During my time abroad I have had my fair share of traveling and have learned that traveling is an important part of any study abroad experience. However, a student can easily fall into the trap of traveling too much or not traveling enough. Also, when an exchange student contemplates traveling they also have to consider a number of different questions: Should I do an organized student trip or travel with my friends? Should I travel at the beginning of the end of my study abroad? Should I travel alone? Below I provide my input to these three questions and a few more.
Traveling Abroad Student Guide:
Finding a Balance between Traveling too Much and not Traveling Enough: While living abroad in Europe I have noticed that the cost and ease of travel is significantly better than in the United States. Because of this, an exchange student will be presented with a myriad of opportunities to travel while in Europe. However, my advice is to not take every opportunity to travel. Instead focus on a few extended trips in a specific country. During this study abroad I have already traveled to many different countries, but the trips I have taken that I have enjoyed the most have been the longer trips (about a week). Instead of checking off a list of countries you’ve visited, really go and enjoy a few of them for a longer amount of time. With that being said, also do not be too quick to pass up travel opportunities. These opportunities can be very specific and you may not get the chance again. If it is affordable and you have the time then you should consider going.
Should I travel more at the beginning or end of my study abroad?
An argument I have heard for traveling at the beginning of an exchange is that because towards the end of the exchange you will get bogged down with final examinations and work to do for returning home. Even though this argument has some truth and you may get busy towards the end of your exchange I think it is typically better to travel more towards the end of your exchange period. This is because you will have met not only friends to travel with but also friends you can visit in their home countries! Because of this, I recommend reserving some specific time to travel after your study abroad (about a month or so). Then you can visit some friends abroad or just enjoy some peace of mind traveling without having to worry about completing school work.
Should I travel alone?
Don’t have any friends to travel with or visit during that month you reserved? Don’t fret you will meet new ones on your journey! Traveling alone is often considered a really big deal and speaking from personal experience can be very scary. A lot of students I know have limited themselves and not traveled because they did not have anyone to go with. However, you actually meet many more people when you travel alone! In Europe, you can stay in hostels, use websites like couchsurfing.com, and also contact ERASMUS student network branches in different European cities to meet people (ERASMUS is the organization that sends European students to other European countries). Overall, make sure you do some research to the area you will be traveling to and take a few more safety precautions, but no study abroad experience is complete without at least a little solo traveling.
Should I organize my own trips or go with an organization?
Most European cities will have many organizations specializing in student trips. The most common organization is ERASMUS student network (ESN). Every ESN branch puts on trips for exchange students often for a fair price. Since these trips are usually just a bit more expensive then if you went on your own, money is not a main factor when deciding to book them or not. My recommendation is to book some of these trips in the beginning of your study abroad because it is a great way to meet people and make new friends. However, once you are well established and have a good friend group it is often more rewarding to go on your own trips opposed to those with organizations. This is because you set your own schedule and can do anything you want!
Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions!