Hello, all! My name is Savannah and I’m studying abroad in Reims, France. However, as I sit and write to you for the second time this semester, I’m actually enjoying an acai bowl at a cute little juice shop in Amsterdam! It’s my third day here and as tired as I am from all the city touring (there’s a lot to see in Amsterdam- shocker!), I feel energized and content. It’s a feeling that I often get whenever I find myself exploring a new place, which is something I have had the blessing of doing several times so far this semester.
Fun though it all may be, weekend traveling is not without its difficulties. Things can go (and for me, have gone) terribly wrong. Luckily for us, all of my experiences, the good and the bad, have taught me so much that I have virtually no other choice but to share my newfound wisdom with y’all! So, without further ado, here are eight tips for traveling as a student abroad.
Schedule for and around it.
If you’re going into study abroad knowing that you want to travel on the weekends, prepare for that! Schedule your courses so that you can have more than two days to travel. In Europe, this is easier as many schools offer classes that only meet once a week. Personally, I have classes Wednesday-Friday. This leaves me a solid four days each week to see the world- not bad for a full-time student! Also, schedule and book trips as early as you can without neglecting the forthcoming demands of your classes (think: midterms). Things tend to be cheaper when you buy in advance.
Prioritize- cut costs in some areas so that you can spend more in others.
Everyone is different here. Do you care most about food, accommodation, experiences, or something else? Decide what’s most important to you and cut back on everything else. For example, I prioritize experiences, so I seek out accommodation and food that’s on the cheaper side. This way, I don’t feel too bad on the occasional splurge for a cool activity.
Be ready to roll with the punches.
It will not go according to plan. If you remember anything from this blog, remember that. At a certain point, something will go wrong– expect it, roll with it, and don’t let it ruin your trip! When I went to Lisbon, I had an inconveniently scheduled flight that required me to wake up at 2am to make it in time for the 10:30am departure. When I finally made it to the airport, just before we boarded, they delayed the flight six hours. I was frustrated, exhausted, and may or may not have slept on the ground next to a trash can. The whole ordeal was far from enjoyable, but my trip was still incredible. I realized that no matter how bad inconveniences seem in the moment, they don’t have to affect the rest of your experience in whatever cool new place you end up.
Know what you want to do, what you want to see, and how you’re going to get there.
Unfortunately, no matter how short of a school week you finessed, time during weekend trips is precious and limited. Don’t waste it doing research you should’ve done beforehand! There’s no great need to make a detailed itinerary, as factors such as weather, delays, crowds, etc. are unpredictable and will influence your plans. However, at least have a list of things you want to see and do so you know what you want to prioritize once you’re at your destination. Additionally, do some research beforehand on how to get around there. Different cities have different options that may fit your plans best- things like buses, trams, trains, and even Uber.
Take advantage of your student discount.
Lots of museums, cultural displays, and other places with admissions fees have discounts for students, and sometimes even offer free entry. Before buying tickets, always check and see if that’s an option! The savings add up.
Make use out of transportation time.
I have found myself on an airplane or train for a greater amount of time this semester than probably the entire rest of my life preceding it. These times add up, and too often I spend them doing nothing but listening to music or watching Netflix. Don’t be like me; be productive when you can, and remember, you’re there to study. Transportation time is the perfect time to do homework, which is something you definitely won’t want to do during your trip. Many trains have free wifi, and trains and airplanes have little pull down tables for you to use. Once you’re frolicking, stress-free, throughout your destination all weekend, you’ll be glad you worked hard on the way there.
Keep some local currency on you.
One of the best ways to really get to know a new city is to immerse yourself in areas that are less touristy, such as local markets. Markets like this and other smaller establishments often don’t take card, so it’s good to keep the local currency on your person. Also, it’s just the smart thing to do in case of emergencies.
When you’re abroad, no matter where you go, you will be exposed to a flood of new sights and experiences. This can be overwhelming, as it’s a lot to absorb at once. Don’t let yourself forget everything you’ve experienced! Keep a journal and write in it as needed to keep track of your (probably) fast-paced life, and to just digest and reflect on your days. Plus, loved ones back home will likely want to hear about everything you’ve done abroad, so a journal couldn’t hurt to keep and look through when you want to tell stories about all of your adventures.
Anyway, that’s all for now. I hope this is helpful! Until next time, my UT community, au revoir.
Savannah Breedlove is a 2019 Global Ambassador. She is an International Relations and Global Studies major studying at Sciences Po in Reims, France.
Don’t get left behind. Read more about Savannah’s experience abroad>>