April 24, 2007

My Fashion Columnist Went Abroad

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Studying abroad has become a common aspect of a college student’s curriculum. American college students spend numerous months parading around the world trying to take advantage of all that they can before returning to a final year at their home universities. One of the most common destinations for such escapades is Europe. A semester abroad in Europe is essentially a modern day grand tour.
One cannot merely appear in Europe and hope to have a flawless experience. Proper preparation is necessary in order to even leave to study abroad. Regardless of budgets, objectives or personal preferences there are a variety of fundamental items that all abroad students should consider purchasing before arriving at their destination.
There are the obvious objects that all students would recommend to their study abroad successors. Calendars are essential to keep track of school work and travel dates. Cameras and journals are vital to record all trips and extraordinary experiences. A small alarm clock, watch, luggage locks, weekend duffle bag, hiking backpack, compressible pillow, sleep sack, miniature refillable toiletries and a supply of allergy, cold and stomach medications are arguably all of the logical necessities. However, people often forget about the less obvious requirements that are essential to a semester abroad, especially in Europe.
While traveling it is easy to look like a target for pickpockets, muggers, gypsies or any of the assorted types of thieves that try to take advantage of ignorant tourists. An international wardrobe is, therefore, essential in order to look like less of a target.
One’s wardrobe also shouldn’t scream “I go to (fill in the blank) University” as indicated by one’s hooded sweatshirt. Wearing blatantly American items, such as university sweatshirts, athletic sneakers, casual shorts, fleece jackets or backpacks, immediately pins the traveler as an American student, and thus a wealthy victim and easy target.
However, dressing too nicely may mean that you will probably overpay at all flea markets, cafes or other locations where the prices are not clearly posted. Dressing too poorly may mean that you won’t be able to get into certain places, such as nicer restaurants or even religious sites.
Instead, it is important to select items that have a more international or European flare, depending on your study abroad location. One should select lifestyle sneakers, not athletic ones. Light trousers, not shorts. A blazer, not a fleece. A tote or messenger bag, not a backpack. Also, maintaining a simple wardrobe with classic items also helps to avoid looking like a particular type of tourist. Additionally, it’s a good idea to do at least a little shopping in your abroad country to better fit the part.
Items such as trousers or blazers, also have benefits, regardless of appearance. Messenger bags or totes that are worn at one’s side are harder to pickpocket. Girls should also avoid wearing clutches, which are easy to thieve. Shorts aren’t permitted in many religious sites, so wearing pants assures that one won’t get turned away from a church, synagogue, mosque or other conservative institution. Comfort and function are both important while traveling. Days of serious walking require comfortable shoes, but European cities also “require” decent looking shoes.
Beyond wearable items, many other items that are kept out of view are critical. A wallet is a key organizational item, especially when traveling between destinations with multiple types of currencies. One’s wallet should be large enough to hold many types of currencies and various cards- one’s American school I.D., abroad school I.D. and international student I.D. cards, in addition to a range of different credit cards.
Other essential papers, such as passports, insurance information, plane / train / bus tickets, hotel information and letters of acceptance also need to be kept handy. Plastic or leather envelopes are great to organize and keep track of such vital documents.
On a semester abroad one never knows exactly where one may end up or how one will arrive there. So try to be prepared; if not then remember that a semester abroad is a time to relax, to see part of the world, to try new things, to neglect school work, to appreciate the day life and the night life and most likely drain your ATM account.