CAUTION. Corny moments may ensue.
1) Travel. Travel now. It’s so rewarding to be able to go and see another culture. The landscapes might even be similar to what you’ve seen (like living on the Pacific shore, meanwhile I am from Long Island), but there is something magical about seeing it in a new place. The people have all new perspectives and outlooks and it is nothing but beneficial to you to learn from them and acknowledge them.
2) Be grateful. Running water is not always going to be there. Turning on the faucet and expecting water to be on 24/7 is actually something to be grateful for. Showering twice a week makes you realize the difference between being clean and being unnecessary. And I used to hate getting sand on my feet; it drove me nuts. Then I saw a man at the market place with sandals on, and it looked as though every step he took was painful. Sand is no longer a problem.
3) Flexibility is key. Things change and sometimes there just isn’t anything you can do about it. So instead of being stubborn and/or scared of the change, try and see it as a new experience. You have to figure out ways to enjoy the change and see it as a new light! It sounds a little weird, and it’s hard to explain, but remain flexible and less stressed about such changes.
4) Acknowledge your body when it has something to say. If you have a fever and can’t stand up without getting dizzy, lay down and give yourself time. Yes, carpe diem is important, and you should go out and experience all of the everything, but
acknowledge the stress your body is under and give it a break. And sometimes, when you stay home from a field trip with a fever, you might experience some fun stuff anyway...like trying to use Spanish to get yourself tea from the kitchen ladies.
5) Be aware, but not irrationally scared. The whole idea of being in a foreign country is being somewhere that you are not entirely familiar with, right? Well, familiarity breeds comfort. So it’s important to acknowledge that you’re out of your comfort zone—that’s nothing to be freaking out over! But you certainly want to remain aware. In a different country, you might stand out like a sore thumb (especially if you’re pale, blonde, and have blue eyes in a country where most people have brown eyes, tan skin, and dark hair...) and that can leave you looking like an easy target to be taken advantage of. That’s totally normal! Instead of being irrationally terrfied of everything that goes on around you, just remain aware. And confident! Confidence radiates and others will recognize it easily in the way you carry yourself, so remaining confident will keep you safest!
6) Spend your damn money. The American dollar is not the best, but relatively speaking, it’s pretty good. And you have a lot more money in your pocket, even as a college student, than a lot of people in this world. Being frugal is one thing, but definitely allow
yourself to spend money, especially for an experience or an event that is one of those “lifetime opportunities” (like going out on caballitos in the Pacific Ocean!)
7) Recognize your role in a new culture. Every culture defines social roles differently. It’s important to recognize what your role is while you are traveling. You don’t necessarily have to identify with it, but it’s definitely important and hugely respectful if you at least understand how people define you based on your gender, age, race, et cetera. For example, as a woman in Peru, I was looked at much differently than a woman in the NYC might be looked at. I am also young and expected to be much more respectful of my elders than young people in the US are expected to be (relatively speaking, of course!)
8) Stay positive, even in the worst. Similar to being grateful, stay positive! Positivity spreads and it’s much more enjoyable to be around people who shake off the bad stuff and focus on the good stuff. That and it’s much more enjoyable for you! Negativity really makes you feel yucky, so why not make yourself feel good and focus on the great things your life has to offer you?
9) Eat everything. Stomach pains suck, but at least you tried it. You might discover a new, awesome dish. You also might discover an allergy. Hit or miss kind of thing, but again with the carpe diem.
10) Carry two batteries for your camera. Take this metaphorically or literally as you will. Literally: take two batteries so you don’t look like a moron when your camera dies in the middle of an excursion...or worse...an interview. Metaphorically: I can’t answer how to take this metaphorically, to be honest. I’m too wrapped up in my forgetting two batteries literally.