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Pittsburgh Parenting Blog by Sewickley Academy

Sewickley Academy's Private School Blog

7 Tips for Traveling Abroad This Summer


This summer ten local students (including 8 from Sewickley Academy) will be traveling abroad together to the July program of Reach Cambridge a three week pre-college program held at the University of Cambridge. 

In order to get psyched and get to know each other, members of the group met recently over cucumber sandwiches and shortbread. In a “getting to know each other exercise”, they enthusiastically responded to questions which I think are valuable for anyone undertaking a global experience this summer, such as:

• I chose this program because:
• The excursions and activities that look most interesting to me include:
• One stereotype I have about the British that I want to check out for myself:
• One thing about the program that I may be a little nervous about:
• One thing my parents are probably a little nervous about:
• My best summer memory to date:
• If I had to spend a week by myself on a desert island, three things I would need to have with me:

When parents joined us, I offered 7 tips for a successful experience as both students and their parents look ahead (with a little trepidation and lots of excitement):

1. Pack Light

You will be responsible for your own luggage and there is a lot of walking between the coach bus stop and your dorm in a university city such as Cambridge which has large “pedestrian only” zones (this is true of many European cities.) Pack “layers” for fluctuating temperatures: consider bringing an old sweatshirt you can discard, as you will likely want to buy a University of Cambridge sweatshirt.

2. Leave a “Mandatory Souvenir List” Behind

Students can waste valuable time when they might be exploring local events and activities by spending excessive time in souvenir shops! You can put together a great present for parents and grandparents when you return home: make a mug or photo montage with favorite images from your memorable trip. T-shirts make good presents for sibs and close friends and you can usually get good deals if you buy several at the same time. They are also unlikely to add too much weight to your luggage.

3. Develop a Communication Plan for Family

If parents and students have smart phones, download an app such as WhatsApp or Viber which allow free texting and calling when there is a wifi connection. Beware, the quality of the phone calls is uneven. In any case, texting is best: you don’t have to worry about time differences, they allow the student to make the most of their experience—spending time with new friends, soaking up the culture—without being distracted by a telephone call that might induce homesickness. Make sure students know how to turn off the roaming function of their cell phones so as to avoid astronomical data charges. In many countries (including England), it’s easy and cheap to buy a very basic cell phone which you “top up” with calling time purchased at supermarkets and phone shops. This is a good option if students do plan to call quite a bit.

4. Limit Communication with Friends Back Home

Avoid the temptation to stay in close touch with friends back home via social media, etc. This is a huge “time sucker” and distracts you from “living in the moment”: making new friends, taking advantage of every opportunity—even if that’s just looking out the window of a bus or train!

5. Journal/Blog/Keep Notes

About your daily impressions, observations, (okay, Modern Family’s Alex character who spent most of her Australian vacation dictating her observations for her future college essays was a hilarious send-up of this).

6. Learn How To Do Your Own Laundry

Make sure your child knows how to do their own laundry (University of Cambridge housing has laundry facilities, so Reach students only need a week’s worth of clothing for their three week stay). Note to students traveling on other programs: if you won’t have time in your schedule to do laundry—hand washing clothes in hotel bathrooms can work: especially if you pack Quick dry clothes. Camping stores sell GIANT zip lock bags—and lightweight clothes lines and small bottles of concentrated detergent. Dump your dirty clothes in one, add soap and warm water and provide your own agitation action. Then do a rinse cycle. Squeeze and hang. Good sources for Quick dry clothes are: REI and Campmor. Athletic wear (such as soccer t-shirts and shorts) are often designed to be quick-dry too.

7. Comfortable Shoes Only! 

It’s sometimes comical to watch young women navigating cobblestone streets in heels: but dangerous and uncomfortable too. Athletic shoes are an obvious choice. Good brands for slightly dressier walking shoes: Ecco, Clark, Merrell. Same brands for travel sandals plus Keen and Teva. “Wear them in” before you travel.

Finally, students thank your parents often and exuberantly for providing you with this opportunity to become a Global Citizen. Your world view will be transformed and your future choices (studying abroad in college, staying connected with new friends from other countries, following international issues and trends in the media) will be inspired by this life-changing experience.

British Tea Sandwiches
Take a loaf of Pepperidge Farm Thin White Sandwich bread. Cut off the crusts and then cut in halves or quarters.

Various fillings:
• Cheddar and Branston Original Pickle (available in British section of Market District)
• Cream cheese with smoked salmon spread with sliced English cucumber (optional: add watercress)
• Coronation Chicken Salad: easy peasy recipe here: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/6080/instant-coronation-chicken (sultanas are golden raisins)

Lynn Sanborne, Sewickley Academy School Counselor, will again chaperone the Reach Cambridge trip this July. She accompanied students to Ireland in 2012 with the Irish Experience program and has travelled extensively with her own children and friends and family.

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Topics: Global Studies

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