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33 Ways to Ruin Your Semester Abroad

by Allison Lounes Oct 16, 2012
Expert advice on what NOT to do during your study abroad experience.

YOU’VE WAITED your whole life to study abroad, and it’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You’re psyched about finally getting the opportunity to go live in Barcelona / Rome / Berlin for 6 months, and you can’t wait to get started.

Before you go, you’ll get lots of advice about how to have a great study abroad experience and make the most of your time overseas. This advice is not the focus of the list below.

During my junior year of college I studied abroad in Paris for a year, and I returned to the country after graduation to work towards a master’s degree and start a website helping students study abroad in France. What I’ve realized is most students have lots of great ideas about how to ignore said advice and spend a terribly boring year studying abroad. Here are 33 that are sure to work for you:


    1. Don’t do any research before you decide

which study abroad program to choose

    1. . Just fill out an application to the city you want to visit and go.

2. Email the program advisors a dozen times before you arrive to make sure they research information about that obscure molecular biology class you want to take. Then decide it’ll be too hard in a foreign language and don’t take it.

3. Leave administrative procedures until the last minute, and then resort to pushiness in order to get your visa on time for your flight.

4. Treat your host family like annoying landlords: Avoid talking to them unless you need something, and don’t do any activities with the family.

5. Avoid trying new foods and eating things you’re sure you won’t like.

6. Start a blog to complain about everything you don’t like or don’t understand about your host country. Make constant comparisons with home.

7. Assume everything in your host country works just like your home country. Get frustrated and berate employees when it doesn’t.

8. Spend time and money looking for your favorite American products at specialty restaurants and grocery stores.

9. Make sure you always have all the comforts of home, no matter how much they cost. Don’t accept anything less than the best.

10. Be sure to switch host families if it’s not the model nuclear family you were hoping for, or if they want you to do chores…like cleaning your room or tidying up after yourself in the kitchen.

11. Do poorly on the language level test on purpose so you’ll get into the easy class. Then it’ll be a breeze and you’ll get an easy A.

12. Insist on taking the classes you want without listening to the advice of your academic advisor. She only knows what other students said about a class, not what you’ll say about it.

13. Choose classes based on schedule and on how little work you’ll have to do during the semester. Don’t take any classes on Friday, no matter how good your advisor promises they’ll be.

14. Avoid taking any of the language or coursework tutoring sessions your program offers. You wouldn’t want to be forced to do “extra” work.

15. Don’t take classes you wouldn’t do really well in. You don’t want your semester abroad to be hard and ruin your GPA.

16. Wait until the last minute to start your assignments, even the ones that are in a different language. It works at your home university, and when you’re abroad, you have to have time to travel.

17. Complain to your advisor about how hard the classes are while traveling every weekend and neglecting tutoring sessions.

18. Insist that you deserve a good grade because you “tried really hard” and it’s hard to take classes in a different language.

19. Travel every weekend to other cities so you don’t have time to explore your host city.

20. Book your tickets for all of your weekend trips before you leave home. You’ll get better prices if you do it way in advance, and you don’t need to budget any flexibility for program events or homework assignments anyway.

21. When you’re not traveling, spend your weekends like you do at your home university: Get drunk with other Americans in someone’s apartment.

22. Take every opportunity to explain to the locals why your way of doing something is better.

23. Get frustrated whenever anything is different from what you’re used to, and make sure to complain constantly about it.

24. Be too shy to talk to other students in your university classes.

25. Refuse invitations to get together with other students in your university classes. You wouldn’t want to be forced to speak another language all night.

26. Refuse to get a job, an internship, or a babysitting gig. Working would cut into your travel time.

27. Be in a serious long-distance relationship so you can spend your evenings Skyping your boyfriend; avoid going on dates with local students.

28. Never get involved in a student group at your host university.

29. Hang out exclusively with other American students in your program.

30. Be sure to visit only the biggest tourist attractions in your host city. Your friends and family back home will ask whether you visited the Louvre, but if you say you visited the Institut du Monde Arabe, they won’t know what that is.

31. Speak English loudly when you go out with friends.

32. Immediately switch into English if you don’t get it right the first time.

33. Book your return ticket for the earliest possible date without checking the exam schedule. You want to get home to your friends and your summer job, and your program will arrange for you to take the exam under special conditions.

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