Adam Fortier-Brown: 10 Tips for Study Abroad Students

The following post was written by Adam Fortier-Brown and originally appeared on his blog, Adam Abroad. Adam Fortier-Brown is a Political Science/Economics student and the University of Maine’s George J Mitchell Peace Scholarship student on exchange at the University College Cork during the Fall 2017 semester. He will be posting on his blog regularly about his experiences in Ireland and the joys and challenges of study abroad.

student in front of a castle in ireland
Adam Fortier-Brown at Blarney Castle, near Cork, Ireland.

10 Tips for Study Abroad Students

Classes start today, and I’m feeling particularly motivated. In the time that I have been abroad, I have learned a lot about myself. For other students who are studying abroad or are looking to study abroad, I hope that this will be helpful.

1. Being alone is perfectly OK

If you are an extrovert like I am, then you really love being around people and doing things. When you are studying abroad, traveling will take a lot out of you, and you will need to take time for yourself to make sure you don’t burn out. Walking around the city, or traveling by yourself to a new place is an incredibly rewarding experience. Traveling around Amsterdam by myself for a day, and exploring my new home in Cork for two days before meeting many people has made me much more confident in my ability to travel, and be self sufficient in my life. When studying abroad thousands of miles from your loved ones, it is the perfect opportunity to grow in a self-sufficient manner, and overcome many of your fears. Be safe, be smart, and you will be alright.

2. Passports

Make sure you copy your passport, and email it to you AND someone else! Also print out a copy and have it stowed away somewhere safe in case you lose your passport, or have it taken and need to leave to head home! Also check to see what your visa constraints are, or if you have to file for immigration by a certain date (Ireland’s rule is one month from when you arrive).

3. Money

You should plan on bringing $300 with you in your local currency to get you through your layover and first week in your new home. You can use this to get a cab from the airport, buy groceries, and the items you don’t need to pack with you (we will get to that in a minute). Make sure you have it stowed away in different places on you too. Many big cities in Europe have pickpockets so you should carry a wallet in your front pocket, and cash in different places like your pockets, your shoe, phone case, and bag for example. Yeah, maybe it sounds dramatic, but you won’t think that when you forget your wallet in the taxi after getting home. I typically keep a 100 bill with my passport just in case.

It is also probably worth it to get a local bank account so you can save your money rather than spending a small transaction in transfer fees.

Since it will probably be legal to drink where you study abroad, you will probably go out to the bars and clubs. If you are going out to the pubs and clubs in your country, it is best to leave the credit and debit cards at home, and stick to cash. Maybe also tuck some money in a place in your wallet for the taxi home, because nothing is worse than having a long cold walk home only to wake up the next morning to an email from your bank/credit card company asking why you spent $200 last night.

student in ireland
Adam Fortier-Brown from the top of Blarney Castle.

4. Classes

This is why you are here! Yeah, the night life and all the new people are exciting, but remember to go to your classes! In many countries, going to class is part of the grade, so stick to it. What is also different is homework, or lack thereof. Many European universities do not assign and grade homework like the US, but instead assign readings. You might be able to get away with skipping a reading or two, but come exams season you are going to be very confused when you see that 40% of the exam is not covered in your lecture. Also, exams are taken much more seriously here. You likely will only have one graded assignment, and that exam will be at the end of the semester. At UCC I have an assigned seat in a lecture hall, and have to leave my bag, hat, and phone with security before entering the hall. The exam happens at one place, at one time, and if you miss it or are late, then you can’t take it.

5. Public Transportation

Learn how to do it. It can be complicated if you aren’t used to living in a city, but it is going to help you a lot if you can get it down sooner rather than later. There are also usually discounts for getting tickets online, or using your student card so keep an eye out for that.

6. International Societies on your Campus

If you want to find a great way to meet new friends, and find the best places to go downtown, see if your campus offers an International Student society. You’ll meet people from all over the world which is one of the reasons you are studying abroad in the first place. They likely will host events to meet other students, and fun nights on and around campus. This beats Netflix or going out with just your roommate every day of the week.

7. Useful Apps

Here are some really useful apps to use when you are abroad:

  • WhatsApp: A lot of students abroad use this app instead of texting. You can call, video chat, group chat, and message all on wifi/data which is super helpful.
  • Google Maps: You can download cities to see areas offline, and it will tell you the public transport schedule. This app is a life saver. Apple maps sent me home over two walls and through a stream. Google Maps won’t hurt you like that. Help yourself and get this app.
  • CultureMee: This app is great for finding out about the culture of your study abroad country. It covers travel advisories, things NOT to talk about, and
  • Spotify: No trip is complete without a playlist. Add songs you hear in your country to a new playlist, and ask your new friends to add some of their songs to it. It will be a great way to remember the trip. Music also helps a lot in the airports and bus trips you will take.
  • Uber/Lyft/MyTaxi: This will be much cheaper than taking the usual taxi service, so make sure you can get some access to this in addition to the Tram/Bus in your city.
  • AirBnB/CouchSurfing: This is a really cheap and easy way to find places to stay on your adventures around your country and your continent!
  • Hopper: This app will let you know about airline ticket prices and will help you save money when you are booking flights to travel around the area you are studying. Also use Incognito and a clear cache when looking for tickets so you don’t get inflated prices.

8. Phones / Electricity

Phones are easy here. If you own your phone, you can take the old sim card out and buy a new one in your study abroad location. This makes traveling less worrisome, and you can get plans that are pay-as-you go for as little as $15. Worth every penny.

9. Electricity

Electricity is different abroad. Make sure you get adapters for your appliances so you can charge up your laptop and phone. Also you might want to consider getting a mobile charging pack for when you are going on trips.

10. Mom & Dad

Your parents and family care about you and will want to hear from you. Try to keep in touch when you can. BUT be careful not to be on your phone your whole trip. You are only in your city for a semester, so why spend it being glued to a screen? Set a time to talk maybe once a week, and get it all through at once. You can do the same with friends from home too. The more time you are glued to what is going on at home, and are stuck on facebook/social media is more time you are losing from your study abroad experience. Push yourself to grow and you will find that this is going to be an incredibly rewarding experience.

I wish I had known this stuff before I came abroad, so I hope you heed some of this advice, and safe yourself some headaches. Enjoy this experience of living in another country, and happy travels!

Adam Fortier-Brown is a third year Political Science/Economics student at the University of Maine. He is an active member of the UMaine community participating in Alternative Breaks, Student Government, the Sophomore Owls, and is a brother of Beta Theta Pi. Adam was fortunate enough to be awarded the George Mitchell Peace Scholarship and will be studying abroad in Cork, Ireland for his Fall 2017 semester. He will be updating this blog regularly to cover how different classes are in Ireland as compared to UMaine, and to talk about the incredible experience he will be having in Europe.

The George J. Mitchell Peace Scholarship honors the Northern Ireland peace accord brokered by Senator Mitchell between the governments and peoples of Ireland and the United Kingdom. The Peace Scholarship is an agreement between Maine and Ireland for a student exchange at the University level.

The Fall 2017 Study Abroad Fair will take place Thursday, September 14, 2-5pm at Estabrooke Hall Ballroom. To learn more about UMaine’s Study Abroad program, please visit