When you choose to study abroad, you have the world at your fingertips. Paris is suddenly a short train ride away when you study abroad in London. And a flight to Australia seems quick and easy when you’re studying abroad in New Zealand. When travel seems so convenient, it’s easy to book every weekend with a trip and put aside spending time in the one place you were most excited to be in – your host country!
Hear from six of our Correspondents who shared advice through their study abroad blogs about learning to balance travel and spending quality time in their host country.
1. Find Favorite Places & Create Meaningful Memories
Alli Jones (IES Abroad Vienna, Fall 2017 | Texas Christian University) fell head-over-heels in love with Vienna, but, looking back, she wishes she would have started off her semester with a better balance between time away and time in Vienna.
“I recommend that you sit down with your calendar early in the semester, once you have your academic calendar, and decide which weekends you plan to travel and which ones you would like to spend in your host city. Yes, you can travel every weekend if you desire, but there are so many things to do wherever you are and you don’t want to go home with no significant experiences or memories from the place you spent the majority of your time.”
2. Set Your Own Expectations
Jason Renner (IES Abroad Shanghai, Fall 2017 | Washington and Lee University) found that he had a different idea of study abroad than his peers – and that was okay. For him, study abroad was more about learning to live in Shanghai and less about spending time traveling around China.
“In my view, every weekend spent outside of Shanghai is an opportunity lost to further experience Shanghai. And when I say experience Shanghai, that doesn’t necessarily mean visiting all the museums and sites the city has to offer. It can mean anything from trying a new Chinese restaurant each day to talking to a new store-keeper. The little things about a study abroad experience, like these, can be as enriching as travelling to a nearby destination.”
3. Get Connected with Your Community
When flights were too expensive to go elsewhere, Sydney Braat (IES Abroad Dublin, Fall 2017 | Gettysburg College) was happy she stayed in Dublin to spend quality time with her friends – and her host city.
“When we arrive to Europe for a semester abroad, we suddenly awaken to the idea that the world is our oyster. We have everything at our finger tips, and we’re filled with so much enthusiasm to accomplish everything on our bucket list. By all means, I hope you see everything you want to see, but don’t forget to enjoy and thrive in your host city...Actively search for events happening in your community, like book fairs or holiday concerts. You’ll be surprised by how connected those activities will make you feel to your community.”
4. Stay for Special Events
While many of her peers in Barcelona traveled to Germany for Oktoberfest, Mary Katherine Prehn (IES Abroad Barcelona, Fall 2017 | Sewanee – The University of the South) ended up having a blast staying in town for La Mercé festival.
“When you are planning those special trips to other parts of Europe, don’t forget to check the Barcelona calendar! Don’t forget about the city you chose to come to, it’s a popular destination for a reason. You never know what experiences are right at your doorstep. La Mercé was a great introduction to what this city can offer. Oktoberfest is three weekends. La Mercé is only once so choose wisely! You won’t be disappointed.”
5. Become an Expert on Local Travel
Madeleine Dietz (IES Abroad Amsterdam, Fall 2017 | University of Rochester) fed her travel bug, while saving money on transportation and lodging, by planning exciting day trips around Amsterdam and its surrounding areas.
“One of my favorite things about the Netherlands is the accessibility of public transportation throughout the whole country. To get around you use an OV Chipkaart, a little blue and white plastic card that give access to all public transportation. That's right, you can use this little guy for the trams, subways, buses, and trains throughout the entire country.”
From Day Tripper
6. Learn What’s Best for You
Jessica Robyns (IES Abroad Auckland, Fall 2017 | Lawrence University) experienced some FOMO when her peers were traveling every weekend, but she learned that, ultimately, she needed to do what was best for her.
“I’ve had to learn how to slow down and just enjoy being here- even if I’m just sitting in my flat. I also realized that traveling all the time just isn’t right for me. Traveling is stressful, and I personally need time to stay home and relax without worrying about going somewhere new every weekend. If other people like to be constantly traveling, that’s great for them, but that lifestyle isn’t right for everyone.”
Find the host country you’ll fall in love with by browsing our study abroad locations by location, area of study, or interest. Learn more from our Correspondents through their posts on IES Abroad Blogs.