Background information about my study abroad experience
- Talk to your friends and figure out what their weekends look like. I planned most of my trips far in advance and a handful at the last minute. Once you have a group of friends that want to go to, let’s say Paris, set up a Facebook messaging group and title it “Paris” so you remember what that chat is about.
- Look into flights using skyscanner.com, this will help you compare prices of every airline and find the cheapest option. The airline in Europe that I liked the best was Ryan Air.
- If you’re going somewhere by train use trainline.eu (I suggest setting up an account and downloading the app so all your tickets are in one place).
- Now, you need to book somewhere to stay! I mainly stayed in hostels and Airbnbs. For hostels, you can use either hostelworld.com or hostels.com.
- If you want to get really intense, write out an itinerary. When I made these they didn’t consist of a set plan, but how much the trip would cost, things we could do in Paris, information about our hostels, flights, etc.
- Before every trip, you should make sure you have the proper attire for the country you’re visiting. Check the weather and also be aware of cultural differences. Bring a carry-on bag (I preferred using a rolling bag) and a backpack. A fanny pack or a small crossbody purse is also a good idea. The products linked are good, sturdy options without being super expensive. Truthfully, I was a little less practical and carried a Kate Spade backpack that’s strap ended up breaking on my last day in Europe. While traveling, it’s better to have durable equipment then ending up with broken stuff!
- Stick to populated, tourist areas. The only thing you need to worry about here is pickpocketers. A majority of students don’t seem to have a problem with this unless you are making it obvious you are a tourist. Be sure to keep your bags close to you, carry backpacks in front of you, and put crossbody bags or fanny packs under your clothing if possible.
- At night, stay away from allies or dimly lit side streets, even if you’re with a group. I made this mistake in Athens and it was really frightening. It’s helpful to have a map, not just the map on your phone.
- Try to travel with friends if possible. The sad reality is that American women, especially when they are alone, are targets for men. If you do travel alone, try to dress like a woman from that country would. I made the mistake of getting on a train in Italy by myself with a Paris sweat shirt on, no makeup, and hair in a messy bun. No Italian woman dresses like that so I stuck out like a sore thumb.
- Don’t be too trusting of strangers. It’s ok to be nice, but don’t accept invitations to go to bars with people you don’t know or anything of that sort. Also, don’t get on a stranger’s Vespa like Lizzie does in The Lizzie McGuire Movie! Bad idea! Paolo is a fictional character!
- Download an app called Safey. Our school actually made us do this. It gives you updates on what is happening in any country in the world and how safe it is at that current moment.
- Have a phone plan that allows you to call from any country and make sure you have emergency contact numbers saved. I only had a phone plan for Italy, so when I traveled I had to be on WiFi to use my phone. Not so helpful in situations where you might need help. Make sure you have a phone plan set up before you go abroad.
Studying abroad is an absolutely amazing experience, but it is important to be aware of everything I just told you. I wouldn’t change a thing about my study abroad experience and I know so many people who say the same. There is absolutely no reason to be afraid or worried. If you decide to study abroad, you’re going to see the world in a whole new light. You are going to see amazing things and beautiful places. You will meet amazing people who change your perspective. Finally, you are going to eat the most amazing meals and buy super cute clothing (a definite plus). Just remember that wherever you are, you are still living an amazing life. And when you get home everyone will be eager to see you. However, the best part is you will have gained a new appreciation for the world around you.
If you want to read more about study abroad, check out 8 Reasons to Study Abroad for a Semester
If you found this helpful, remember to pin it. You can also take a look at my other travel posts.