Where have you been? | Travel World Map Generator

Ever wondered how many countries in the world have you visited so far? If you are as addicted to traveling as me, chances are you have a fair amount of numbers to share. Today I stumbled upon this travel world map generator and it made me so giddy to input and color places I have been. 

As May is about to close and soon half of the year is already over, I think it is a good time to evaluate how far I have been in my mid-twenties. I only discovered my passion to travel last year and know that I have places to catch on. As of 30th of May, Where Monica Goes has visited 20 countries in the world. I know it isn’t much and I probably covered less than 10% of the globe. Still, as Susan Sontag says, “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.

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Where Monica Goes has been to:

Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Macao, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates.

So where have you been? Feel free to list your countries here or share a blogpost of your own travel world map! I got mine  generated for free from Matador Network.

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Top Reasons Why You Must Study Abroad

Are you considering studying abroad but uncertain whether or not to take the plunge?

If you are looking for a new challenge or simply want to make your high school or university life so much better, why not study abroad? Studying overseas is a major decision to make and it can have a huge impact on one’s life, but the fruits of this endeavor are priceless – opportunity to know yourself better, learn about the world, and transform your future, among others. Don’t believe me yet? Continue reading and check out Where Monica Goes’ Top Reasons Why You Must Study Abroad.

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GAIN NEW PERSPECTIVES

Studying and living in a foreign country and different culture give you the opportunity to see the world with a new perspective. After observing how people behave and things are done, you get to have a different way to look at things. You broaden your horizons. You become more open-minded and culturally sensitive. Your prejudices will be cleared and opinions more educated. You learn to appreciate a different outlook on daily life, social and maybe even political issues.

DEVELOP LANGUAGE SKILLS

Classroom classes, textbooks, audiobooks, and online apps can aid you in learning languages, but there is something much more helpful if you are immersed in it in a local setting. Even though you know next to nothing about German, living in the foreign country for a week could make you understand some simple words and phrases already without you realizing it. With an overseas education, you get to learn and practice the language first-hand as you go dining in a restaurant, haggling in a flea market, or making new friends.

Since you are studying abroad and somehow forced to use (and hear) foreign language everyday, you are soaked into this new world that will ultimately bring you to hone your skills conveniently.

ENHANCE EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES LOCALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY

It can start with your CV. By adding that line about your study abroad experience, you get ahead by some of your peers in the eyes of prospective employers. They would be more interested in you and perhaps let you get that dream job. Employers look for self-motivated, independent and flexible individuals who also have time management, organization, and people skills which all describe foreign students. Along with being able to go out of your comfort zone, ability to handle stressful environment, willingness to learn, and worldliness, an overseas education highlights your language skills, cultural sensitivity, and sense of adventure. You will appear and become a worldlier and more culturally aware person, something that not anyone can describe themselves in their resume.

GET IMMERSED IN A NEW CULTURE

When you study abroad, you have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience new culture from within. Different from being a traveler, studying overseas will ultimately give you a new perspective on the country’s culture from the inside. You observe customs and traditions that travel guides only mentioned in passing. You get to know which tourist attractions are really worth it, sample best and hidden restaurants, and the cheapest places to hangout on a Friday night, for instance. During your stay, you learn a new culture by simply living in it. In a globalized world, the best way to understand how people are is to immerse in a new culture.

GAIN LIFELONG FRIENDS

One of the most significant reasons and the second-best by-product of studying abroad is establishing international friendships. Everyone you come across in your journey can enrich your overseas experience – students in your language class, colleagues in seminars, host families, backpackers and hitchhikers you meet on the road. You get to meet complete strangers who speak in foreign tongues, believe in various religions, have different colors and races, eat with chopsticks or forks, who will become your lifelong friends and acquaintances and be treasured for a lifetime. These people who may or may not share your interests can inspire and transform you to a much better person.

LEARN MORE ABOUT YOURSELF.

Left to your own devices in a foreign land, you learn to be independent and self-reliant. You realize things that you can do by your own. Back home, you always have your family and friends to rely on, even when you are living by yourself. Staying overseas is another story. Each day is a new challenge. You get to be pushed to your boundaries, testing your limits. When you put yourself out of your comfort zone, you get to know more about yourself – strengths and weaknesses, abilities and skills. By studying abroad, you gain invaluable life skills, which will enable you to grow more. Even though the beginning may be scary and everyday is not always filled with happiness and rainbows, you will end up becoming a stronger, more confident, and more self-reliant person. This is, I believe, the best by-product of studying abroad.

TRAVEL THE WORLD

The most rewarding experience and Where Monica Goes’ top reason why you must study abroad is the chance to travel the world. Not only are you in an exotic and foreign location for at least a semester, you also get the opportunity to look around your locality and see the sights no traveler can do. When you are done learning the ins and outs of your university town, go out and explore nearby cities and countries. Even though you are just staying for a semester, you have all the weekends and holidays off to travel. Yes, go and discover the world!

Studying abroad is the ultimate opportunity for globetrotting youth. You may be traveling on a student budget, but the experience is worth it. Go backpacking for a weekend or school holiday. Book via Mein Fernbus, Euro Rail, or Ryanair. Eat tapas in Barcelona. Ride a vaporetto in Venezia. Sleep in a 16-person hostel room in Zurich. Enjoy free Mozart symphony orchestra in Vienna. Get drunk in an underground pub in Prague. Attend Oktoberfest. Cool down in Plitvice Lake. Get lost in the streets of Paris. The options are limitless. Take advantage of being an international student and benefit from discounts you can get.

Those are my top reasons why you must study abroad. May it be for a semester exchange or long-term study, I believe the opportunity to gain exciting and once-in-a-lifetime experience should not be missed. Why skip the chance to try this incredible event in your life?

Already convinced, but want to know more? Read Where Monica Goes’ 10 Tips on Preparing for your Student Exchange Program

10 Tips on Preparing for your Student Exchange Program

Preparing to join a student exchange program can be pretty exciting, especially after you have received those admission and invitation letters from your host university. However, when the initial excitement finally went down, the images of tasks ahead can be overwhelming and exhausting. It requires a lot of researching and meticulous planning especially if it is your first long-term trip away from home. Also, it usually comes with long lists of required documents, appointments, and tests to be done and passed. I hope that with determination to grasp this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, these administrative and bureaucratic requirements would not deter you from reaching your dream.

As a current exchange student myself, I would like to share stories and experiences while I am on this journey. This post would be a part of a regular series where past, current, and would-be exchange students can read and learn from each other various survival tips as we leave the familiar back home and plunge to the exciting unknown.

To aid you on having a smooth transition to your new life, I am providing some tips on how to prepare for your student exchange program adventure. The list seems basic, but you would be surprised to know how many students and even seasoned travellers forget one or some of these. It won’t hurt to have a guide, right? All in all, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to be in a foreign country merely because you overlooked a simple requirement.

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So without further ado, let me present my Ten Tips on Preparing for your Student Exchange Program. Do note though that these tips are only for those who have already passed the admission requirements by their partner/host educational institutions.

1. Prepare, double-check, reproduce, and bring your documents. We still live in a paper-based society where not everything can easily be scanned through smartphones, so yes, paper documents are necessary. I highly recommend to duplicate or triplicate all your documents, so you would always have a copy with you, at home, and your new accommodation.

  • Check whether your passport is still valid and have several required remaining pages. More often than not, your passport should be valid more than six months before you travel. If yours would be expiring soon, better have it renewed while you are still in your country.
  • Get valid visas. Your host country (and the countries you might be traveling to while studying) might require visas, so do check this as well and prepare the necessary requirements.
  • Make several copies of your letter of admission and matriculation for safekeeping purposes. Also, there are instances when these need to be translated in your native language, so please bear this tip in mind.
  • Bring your language proficiency test results if you have any.
  • Take note of your embassy’s contact information for emergency purposes.

2. Visit your physician before leaving. Health is important, but it is always sad to know that many travellers take this for granted. In a foreign land, it is recommended to be prepared for all emergencies that may arise.

  • Get a certificate attesting to your good health and a copy of your medical record.
  • List down all of your known allergies and bring required prescription drugs, as you will never know if your host country has them. It would also be helpful if you have the translated versions of this.
  • Take the required shots and bring your immunization records when you travel.

3. Be insured. No one knows what may happen and it is wise to be always covered by insurance policy. There are already a lot of international travel and health insurance providers out there, but choosing what is best for your situation requires careful research.

  • Check if your insurance policy is recognized in your host country. You can just look up at the embassy page or send an email to your coordinator in the partner university to inquire this.
  • If required to get a new insurance coverage, research which offers the best and worth the money.

4. Book your tickets in advance. Whether through plane, train, or ship, it is always best to get your reservations ahead of time when prices are cheap and good seats are still available. The longer you wait, the more expensive the price can get.

  • To get the most out of your bookings, do not forget to use your frequent flyer information. Sometimes, typing these little details can get you free business class upgrade for instance.
  • If you are traveling by train, always use your discount cards. In Europe, DB (German), ÖBB (Austrian), and SBB (Swiss) have train cards that can give you up to 50% discount of the original fare.

5. Know how you can access your money abroad. There are banks that require you to have your account unlocked so you can use it outside of the country. Know this ahead of time and better contact your bank if you have no idea whether your cards are eligible to use overseas or not.

  • If you haven’t one yet, create an online banking account so you can easily monitor transactions you make while abroad.

6. Study or refresh foreign language skills. Chances are you would be spending your semester abroad in a country, which does not speak your native tongue, so I recommend studying the appropriate foreign language prior to your departure. Although most beneficial, you do not have to get to a formal class for this. Just hit on the Internet for most common and useful words and expressions so you will not feel at lost as soon as you arrived at the airport. Watching films and TV shows, listening to songs, and buying a pocket dictionary can help in overcoming those first few days while you are still adjusting.

7. Know the culture. Be aware of what are acceptable and not in your host country. Slurping while eating your noodle soup is normal and okay back home but does not automatically mean you won’t be frowned upon when you do this abroad. Read and research. You do not want to make a fauxpas on your first day.

8. Stay in touch. Don’t be a stranger to your family and friends as soon as you left your home country. Of course you want everyone to know every wonderful moment you are enjoying in your amazing student exchange program.

  • If required, have your phone unlocked then get a local SIM card from your host country. Research the best local network provider. You should look for those affordable bundles like 200 local calls and texts plus 750 MB for several Euros.
  • Create a Skype account and/or other messaging platforms that offer free voice and video calls. Family and friend chat groups are also good.
  • Set up social media accounts if you don’t have anything yet for easy updates from you to your friends and family.

9. Pack light. I wish I could highlight this more. I know many exchange students who bring their entire home with them (me included)! If your program has a suggested packing list, stick to it. If there is none, do your research or ask current students in the university. Please check the weather and temperature of your destination, as packing thin clothes for Europe in February is just plain silly. Leave things you can easily buy in your host country e.g., shampoo, body wash, etc. Take your chargers, travel adapters, and gadgets. Bring several photos and other mementos with you to help cope those homesickness moments.

10. Be mentally prepared. Saying goodbye to your family and friends, albeit temporary, can still be tough. However, this is part of the experience. When you are finally in your host country, expect the unexpected! You will be out of your comfort zone and the world will be your one giant classroom. You will meet people from around the world who have different customs and perspectives from yours and you should be open-minded and not judgmental about this. The same differences will later enrich your student exchange experience and understanding of various culture and people.

Alexander Graham Bell once said that preparation is the key to success and I strongly believe in that. To have a successful and enjoyable student exchange program, being prepared is necessary. I hope that these tips can help you achieve that. All the planning and preparation can be overwhelming and nerve-wracking at first, but believe me that all of these would be worth it. Just imagine yourself being here!

Are you an upcoming exchange student? Already have an experience spending a semester abroad? Share your thoughts and questions.