You’ve been studying abroad for almost a full semester now. It’s about that time where the realization kicks in that you have about a month left to experience the culture abroad. You realize you have to buy so many people presents within the next month…but do you really have to?
Typically when students study abroad, they spend the months prior to their trip working their asses off to make spending money. Money to use when they go out on the town in Paris, to that club in Madrid and to that tour of the Heinekin factory in Amsterdam. Parents tend to help you pay for the tuition part of the trip, and even some of the pocket change if you’re lucky, but they really don’t want to give you money to booze up in a foreign country.
So are you supposed to take your hard-earned lifestyle bucks to buy people souvenirs? If you are, who are you supposed to buy souvenirs for, and how much should you typically spend on them? It’s such a touchy subject. But the answer is yes, you are supposed to buy them, and no you’re not supposed to get them for everyone who matters in your life and their mothers.
When I went to Italy, I played my money cards wisely. My parents opened a credit card in my name attached to their account. So the money I made life guarding and teaching little gremlins how to swim the summer before went to my “experiencing Italy” fund. The credit card given to me by my parents, well, that’s what I used to buy souvenirs for my family. All I did was buy my five family members and two best friends presents. That was it. I wasn’t dating anyone at the time, so a gift for a significant other wasn’t necessary. So I wound up spending probably 100 euro on seven people, and I called it a day.
But what about you?
Family presents are a must. Even if you just get something for your parents. They helped you get abroad, or if they didn’t lay down a dime, they’re still your parents and probably had a hand in getting you through college in the first place. Moms are easy. You can get them cookbooks from the culture, you can get them a piece of jewelry, or you can even take a really nice scenic picture, blow it up and frame it. Dads, also simple if they are in the business world. You can buy them silk ties, cuff links, a nice bottle of wine…parents are not the difficult presents to get. And, you can get all of the things I just listed for decent prices abroad, especially if they are the only people you’re shopping for.
When it comes to siblings, it depends on your relationships. See when I was away, my siblings were 8 and 10, so I couldn’t not bring them back anything. But if your siblings are closer in age to you and you talk about it, you probably don’t have to get them anything – unless they specifically ask for something or you see something that you can’t pass up.
Friends are even more of an unnecessary gift. I mean, you can bring your roommates back shot glasses, or if you’re somewhere like Belgium which is famous for its chocolate, you can bring back a bunch of chocolate bars, but other than that, your money to spend is your money to spend. With all of the exchange rates and everything in Europe being more expensive than America, it’s not worth wasting the money. Your friends will still love you if you come back with a shot glass or a chocolate bar.
Boyfriends and girlfriends go in the parent category. If you have one, it would be nice of you to get them a present. Especially since before you studied abroad, you probably fought over whether or not you should go, if they trusted you, blah, blah, blah. Bring them back something. Show them you care and that they were on your mind. Even if it’s something simple like a shot glass from each city you visited, or a picture of you outside of a soccer stadium because he’s a soccer freak, show him or her that you were thinking of them.
The thing with souvenirs is they are important. Not a subject to be taken lightly, because you don’t want what you buy to turn out to be a thoughtless gift and a waste of money. So choose wisely who and what you spend your money on when it comes to these presents, and remember you still need to pack them and fit them into your suitcase, so don’t go overboard.