Tips, Tricks, and Joys of Studying Abroad

by Liz Hopewell

Excuse me while I faint due to shock that this experience is already halfway over – 7 weeks down and a mere 5 to go. You would think that I would be either over the moon that I get to go home in a few short weeks or clinically depressed that I have to leave here so soon, but surprisingly I am neither. Instead I am filled with joy when looking back at every moment of these last fun filled weeks and looking forward to soaking up every second of the next 5.

Beautiful lake in Interlaken, Switzerland

Beautiful lake in Interlaken, Switzerland

One great thing about this program is the freedom it provides for personal travel outside of the program. One specific weekend trip (rather week long trip) was our mid-term break last week. During this week, we had 10 days to plan (on our own) a place to go, somewhere to stay, many places to eat, what to do, how to get there, and any other logistics related to our adventure.

One of the many breathtaking views in Ireland

One of the many breathtaking views in Ireland

Those of us that didn’t have family or friends coming over to visit decided to embark to Ireland and Switzerland!

We all pulled together to research where to stay (thank goodness for Rick Steves), what to do when we were in each place, and most importantly, what to eat in each country. Luckily, mid-October becomes tourist season for both Ireland and Switzerland. This worked in our favor more often than not – resulting in cheap flights and lodging. Once the details were all in place, we embarked and loved every single adventure that followed.

Ireland group enjoying the spectacular Cliffs of Moher

Ireland group enjoying the spectacular Cliffs of Moher

After traveling on our own for 10 days I learned a few things about European travel, the do’s and don’ts, and I thought I would share a few of them with you for your future travels.

Cute bistro we found in Doolin, Ireland

Cute bistro we found in Doolin, Ireland

1. Research. Research. Research.
Like I said earlier, I am so thankful for Rick Steeves. Through his books, we chose all but one of our spots for lodging for the entire 10 days. There are people out there that travel for a living (sign me up for that job!) – so utilize their talent and look up recommended places to stay and eat during your European study abroad or vacation.

The view from our balcony at our guesthouse in Murren, Switzerland

The view from our balcony at our guesthouse in Murren, Switzerland

2. Spend a little extra money on a good hotel.
This one may be a little hard for a poor college student to grasp, but it really pays off in the long run. Our lodge in Doolin (25 Euro per/person a night) had one of the best breakfasts I have ever had. Most people looking for a budget option would opt for hostels (which are usually great cheap options), but the local hostle in Doolin disguised itself as the cheap option when it was really a few euro’s more expensive than other options.

 

The locals in Doolin, Ireland

The locals in Doolin, Ireland

 

3. Get to know the locals
Locals are the ultimate tour guides and they are filled with great information about their respective cities. The more people you ask, the more recommendations you get – and when you get a lot of recommendations for a particular place, you know it’s legitimately good. Locals enable you to immerse yourself in the culture rather than skimming the touristy surface.

The Irish sarcasm can be found everywhereThe Irish sarcasm can be found everywhere

The Irish sarcasm can be found everywhere

4. Have everything you can planned out beforehand.
It truly pays off to have your schedule set before your embark – look at transportation schedules, compare transportation options, look at check-in and out times, ensure you have the correct currency, look up key phrases. All of these, and more, will enhance your trip ten-fold!

Hang-gliding in Interlaken, Switzerland

Hang-gliding in Interlaken, Switzerland

5. Have fun!

Is that cliché and obvious? Maybe, but after the research and planning are done – relax and enjoy your vacation. Everything may not go perfect, but the minor details all seem to fade and the good times are remembered forever!