Fall semester is almost halfway through, and many Cornellians are looking forward to their spring study abroad. Besides the packing lists and travel research, how should one prepare for the unavoidable potential of sex with new people in an unfamiliar place? Luckily, I’ve returned from study abroad with some new sexual experiences and understandings under my belt. So, without much further ado, I present my top ten lived-and-learned tips for sex while abroad (Note: safety and pleasure are the priority. Always make sure those are in place.)
Know where you’re going, but be prepared to learn. This is fairly obvious and is going to be my most overlap with the (official) Cornell study abroad orientation. Sex, hookup culture and dating are going to be different depending on where you are. People may be more or less sexually outgoing or explicit than you’re used to. No matter how much research you do beforehand, some things you just have to experience for yourself. Take the time to observe or ask some gentle questions of the locals.
Try not to hook up with your fellow American students during orientation. While it may be tempting to get with someone more familiar-seeming during your first week, try to prioritize making friends. Chances are, having sex with the cute-ish guy from Rhode Island won’t be as fun or convenient as it seems. Plus, you are likely living with and taking classes with these people. Leave the awkward run-ins in Ithaca.
Take time for yourself, both sexually and not. It’s so tempting to try to maximize your time meeting (and hooking up with) new people, exploring and going out. Remember to take some time to relax and focus on self-pleasure. Vibrators are allowed through airport security.
Give the apps a second chance. It’s totally understandable that you’ve deleted the dating/hookup apps in Ithaca. If you feel like broadening your horizons, maybe re-download one or two and see what happens. Different apps are used at different rates and for different purposes in other countries, so be aware of that as well. And assuming you’re somewhere more populated than Ithaca, you’ll have lots of options.
Be aware of people’s hearts. I witnessed lots of heartbreak relating to breakups and open relationships while abroad. These things can get messy and emotional. Know your own situation and remain cognizant of what other people are dealing with.
Weigh your priorities. Especially when traveling and seeing friends studying abroad in other countries, think about what you’ll look back on. Is it more important to hook up with a random stranger or spend that time exploring a new place with friends? There’s no right answer to this, and hot sex with a hot Italian could totally outweigh a crowded visit to the Trevi Fountain. Still, take a few moments to think about what will be a more valuable memory.
Use protection. Just do it.
Try something you wouldn’t do at home. Keeping the priorities stated above in mind, this is your chance to try something new. You’re already having so many novel experiences while abroad, so lean into it!
Don’t be afraid if something more serious happens. Sex while abroad doesn’t have to just be casual encounters with sexy foreigners. If you meet someone who you have a deeper connection with, it’s okay to embrace it. It can be lovely to fall for a local and see their side of wherever you are.
Be spontaneous! As much as the “study abroad changed me” trope is played out, it does hold some truth. Being yourself in a new country is scary and thrilling. Embrace your independence and the privilege of this experience. Go for the dance floor makeout. Make a move and get rejected. Have sex when and if it feels right. It’s all a part of it!
Bonus tip: Don’t have sex in a hostel bed when there are others in the room. Be considerate and go to the bathroom instead.
Whorat is a student at Cornell University. Her fortnightly column Cowgirl Chronicles is a discussion and exploration of sexual norms and cultural quirks with a dash of feminist theory.
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