by: Catherine McConkey

Since my last post, I have experienced one of my greatest adventures so far, creating memories that will last a lifetime. During the month of November, I was lucky enough to travel to Canada for a few days and witness the magnificent Niagara Falls and explore the beautiful city of Toronto. Having the opportunity to travel to so many amazing places is probably the best part of my involvement of WCSU’S International Student Exchange program, and I would encourage anyone who is preparing for a year or semester abroad to embrace their host country’s surroundings if they want to make the best of their free time!


Niagara Falls, Canada



In my opinion, packing for a study abroad is undoubtedly one of the most difficult tasks you will ever have to undergo, especially if you have as many clothes as I do. Fitting your life into two 23kg bags is not easy, but there are plenty of ways to make sure you pack all the necessities for your foreign studying expedition. Though two bags and hand luggage might not seem like a lot, they can become heavy very quickly, so keep in mind that you have to carry these bags by yourself. I opted for a large suitcase on wheels and a backpacker’s rucksack, allowing me to spread some of the weight across my back while dragging the rest behind me.  Remember that you are not packing for a summer holiday; it is important to come to your study abroad university prepared for the next few months. I suggest make two lists, one of everything you simply cannot live without, and another of things you could leave behind, or potentially buy when you arrive. The first few days of your experience will most likely be crazy, so I would strongly recommend packing some essential toiletries to keep you going until you have time to go shopping.


Consider the climate of your location when packing, like many states on the East Coast, Connecticut has a range of distinct seasons, with temperatures can soar or plummet within a matter of weeks. I packed a range of different clothing from light summer dresses to jumpers ,and even a heavy coat, which have all came in useful at one stage or another during my stay. But remember, you can buy any essentials you leave behind at your host country, so do not panic if you find yourself making some tough decisions!


Picking your classes:

As exciting as living abroad is, the study part is a crucial part of the experience. Each university works differently when it comes to picking classes and meeting the requirements for your course back home. Before you leave for your host country, make sure you fully understand the what courses you can take in order for you to progress through your degree. Studying Abroad has turned my three-year university course into a four-year course, and any classes I take will not count towards my overall degree. This gives me the freedom to choose from a range of different classes offered at WCSU. However, some universities require students to take certain classes during their year abroad to coincide with their degree program at home.


The classes I have taken this semester have thoroughly enhanced my study abroad. One of my classes from last semester produced three live shows covering the run up to the Connecticut State elections, including the election night itself, which I was lucky enough to direct. I recently went on a field trip to the Good Morning America Studios in New York City, where I was an audience member during the taping of the show, and received a backstage tour of the control room.


Good Morning America Studios, NYC



Live like a local:

Back in November, I had the chance to experience my first ever American Thanksgiving. This popular holiday was my chance to fully immerse myself into American culture. I was lucky enough to be invited by a friend to participate in this tradition with her family. Thanksgiving traditions include a great deal of food, which largely exceeded my expectations! It was comforting to spend time in a family environment, with a home-cooked meal and party games. Thanksgiving was a great opportunity for me to witness American Culture first hand. I would encourage anyone who is studying abroad to make the most of their host country’s holidays, as it will truly enhance your experience.


Thanksgiving Dinner, Connecticut


Keep in contact:

One of the most daunting things about leaving home and travelling abroad is the thought of leaving friends and family behind. It is important to keep in contact with loved ones back home, and though they may feel far off, they are only a phone call away. Facetime and Skype are great ways to contact loved ones free of charge, and it helps to hear a familiar voice whenever you are feeling home sick. I kept in contact with other students from my university at home who are also travelling abroad; it is nice to be able to talk to people who are in the same situation as you. I recently met up with a friend back home in NYC, who is studying abroad in North Carolina, which was one of the highlights of my semester so far!


Brooklyn Bridge, New York City


You can study abroad, too:

ISEP applications are still open for anyone considering Studying Abroad next year. Donna Warner, the International Services Co-ordinator for Western Connecticut State University, can help with any questions and inquiries about the programs offered. I am also here to answer any questions you may have, whether you are a student from WCSU looking to study outside of the United States, or an international student who is about to, or is considering studying abroad. This semester has taught me so much about myself already, and having the opportunity to study, live, and travel in a completely different country is something I believe everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.


For More ISEP Information:

Donna Warner, International Services Coordinator:
University Hall, Room 303
181 White Street Danbury, CT 06810

WCSU’S International Student Exchange Program Website:

Or, feel free to leave comments, questions, etc. below and I will do my best to get back to you!