Studying abroad is close to coming to an end. The end is near. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can see the grand welcome back with American flags and the singing of God Bless America. I can see the simple pleasures of Walgreens, Magnolia cupcakes, and Seamless.
After all my travels this semester, I figure I know enough to give my own set of tips for those pondering the idea of study abroad or of just traveling in Europe. I mean I’m pretty much an expert at this point considering how cultured and educated I am now.
In no particular order:
- Always have more money than you think you’re going to need. Some people say you can travel for the price of nothing. Yes, that is true. But only if you want to stay in shitty Airbnbs, hostels with nineteen other people, and have to take trains or buses at 1am.
- It’s better to give yourself more time than you think. Especially when dealing with layovers or train transfers. If you’re ever in Italy, I can guarantee you there will be delays for no reason. Airports and train services may announce a strike at any moment.
- No matter what your lazy friends tell you. MAKE THE PLANS AHEAD! The rule of thumb is two weeks in advance, but you can probably do ok a week before you want to go. If you wait too long, the prices will skyrocket, availability will be slim, and you may end up having to arrive in an airport that is two hours from the city center.
- Traveling alone does not mean your imminent death. This doesn’t have to mean you take a solo trip to Oslo or Morocco. It could just be a simple day trip. When I was in Amsterdam, I had about six hours to myself. It was amazing! I could do whatever I wanted without worrying about what everyone else wanted. I could just relax and enjoy myself.
- If you go with friends, do not be surprised to get annoyed with them from time to time. Being with each other 24/7 for weekend after weekend is a lot of time to be with someone. You’re going to get on each other’s nerves. But it’s important to remember that it’ll pass and you need to let it go in order to have fun in the city your in.
- Be prepared to get dazed and confused. Your phone isn’t going to work a majority of the time making directions nearly impossible and meet-ups catastrophic. It’s better to figure it out beforehand, screen shot it, and do it the old-fashioned way.
- Not every city and not every person is going to be great. You’re going to have moments where you despise the places you go to, and there will be times you don’t want to leave. But that’s all part of the adventure.
- Homesickness is unavoidable. When you’re in a foreign place, the confusion and discomfort of it is going to force you to wish you were home. Although people will tell you it’s temporary, sometimes it isn’t. So just find activities to distract you from it.
- Some Europeans are racist assholes. If you’re not white, be prepared to have water thrown at you in the middle of the night and racist gibberish screamed in your face. Bigots are rapid in these parts my friends.
- Don’t let all the bad shit taint everything that’s good. While I’ve struggled with this for most of my time, you need to keep trying new things and make the most of every situation. It’s hard most of the time, I admit, but it does get better. Just think: you’re traveling all of Europe, while your friends at home are either sitting on their couches watching Netflix or partying at a Frat party in some dark, smelly basement.
- Il Vittoriano: Lindsey Giostra