That is the question! Many of you, as you are gearing up to go abroad, probably already have plans to do some major traveling. But before you pack up your bags and jet off to various destinations, read this blog by one of our peer advisors Kristin, who studied abroad in Rome in 2010:
People going abroad often have the tendency to look at this time as “how many countries can I visit in the next 5 months?!” or simply as an extended vacation…with a few classes thrown in there. However, it is really sad if you look at study abroad this way as opposed to looking at it as a time where you have the chance to really LIVE in a foreign place for an extended time period, taking really unique classes, and meeting some incredible people!
Here’s some advice on traveling while abroad:
- Simply don’t go overboard with the traveling! I know it is going to be very tempting to want to go somewhere new every weekend (especially those of you studying in Europe) but I cannot stress enough what a shame it is to never spend the weekends in your host city! You want to spend time exploring your host city and learning to live there like a local. When you spend more time in your host city you will start to find special places that you can call your own. Whether it’s the local coffee shop or the visiting the man on the corner who sells coconuts every Saturday, it is these places and these people that will be the most memorable but you only find these jewels if you spend time in your city.
- Local students don’t travel every weekend, nor do they have the money to. If they see you packing your bags every weekend to head off to somewhere new, you might not make as good of friends with locals and it might reinforce people’s stereotypes of Americans that we are so stinkin’ wealthy. This might actually offend some of your friends or host family.
- Traveling IS a wonderful part of studying abroad, but learn to find a balance between staying in your host city and traveling. When I studied abroad in Rome, I knew there were so many places in Europe I wanted to see. But I knew I was never going to see every place and I wanted to spend most of my time in Rome. So I planned on doing one “big out-of-country trip” every month which totaled to 4 trips. I then thought about the top 4 places I felt I ABSOLUTELY had to visit during my time abroad and visited those places. With the planned excursions my program offered and my 4 big trips, I actually saw a lot of Italy, a lot of Europe, and spent a lot of time in Rome. I felt this was a good balance. You will have to figure out what works best for you.
- Keep in mind that when you do travel it will probably only be for a weekend. You will see one city in one country and you will spend the weekend doing a whirlwind sightseeing escapade in order to hit all the main touristy spots in your three days there. Even though you may really want to visit loads of different places just remember you are only going to have a TASTE of these places whereas if you stay in your city you will actually get to enjoy the FULL MEAL!
- Traveling is EXHAUSTING. It’s a process to travel and it takes time, from booking flights or buying train tickets to booking a hostel. Plus once you arrive, you have to go through the whole discovery process every time you visit somewhere new: how do I get to my hostel? Can I call a taxi? How does public transportation work? Can I get into Buckingham Palace? Will this scuba tour cost too much? Everything from planning, to traveling, to exploring, to unpacking all takes a lot of energy. Your body will only love you for so long if you are constantly boarding planes, walking miles, and switching time zones all the time.
- Think about when you are at DU. Are you off every weekend going somewhere new in Colorado or leaving the state to visit a city? Probably not. So why should you do any differently when you go abroad?
- Remember, you have the rest of your life to be a tourist. Yes, going abroad offers some unique opportunities to see a lot of different places in the region of the world you are going to. And take advantage of those opportunities but also take advantage of this opportunity to LIVE in a city you may never have the change to live in again.