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READY, SET, GO

If you are planning to travel abroad during your high school years, it's wise to choose a place you have studied in school so you are familiar with the culture of that country or region.

Another factor to consider is who will be going on the trip. It's always safe to have at least one close friend to leave home with, and be familiar with the other members of the group.

Also, price is a big issue for students because the average trip costs around $2,000.

When given a price by your school or tour company, ask if it includes air fare, gratuities, meals and insurance, which is extremely important.

Also you want to figure on several hundred dollars for spending money. A passport will cost around $75, if you don't already have one. Many students find it helpful to bring along a credit card so they don't have to carry a lot of cash.

Talking parents into letting you go is a big concern. It's important to show them that you are mature enough to handle the experience. Have them read all the material provided by the tour company or your school and encourage them to talk with other parents whose children have been abroad.

Spend the time between registration and the trip itself getting prepared. If you've never been abroad before, talk to others who have so you know what to expect.

Also, be sure you have the luggage recommended by the group leader. Most recommend a bag the size a flight attendant carries. You don't know how far you'll have to walk with your luggage and you are responsible for what you bring, so packing only the essentials is important.

You will get more out of your experience if you study before you go. Get some books from the library that explore the place you're headed. The Internet offers a wealth of information on countries -- from authentic recipes to basic language. Find out if the company planning your excursion has a Web site with an itinerary and descriptions of the places you'll visit.

If you're headed to a place like Greece or Mexico, you can get a taste of their cuisine right here in Buffalo. Gather a group of friends and go for a sampling of what you'll be eating on your adventure abroad.

Once you're in the new place, it will be comforting to recognize things you experienced at home.

Tiffany Lankes is a junior at Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart.

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