well – my first night back in the U.S., I couldn’t figure out why it was so cold inside every building. Apparently I got used to living without AC!

Document your experience as much as possible. I contributed to three blogs while overseas: the Ohio University Office of Education Abroad’s blog; Borderless Bobcats, the group blog for our team in Leipzig; and my own personal blog. I also took hundreds of pictures and held onto little keepsakes such as my ticket from the soccer game we attended and a matchbook from one of my favorite restaurants. Documenting my trip through many outlets makes it easy to go back and browse through the memories when I’m feeling nostalgic.

Homesickness will set in at one point or another. For me, it happened Memorial Day weekend. My friends back home were posting pictures on social media of patriotic picnics and barbecues. Lots of people had the day off from work and school, but in Germany, it was just another Monday. This made me realize how much I love spending time with my family and friends in the summer, and I have a new found appreciation for that now.

Consider the significance of your experience – you’ll appreciate it even more. One of my favorite days of the entire trip was when we traveled an hour north of Leipzig by train to Berlin. Today, you can walk across Germany’s capital city from east to west without either presenting documentation at a military checkpoint or running into a wall. Twenty five years ago, that wasn’t possible. Part of what made Berlin so amazing for me was the sobering thought that not long ago, this modern, thriving city was the epitome of Cold War hell.

Being a tourist is fun. One weekend, I flew to Italy for a trip with three other girls. We snapped pictures of each other at all kinds of monuments, including the obligatory photos of ourselves “grabbing” a pillar on the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The word “tourist” comes with a stigma, but don’t shy away from the typically “touristy” things – after all, who’s going to believe that I went to Rome if I don’t have a picture of the Coliseum to prove it?

-Lindsey Zimmerman is a sophomore with a double major in public relations and broadcast journalism. Catch up with Lindsey at @lindseyzim716.

A Bag Full of Tricks in Leipzig, Germany

KateThis summer I had the great opportunity to further my journalism education across the pond in Leipzig, Germany. Myself, along with thirteen other J-School classmates, traveled thousands of miles to gain a better perspective of international journalism at the University of Leipzig.

I have never had a burning passion to become an international journalist, but was curious how the other side of the world did this journalism thing. During my four weeks abroad, I explored Germany while writing articles, blogs and edited and broadcasted a radio piece. By the end of those four weeks, I gained an immense appreciation for international communicators and realized how important it was to have that skill set.

However, the tasks I completed abroad were tougher than I imagined. I had taken a step back from “traditional” journalism many moons ago when I found my home in public relations at OU. The world was not the same as back home in the United States. I found myself bored to death on trams and trains when no Wi-Fi was provided to check my Facebook or Twitter feeds.

It came as a shock to me when our group visited MDR, one of Germany’s new and innovative television channels that broadcasts to Saxony. A recent batch of interns were exploring the possibility of using social media to attract a younger audience. One intern took it upon herself to start up and run the social media for the company. One girl on her MacBook versus all of Central Germany; I get anxiety just thinking about it!

Because European media was not as tech savvy as I was used to, I had to re-hone my traditional journalism skills. Most of our class assignments were articles or radio pieces. As a result, my experience in Germany soon felt like a distant yet familiar dream as I dived back into the world of broadcast and feature writing.

After my first collaborative article I had shaken out most of the cobwebs and felt more comfortable writing my second article; a profile on an American female acrobatic performer who was currently performing at a local theater show. I stayed up all night perfecting the story before it was published and felt great sense of accomplishment. I hadn’t lost my old writing skills after all!

But how were these old tricks of mine going to help me improve my PR skill set? What was I getting out of this trip that I couldn’t get interning at an agency at home? Then I started to think like the savvy PR chick I am, and realized how important a solid background in news and feature writing was to the world of public relations.

I had spent so much time using social media to promote our client with ImPRessions last year that I forgot the beauty of PR is that we have so many mediums to work through to reach the public. The possibilities are endless, people! How interesting would it have been to post the acrobat story on a travel website or Facebook page to promote the show or entice traveling Americans to visit Leipzig to see the performance.

I think as college students, it’s easy for us to rely solely upon Twitter or Facebook as our PR tools because it’s easy in a college town. However, in the real world (as in the international world) you have to spread all of the pieces across the game board in order to pass go and collect 200 dollars.

What I learned studying international journalism abroad was that by taking the initiative to develop a wide range of journalistic skills, I am able to become the well-rounded PR guru I can be. Because we have to choose a specific journalistic field to major in doesn’t mean we have to limit our abilities. Studying abroad gave me the desire to not become stagnant with relying on what is easy, but to explore what’s challenging. There are so many great ideas and opportunities out there, it just sometimes takes a Bobcat to bring them to life!

-Kate Schroeder is a junior PR major with a psychology minor who studied abroad in Leipzig, Germany summer 2013. Follow her at @kschroeds7.