When you plan on studying abroad, more likely than not one of the main things you’re thinking about is travel. Whether it’s within different parts of whichever country you pick or somewhere different entirely, studying abroad is seen by many as a opportunity to visit the places you dreamed of while growing up in the States. Admittedly this was a big reason I wanted to study abroad as well, having never been to Europe before now. I was concerned at the beginning that I wouldn’t make any friends and any travel ventures I decided to undergo would be solo adventures, but luckily that wasn’t the case and I found a big group of students just as enthused about traveling as I was.
We designed a careful, spontaneous way of planning and booking these trips. Most of us are self-proclaimed “bad planners,” not thinking through our plans much more than a day or so in advance. That definitely makes it harder to book trips, so over these past two months we’ve devised a scheme of sorts.
Gathered around my kitchen table in my apartment late at night, we huddle around a computer until we land on a place that we all want to go. With this system we managed to book a trip to Paris just days before we wanted to leave, swapped Ibiza for Mallorca, and Dublin for Prague. We found tents to camp in at Oktoberfest and an igloo to watch the Northern Lights from in Finland. And all of this, this crazed and altogether haphazard planning has lead to some of my best study abroad experiences thus far.
The spontaneity is something that I did not initially think would work well for me because of my anxiety. Usually, I like to know everything that is going on, every possible option and means for how I could get from point A to point B. But in this travel planning, I’ve found that the less thought I put into it, the better trip I have. Now that’s not to say I just book a bus ticket and hope to find shelter somewhere later that night. But I don’t burden myself with the intricacies of each day.
I’m not worried about filling time or getting to every sight-seeing location right away. Besides, I know no matter how intensely I plan everything there’s bound to be a few hiccups along the way because traveling never goes as smoothly as one would like. I’ve found that my newfound ability to “let go” a little bit really helps in terms of my mental health, eliminating my anxieties about the smaller issues of each day and allowing me to enjoy the experience more as a whole. I love the new way I travel, love the opportunities it has given me and the places I’ve been able to visit because of it. If you’re thinking of studying abroad yourself I’d insist that traveling around, whether it’s just a town away or across the continent, is absolutely vital your experience.