Hi! My name is Caroline and I’m a CGIS Peer Advisor. I spent the summer of 2022 in London, the summer of 2023 in the South of France, and next week I leave for a semester in Sydney, Australia. As I prepare for my third CGIS experience abroad, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite tricks and advice based on my past experiences. I hope it helps! 

Everyone travels a little differently, so take the way I prefer to do things with a grain of salt! I tend to travel very lightly, on a tight budget, and try to visit as many places as I can. 


I exclusively travel with one carry-on suitcase and one backpack - even if I’m spending several months abroad. I’ve found that I can fit everything I need in these items. I always plan to travel before and after my programs, so packing lightly makes it much easier for me to carry my things from place to place. I never have to worry about my bags getting lost because I never have to check anything, and overall it’s just easier for me to only have the necessities.

Packing tips: 

  • Make sure you check the luggage requirement sizes of all airlines you will be flying. Many international airlines have smaller luggage requirements than US airlines. This is especially true for discount airlines such as EasyJet, Ryan Air, Scoot, etc. 
  • I recommend a suitcase with a zipper lock. I found this especially helpful while staying in hostels because I could put my valuables inside. 
  • Use packing cubes!! This is one of the ways I’m able to travel so lightly. I use one cube for tops, one for bottoms, one for dresses and bathing suits, and one for everything else. This helps you stay organized and gives you more space in your suitcase. 
  • I have a travel backpack with a waterproof section for my laptop, passport, and other valuables. 
  • Many international airports require that all your liquids are in a clear plastic bag, so it is much easier to have this prepared than to empty your entire bag for a tube of chapstick in the middle of the security checkpoint (based on a true story). 
  • If you didn’t use it at home, you’re probably not going to use it abroad! I would advise against spending 4 months carrying around something you’ve never used. 
  • Remember an international power adapter! 
  • Make sure you have important documents such as health insurance cards, and  visas—I’ve even been asked for an acceptance letter from the school I was studying at.  


I highly recommend making your budget and planning out your expenses before you go. Do some research on what the average cost of living is in your location and plan accordingly. I would also look up some of the activities/excursions that you may want to go on and budget for those as well. Keep in mind that the most expensive part of your trip will likely be the beginning because you may need to buy a fan, shampoo, linens, etc. The most important thing for me was to stick to my budget from the beginning. You don’t want to spend everything your first month and not be able to do anything your final month!

Finance tips: 

  • The app ‘TravelSpend’ made my life a thousand times easier while traveling. It tells you what your daily/weekly budgets are depending on what you want to spend for your entire trip. It also breaks down all your expenses and tells you how much you’re spending on different sections such as transportation, coffee, lodging, activities, etc.
  • Make sure you have a credit card that will work in your location. Discover and AmericanExpress cards are unlikely to work outside of the US.
  • Check if your location predominantly uses cash or card and act accordingly! 
  • Check UniDays for student discounts on tickets, products, etc. 
  • Consider your priorities! Do you want more souvenirs or experiences? Do you want to spend more on going out locally or going on more day trips/excursions? All options are valid, but being aware of what you want out of your experience will help your planning so much. 

Traveling outside your location

Like I mentioned earlier, I like to go to as many places as possible on my trips. I think there is so much value in staying in your location and really getting to know the area, but I definitely also prioritized traveling a lot before, after, and sometimes during my CGIS experiences. This can be daunting so these are some general suggestions! 

General tips: 

  • Look into transportation passes such as Eurorail and see if there’s a good option for your circumstances. These can make traveling from country to country much easier and more affordable. Last summer I got the pass for 10 travel days in one month. 
  • Hostelworld is fantastic for finding the best hostels. You can look at past travelers reviews, see what kind of dorm you would be in, and join group chats of people that will be staying at the hostel that night. I prefer hostels, especially when I’m solo traveling, because they’re cheaper accommodations that allow you to meet other travelers and are generally in very good locations. 
  • Look into laws and customs of the location you’re visiting beforehand so you can be respectful and avoid any trouble. 
  • Many places have specific apps for their local transportation - look into this and download the ones for your destinations.
  • Research the rideshare options in the location you’re visiting - many places don’t use Uber. 
  • I recommend registering your travel with U-M and extending your GeoBlue health insurance to cover the entirety of your travels!


  • Phones - make sure you will have data while you’re abroad! Contact your phone provider and discuss your travels with them. 
  • Wifi - In my experiences, it was uncommon for businesses to have wifi and very common for there to be public wifi - so the opposite of the United States. Try not to do anything personal, such as logging into your bank account, on public wifi. 
  • Researching the area - I always research local laws and appropriate dress code for my travels! I generally don’t want to stand out as a tourist and I definitely don’t want to disrespect local culture, so I tend to read blogs from people who have already visited the destination.  

I hope you have the most amazing experience abroad! In general, I would just say be flexible and open to the experience of it all, and you’re going to have an amazing time. 

As for me, I’m so excited to experience a new continent and to engage in local life in Sydney! 

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out! My email is carostaf@umuch.edu. Happy travels!