With so many students jetting off to the corners of the world to study abroad within the next couple weeks I thought I would give my advice that I learned from studying abroad last summer! I loved every second of being abroad, but definitely learned a lot and have lots of advice to share so here it goes! (fair warning- text heavy post!)
#1: Don't bring: Shoes that you have to break in.
I decided that I wanted a pair of nude flats to take with me on my trip. I thought they would go with everything and be super versatile. I found a cute patent pair at Target and thought they would be my go-to shoe during my Maymester. For some reason I decide to wear them on my flight over. They were fine while I was sitting still for eight hours. However I had no taken into consideration the enormous amount of walking I would be doing the first day there. Our apartment was not ready when we arrived so we walked around for hours before being able to go into our rooms and relax. Oh. My. God. The blisters I got from that first day lasted almost a month and gave me literal scars on my heels and the back sides of my feet. I still have nightmares. So PLEASE whatever you do only bring completely broken in, comfortable shoes for your trip and save yourself the pain and annoying frantic search for bandaids.
#2: Bring: cash and a debit card, not a credit card.
Here' something I wish I would have known- in Europe they don't split checks. In American that is such a standard procedure that I assumed it would be the same on the other side of the pond. Once I ran out of cash and had to start using the credit card I quickly realized that I had made a major mistake. Many places didn't even take credit cards and none would split a check, meaning that many times I had to put my groups meal on my card and have them pay me in cash. During one desperate time I had my mom wire me money through Western Union, but it was such a pain that it was more trouble than it was worth honestly. So, yeah, bring cash and a debit card so that you will be able to live!
#3: Don't bring: giant things of shampoo/conditioner/lotion etc.
I made the mistake of bringing way too many toiletry products which resulted in a bag that passed the weight limit and caused me an extra baggage charge. On my way back home to America I wore my heaviest clothes, put more things in my carry-on bag, and left all my toiletry products in Europe, and thankfully my bags were not overweight. Which leads me to my next point...
#4: Bring: warm clothes.
In the south when it hits April our coats go into storage. However, in Europe it is still cold in May/June. I studied abroad in Belgium from mid-May to mid-June and for the first few weeks it was downright cold. I wished the entire time that I had brought a pair of riding boots. Thankfully my mom had convinced me to bring a coat and when we went to London I ended up wearing it the entire weekend. So don't assume it will be warm there (unless you're studying in Spain/Italy etc).
#5: Bring: a tablet of some sort.
You will be traveling to places other than your study abroad home base which means lots of flights, bus trips, and train rides. During these (long) journeys an e-reader or iPad would have come in so handy to help pass the time. Also, their ability to connect to wifi would have been a blessing. Phone charges can rack up so easily and become crazy expensive. I didn't bring my laptop on weekend trips because it was heavy and I didn't want it to get stolen. This really cut off my communication from home because I talked to my family mostly through Facebook chat and Skype to save money. If I would have had a tablet this wouldn't have been an issue. Yes, many hostels have computers in their lobby for you to use but often times people occupy these at the times you want to use them. So save yourself the hassle and bring a tablet.
#6: Bring: a book bag.
This is one of my biggest regrets. I wanted to look cute while in Europe so I stupidly brought a tote bag and not a bookbag. Oh man. My shoulders hated me by the end of my month abroad. Packing enough clothes and toiletries to last you a weekend traveling from place to place in one tote bag was hell. I was ready to tear that bag into a million pieces by the time our first weekend trip was done. Everyone else had book bags and had such an easier time carrying their things from place to place. Don't worry about looks, worry about utility and save yourself the pain and regret that I experienced.
#7: Bring: your camera's cord to be able to upload pictures.
I took so many pictures while abroad and after each weekend of traveling everyone else was able to upload their pictures for their friends and family at home to see but I could not. If I would have had my cord I could have saved myself a lot of time once I got home and also shared my experiences as they were happening with people at home. There is going to be downtime between your classes that you will want to be lazy and mess around on your computer so spend that time uploading pictures and kill two birds with one stone!
#8: Bring: your tennis shoes.
I am a fitness addict, but for some reason decided not to bring my tennis shoes with me abroad. Other people would go out and go for runs and I didn't have the ability to do that. Trust me, you will be eating and drinking so much that a few runs a week will be a god-send for your body and overall state of mind.
#9: Bring: a Tiger Rag (or your schools flag)
This is something I'm so happy I brought with me. Being able to represent Clemson in all the different places I visited was awesome. I brought my mom's Tiger Rag from the 80's and took countless pictures with it. Definitely a must bring!
#10: Bring: some of your favorite snacks/a refillable water bottle.
You may not be able to find your favorite food while abroad. Take it from me, I searched high and low for my favorite cereal the entire time we were there and never found it. Sometimes you just want to munch on a non-foreign food and having something like a box of your favorite snack there will be comforting when the occasional "I miss America" feeling sets in. Lastly bring a refillable water bottle like a Camelbak! Here's something no one told me before my trip- water in Europe isn't free. Seriously, they charge you for a glass of water without ice (there is never ice in drinks). Our hotel lobby had a water cooler, but because I didn't have a large bottle I could only get small glasses at a time. A refillable water bottle would have been an awesome way to hydrate (after long European nights out) and to bring with me during travel to save money.
Hope these all help you! These are all tips I wish someone would have told me before heading across the pond. Have so much fun while abroad and soak it all up! These memories and experiences will stay with you for the rest of your life! Cheers!