So far I’ve had many weekend adventures. I have rarely stayed in Florence (which I finally am this weekend and couldn’t be more excited to not have to pack a bag and rush to a train or flight). I have taken trips to the Italian cities of Padua, Lucca, Pisa, Bologna, and Venice. I have been to Interlaken (Switzerland), Munich and Berlin (Germany), Prague (Czech Republic), Edinburgh (Scotland), Brussels and Bruges (Belgium), and Budapest (Hungary). Just typing out all the places I’ve been makes me realize how thankful I am to have been able to experience all of these incredible places that most people only ever dream of getting to. To prepare for these trips, I usually just used the Internet to look up the best attractions to see, places to eat, and things to do. I also always checked the weather so I could pack accordingly. Sometimes I would reach out to friends who had been to these places to get their best tips and advice!
As magical as all of those places sound, traveling is not always simple and glamorous. Actually, it never is. There are my obstacles and bumps in the road that you really don’t account for. Here are two lists that I think will be very beneficial for anyone planning to study abroad!
Obstacles/Challenges you don’t think that you will face (but you will):
- The metro system and buses of other countries. First off, they usually aren’t in English. Second, sometimes you are required to validate your ticket. This never actually happened to me (thank goodness), but I have heard stories of people not validating their tickets and having to pay fines over $50.
- Hostels are weird. Staying in rooms with random people from other countries is always an interesting time. You will get people that turn on the lights and make lots of noise at 6 AM when you are still trying to sleep. Communal showers will bring you right back to freshman year (don’t forget flip flops).
- Make sure you tell your banks you will be traveling to other countries, because you will have to take out money once you arrive because shockingly all of Europe does not use the Euro! The currency in some places is so weird. In Budapest, 15000 HUF is equal to about $50 USD. So a typical meal is about 2,500 HUF (which sounds horrifying)!
My Personal Tips & Tricks:
- Make sure you have Venmo. Most places will not split checks and you usually just have one person pay on their card and everyone else just Venmos.
- Bring a water bottle. In Italy, water is not free at restaurants. Keep yourself hydrated by always having your water bottle on you.
- Give yourself lots of time getting to trains and planes. It will almost always take longer than you think. If you are taking a train to get to an airport, take the earlier train because they get delayed all of the time.
- If you are studying in Florence, either fly out of Florence or Pisa. Even if Bologna is cheaper, it is really complicated to get to and the train and bus tickets to get to the actual airport are super expensive.
- Pack light. I didn’t bring a “backpacking” backpack, and most cheap flights don’t let you bring the rolling carryon luggage, so I’ve been forced to take my smaller school backpack on trips. At first I thought this was going to be a problem, but you really adjust to packing light. It has been great carrying around a tiny bag each weekend. I used to be such a heavy packer, but abroad has changed my ways!