Valuable lessons I am grateful to have learned from studying abroad.

Not having an unlimited amount of money has made for some of the best stories.

While traveling abroad, I was already loads of money in debt from college. I definitely had a budget, but still wanted to do and see everything. But some of the fondest memories I have are being an in-debt college student travelling for as cheap as possible. The memories of trekking to a farther airport for the cheapest flight, and meeting the men’s professional volleyball team in Croatia.  The nights hanging out with random people that shared rooms with me in hostels. I could go on forever.

I am much more independent than I give myself credit for.

There are times that I get lost travelling downtown Denver. When lost, I can easily use the GPS on my iPhone and find my way home. This requires no contact with anyone else, or public transportation because I own a car. Yet, I traveled all around Europe by foot, bike, train, bus, and plane with no GPS. When I was lost I would interact with people and ask questions. Because of these interactions, I found more useful ways to find the places I was searching for and received tips for great local spots on the way. I did all this without any technology, without any friends or family on speed dial… I did this by myself.

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I have been neglecting my own backyard.

Studying abroad has shown me that the world has so much to offer. I learned that Europe is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I was able to gain an appreciation for art and history. I made sure to get to know my city (Maastricht, Netherlands) as best as I could. When I returned to the U.S., I realized that I do not know my OWN city that well. I have lived in Colorado my entire life and I have never put as much effort into exploring and learning about my own home. Luckily, this is something that can be fixed.

And of course, there are fascinating people all over the world. Some of them may even become lifelong friends.

-Dylan, DU Abroad Peer Advisor

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Buying Guide: Host Family Gifts

If you are going abroad and will live with a host family before, you should know that it is nice to bring gifts to whomever you plan to stay with. However, this rule can also be extended to whomever is going to be helping you a lot when you are abroad. For example, I had what is called a Danish Visiting Family, which was a family that
helped me a lot when I was abroad, and I would hang out with them and cook meals with them at least once a week, but I did not live with them. Even if you are just going to live with a roommate or two, it is polite to bring them a gift.
If you are having any trouble figuring out gifts to bring, here are some ideas:

  • Celestial Seasonings tea gift basket (this is what I brought my visiting family, but since Celestial Seasonings is become accessible in so many places, make sure that you are not going somewhere where it is easy to buy. Denver or Boulder tote bags (or tote bags from wherever you live) BBQ sauce (at least in Denmark, everyone seemed to think that BBQ just meant grilling and nobody had any concept of BBQ sauce, so when my parents came to visit I had them bring some BBQ sauce to give to my visiting family)celestial seasonings
  • Baseball caps or sports jerseys from wherever you are fromrockies jersey
  • Food mixes. For whatever reason a lot of people from other countries seem intrigued by all of our brownie mixes and pancake mixes (or perhaps are just interested in the convenience of it). Other food mixes like mixes for bean soup or anything like that would also make good gifts—especially if they are locally made.
  • Chocolate. Especially if you can get chocolate or candy from a local factory.You can rarely go wrong with getting chocolate, but just make sure that it is wrapped up well so that nothing melts in your suitcase!hammonds candy
  • Locally made soaps or perfumes. This gift is of course better for women.
  • Native American crafts or jewelry.
  • Any other food item that is special to where you live such as salt water taffy if you are from the coast.
  • Any other non food item such as clothing or jewelry or decorations that is somehow representative of where you are from also makes a good gift.

And always bring photos of yourself, your family, your friends, and where you live (including postcards)! It is nice to be able to show your family where you live!

*Blogger’s note: Think ahead- you may be placed with a family with small children, grandparents, extended family members, and people not listed on your housing assignment. Bring a few extra little items just in case. Postcards are easy, cheap, and a great way to share a bit of your home with your host family!

-Rosa Calabrese, DU Study Abroad Peer Advisor