Strategies For The Directionally Challenged


image of signpostBy guest author: Mark Melchior

Remember going to the grocery store with Mom as a kid? She wanted to get paper towels and lunch meat but the only reason you went was to try your hand at snagging the Reese’s Puffs. Then all of the sudden, everything changes. What was once a glorious, colorful, and enticing environment of snacking perfection became a carnival of madness the second you realized you’d strayed away from Mom. Traveling abroad can have a similar feeling of desperation. With time changes, jet lag, strange languages, and that guy that is way too persistent in selling you a botched painting, Abroad 101 understands how being a little ‘Directionally Challenged’ can affect both your experience and willingness to travel over seas.

Not to worry because we’ve decided to come up with a few tips to make getting lost on your adventures a little less stressful.

Travel Light

You’re moving temporarily, yes. Do you need that industrial strength hair drier? No. Traveling light will save you both time and energy when it comes to moving about the globe. Try to visualize your daily routine abroad and ask yourself, “What do I need now and what can I get when I’m there?” Generally I’d say that a French toothbrush works just as good as an American version. Essentially this tip makes our list because traveling light means traveling easy. No extra weight to lug about and no need to find space for all the bags.

Sometimes you can fit more things into smaller spaces. Youtube has plenty of packing techniques like the Bundle Fold or the Army Ranger T-Shirt Roll. You’ll be glad you packed well in the event you get truly stuck on your journey abroad.

#2 Write It Down

For this tip I call once more on a beloved childhood memory when Mom, Dad, & family go on a little trip. Somewhere along the way the car strays into the, “Oh no, I just realized I have no clue where anything and everything is and I’m lost,” zone.

This is the main ingredient in the Nobody Gets To Have Fun cocktail.

So let it be known simply as WRITE IT DOWN. Have an itinerary when you travel. Copies of boarding passes, payments, destinations will help. If you don’t speak Portuguese but have the address of your host family’s residence, in Portuguese, then I’m confident you’ll be able to find help easier. Also, do yourself a little favor and learn some key words like ‘left’ and ‘right.’ Maybe even know of some major landmarks in the area just in case it gets serious. Preparing beforehand will always help so do your research before you land in China. It’s like G.I. Joe always said, “Knowing is half the battle.”

#3 The Airport

This place will either make or break your ability to nap happily on the long flight to Australia. I’m talking about the Airport. These structures are notorious for their confusing nature; just ask my mother who was practically ready to build a fort in the Cincinnati airport after a debilitating change to the whole airline’s flight schedule.

I’m usually fine with any car travel but there’s something about flashing my ID every nine feet, belt-less, shoe less, and patience-less that makes me hate waddling through airport security. Once again clothed I make my way through to the different terminals while simultaneously dodging every bewildered individual with their head captivated by the majestic flight board. Not so majestic when you realize the gate number keeps changing. Or the terminal. Which one is which again? This is my point exactly.

Airports are meant to be both easy to navigate and over stimulated which causes you to forget which direction you’re moving. It’s like a Vegas casino that actually wants you to leave but there is no clear way out. For example, an airline once changed my flight’s terminal and gate number seven or eight times within 15 minutes at Chicago-O’Hare. Not only that, but how am I supposed to keep track of where the flight is when there is a perfectly good airport T.G.I. Fridays that needs my patronage? My solution? Twitter. The flight was changing so much that I decided that I would ask via tweet to the airline when I finished my meal. It worked famously!

If your itinerary, Twitter, and patience fail you, and you decided that you could just carry on the industrial strength hair drier, your last resort is to ask for help. This surprisingly is very difficult for some folks. Good news, in an airport even the janitor can help you. The staff are navigation experts, especially airport security, and even the various restaurant staff. Plus as a bonus, if you try and look desperate enough they might even take you right to the flight deck. I once had a kindly man whisk me away on a golf cart across Philadelphia International just because I looked lost.

These tips will not guarantee a hassle free travel experience but most certainly will help in a time of stress. The best thing you can do is embrace the spirit of going abroad and meet the stress of traveling with a good attitude…and maybe a few directions too.

– Mark Melchior

image of mark melchiorMark Melchior is a recent graduate of the Park school of Communications, Ithaca College. 

Connect with Mark through LinkedIn. 


Why should I write a review?

By guest author: Samantha Shay

“I learned that I am able to adjust to just about any situation.”
“The trajectory of my entire life changed because I studied abroad. And I cannot imagine my life without it now.”
“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”
“I learned to be ‘tough,’ and I grew as a person in ways I can’t explain.”
-Excerpts from some recent Abroad101 student reviews

A recent New York Times article stated, “Globalization is here to stay, and students who want to work in our interconnected global world should study abroad…Making study abroad a part of their education is the most write a reviewective and accessible means for students to develop needed skills because it pushes a student to get out of her comfort zone to experience another culture, language, environment and education system.”[1]With a mission to promote global citizenship by fostering the most meaningful study abroad experiences for all students through technology innovation in international education, Abroad101 has collected the stories of over 22,000 students’ international pursuits through over 8,800 abroad programs.  Whether you studied abroad to explore your heritage, pursue an academic goal or field of study, or immerse yourself in a culture different than your own, we want to add your story to our collection.

 Allan E. Goodman and Stacie Nevadomski Berdan, New York Times, May 12 2014.

Why should I write a review?

What better capstone to a life-changing experience abroad than to share your story and your advice with someone else?  Abroad101 is an abundant resource for students who are in the process of choosing an abroad program that will fit them well.  Your story could directly impact the program choice of a prospective traveler.  By submitting a review to Abroad101, you are contributing to a collective database of student stories that future abroad students can access easily.  How accessible was healthcare in your city?  Did you spend more money on food than you expected to?  How many hours a day did you speak a foreign language?  By answering these questions and others like them, you create a sketch of a prospective student’s program experience.  If while abroad you faced challenges you didn’t foresee, or elements of your program that didn’t work for you, sharing this feedback and advice for others to access is a generous way to reflect on those experiences.

By sharing a review with Abroad101, you are creating a sketch of abroad life not only for prospective students to consider, but for their families and peers to read as well.  Consider your review a tribute to protective parents everywhere.  At the recent “Women in Travel” Summit, Abroad101 received strong feedback that reviews are just as useful and enlightening to parents and teachers as they are to other students.[1]  The WITS attendees mentioned details about safety and quality of administration as top curiosities and concerns when students are choosing an abroad program.  By addressing these topics in your review, as well as answering questions that target many other aspects of your program experience, you can really illustrate what life was like for you during your semester abroad.

Your positive feedback, or constructive criticism, can benefit the future of your program.  Abroad101 offers administrators and program providers access to evaluation data collected directly from students, and they can access student reviews and feedback on our website just as easily as other students can.  Your words have the power to support a program you feel strongly about, or alternatively, to help initiate changes within a program to benefit future students’ experiences.  Additionally, since students submit reviews directly through our website and independently from the programs in which they participated, readers can trust that the reviews are as honest and unbiased as possible.

Most importantly, submitting a review of your semester abroad benefits you!  A 2010 market research study reported, “of the U.S. recruiters and HR professional surveyed, 75% report that their companies have formal policies in place that require hiring personnel to research applicants online.”[2]  According to Idealist Careers, “employees are looking for positive things: discovering how well you communicate…getting a sense of how professionally you present yourself…”[3]  Whether you plan to pursue graduate school, a job or internship, or another abroad program, having published a well constructed, thoughtful review on Abroad101 will give you an edge with employers, grad schools, and other potential post grad opportunities – show your reflective writing skills, showcasing your experience abroad, and reflecting on how your experience changed your outlook on the world.

[2] via
[1] Allan E. Goodman and Stacie Nevadomski Berdan, New York Times, May 12 2014.


image of Samantha ShaySamantha Shay is a Patron Services Assistant at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and studied abroad in France.  Please read her study abroad review.

Connect with Samantha through LinkedIn

Abroad101 Student of the Week #0014 – Alexis Peppin

Image of Alexis Peppin, Abroad101 Student of the Week Student of the Week – Alexis Peppin

This weeks Abroad 101 student is Alexis Peppin, a senior at Cedar Shoals High School who is determined to participate in a foreign exchange program in Germany! Along with German (which she has taken 3 years of already), her favorite subjects are literature, art and band. With future plans to teach English in Germany, we think this foreign exchange program is perfect for her! She is working hard, having two jobs as well as fundraising on GoEnnounce, to make her dream a reality. Check out her Mission here!

The Abroad101 Student of the Week initiative awards a student who created a Mission for a study abroad program on GoEnnounce with a donation to their fundraiser. Learn more about this partnership from Abroad101 CEO Mark Shay and GoEnnounce co-founder Melissa Davis here.

We’re making weekly donations to #studyabroad fundraisers! We hope you can help us assist these students in reaching their goals to make their travel dreams a reality. Visit here to help with this mission. To find out more about Alexis’ study abroad program in Germany, visit here.

Stay tuned for our next Abroad101 Student of the Week!

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Ten Packing tips for the Study Abroad Student

Ten Packing tips for the Study Abroad Student

Whether you are studying abroad for a week, month, semester or year, packing can be a daunting activity. To make the whole process a little easier, here are some tips on how to pack for study abroad like a pro.

1. If you are planning on studying abroad in Europe do not bother packing sweatpants. Maybe pack one pair to lounge around your apartment or dorm room in but I promise you NO ONE in Europe wears them and if you do you will be stared at. Do not waste the space. Continue reading