Well, here it is — my last blog post. I’ve been putting this off for as long as possible because I don’t quite want to accept that my time studying abroad has come to an end. It’s been, hands down, the best semester of my life. Since I spent the majority of my time abroad traveling (visiting a new city nearly every weekend), I figured it’s only appropriate that my final post involve travel tips that I’ve picked up. So! Here they are — my tips on how to make the most of your travels!
- HOSTELS. You’ve heard it before, and I will definitely tell you again…STAY IN HOSTELS. I came to love the hostels I stayed in about as much as the new cities themselves. You meet so many wonderful people from around the world and staying in a great hostel can really affect the overall tone of your trip. Our hostel in Prague (Hostel One) informed us of an excellent (and free) walking tour, hosted a super fun pub crawl, and even took us on a free, guided day trip that we never would have been able to plan on our own. So surf HostelWorld, pick a great hostel, stay open-minded, and enjoy!!
- DON’T JUST FLY. The most common way to travel about while studying abroad is via plane…EasyJet and Ryanair make it super cheap and easy. However, towards the end of my time abroad, I learned about other cool options for getting around. The most thrifty, plausible, and intriguing of these was BlaBlaCar. This is a website that allows you to buy a seat in somebody’s car and accompany them on their journey. This is great for spontaneous trips or to keep your travel expenses low. The drivers all have Facebook connected profiles and ratings so you can ensure that you’ll be safe.
- TRAVEL EARLY. Oh, how I wish I’d known this! I spent my first few weeks warming up to travel and beginning to plan my trips. In retrospect, I wish I’d spent those weekends and weekdays traveling! Yes…the weekdays too! I’m not sure how all of the universities work, but in Milan you have nearly no assignments until halfway through the semester, and even then your assignments are sparse. The majority of your grade relies upon your final exam performance. That said, the beginning weeks are the perfect opportunity to travel around without feeling too guilty. You’ll have plenty of time to catch up on that work later in the semester. This may sound irresponsible, but I can confidently say that the things I learned while traveling are as valuable as most of the things I’ve learned in school. You’re abroad for a reason. Make the most of it.
- RELAX. There will come a time when you simply do not have enough time to see everything that you want to see in a city…and as sad as it is, that’s okay! Visit the things you WANT to see, not what you feel like you SHOULD see. Travel is a personal experience, and if exploring the side streets and culture of a city is more important to you than seeing all of the important monuments, then that’s what you should do! Don’t see things because you feel like you must. Some of my favorite moments are when I spent an hour…or two…or three…just sitting and soaking in the vibe of the city.
- MAKE IT WORK. If you want to travel a lot during your time abroad, it’s extremely important that you manage your time well. Balancing class, travel, and regular chores can become stressful. I ended up having to pack all of my responsibilities into 3-4 days a week. It gets tough, but it can be done (and really, it’s a great “issue” to have). If you have a strong desire to travel, then you truly can make it work. If you want to visit a city the weekend before your exam, then make a plan and study a few weeks in advance. People may think your crazy for traveling then, but if you prepare intelligently and focus instead of procrastinating, you’ll be more than fine. Don’t worry. Just adjust…and make it work. It’s worth it.
Traveling while abroad was among the most educational experiences of my life. I visited 27 cities, 15 countries, and 3 continents during my 4 months abroad. It was crazy and hectic and everything I’d hoped for. Everybody has different goals for study abroad, and I think it’s important to identify what yours are. Mine were to see the most of Europe as I could, and I think I did it well. Again, I want to stress that if you want to travel, you can absolutely make it work…and you will not regret it. Safe travels, future study abroad students, and ciao for now!