A Study Abroad Advice Column for Troubled Travelers
Dear Worldly Willie,
I’m a Junior, currently studying abroad in Dubai, and I need your help. See, I wanted to study abroad elsewhere, but my girlfriend of two months had decided on Dubai…so I followed suit in order to stay by my baby’s side. Thing is, it was only a few Arabian nights before she left me for some wealthy heir who was quick to spoil her with oil money. When I confronted her, she told me she wanted to Sheik things up a bit. So now I’m all alone in the Emirates because some pretty boy can afford to drop a few dirhams on dinner. What do you suggest I do now? And where did I go wrong?!
-Dumped in Dubai
Dear Dumped in Dubai,
You made a hasty decision in following your girl to Dubai. Studying abroad is a time to branch out, take a risk, and meet new people. There’s something to be said for studying abroad without any familiar faces and thus forcing yourself to meet new people and build new friendships. Beyond the tangible benefits of studying abroad, there are other impalpable benefits that come with adapting to unfamiliar situations and dealing with challenges on your own in a foreign environment. My advice to you, Dumped, is that you move on and make the best of your remaining time abroad. Create new relationships, take risks, and challenge yourself to meet new people. You’d likely have been better off choosing a destination for your own reasons…and not for someone else’s.
I’m abroad in Paris for the Spring semester and I’m having the time of my life. My bros and I have a totally sweet setup in the heart of the city; we live in a sick bro-pad, right near a Burger King and a gym. But I’ve got one major problem: the French all seem to hate me! For the life of me, I jut can’t figure out why. I’m really making an effort to fit in. For instance, when a Parisian doesn’t understand my English, I repeat myself very loudly at least twice before getting annoyed. And I’m always willing to share my culture with the French: I often blast my favorite Dave Matthews album loud enough for the whole neighborhood to enjoy. I’m generous too; I leave my half-full beers in the hallway for my neighbors to sip on. But no matter what I do, it’s never enough. The French simply hate me. What am I doing wrong?!?
-Puzzled in Paris
Dear Puzzled in Paris,
Well, mon frère, it’s clear that you’re making a conscientious but misguided effort to fit in with the French. It’s no secret that Americans abroad are often stereotyped as loud, ignorant, and obnoxious, and it’s important to consciously avoid validating the stereotype. Remember that you are a visitor in another country and that you must be cognizant of foreign customs and etiquette. It’s presumptuous to assume that everyone speaks your language; instead of beginning a conversation in English, learn at least a few phrases in the local language. A few phrases go a long way, and people will be appreciative that you’re making an effort to communicate in their language. When you study abroad, remember that there are certain universal courtesies that are the same the world over. Be respectful and tolerant and treat your new environment as you would your own.
Dear Worldly Willie,
I’ve managed to get myself into quite the currency quandary. See, I arrived in Beijing this afternoon and set out to exchange my dollars for Chinese Yuan. I met this friendly older gentleman on the street who offered an impossibly good exchange rate. Figuring I’d take advantage of a great deal, I swapped him a few crisp C-notes for a big wad of Yuan. “Don’t count it on the street,” he winked at me with his one good eye. “You’ll be mugged,” he warned, gold teeth aglint in the sun, before disappearing down the same dark alley from which he’d come. Heeding this friendly advice, I waited to count my dough, and when I did, I was shocked to learn that he’d ripped me off! I’d gotten less than half of what I was owed! How can I avoid this next time?
-Broke in Beijing
Dear Broke in Beijing,
You’re a sucker; never trust a man with gold teeth. That said, this unfortunate inconvenience can be easily avoided. Your best bet for exchanging cash is to find a local bank. Banks in most countries offer the best exchange rates and charge very small service fees. (And keep in mind that foreign banks often require a passport for all transactions). Alternatively, you can search out a foreign exchange booth, which will charge a significantly higher service charge than a bank, but stays open later. As a general rule, I would advise against exchanging money with a stranger on the street; there’s a good chance you’ll get scammed or ripped off.
Got a question of your own? Write to Worldly Willie at email@example.com