When I decided to study in Madrid, I planned to use my prime location in Europe and free weekends to travel the continent. For the last few years, I have saved and saved, and saved some more to afford it. Though others will say that the travel is cheap, it is expensive when booking weekends to popular destinations, just a few weeks in advance.
In my opinion: if you can research like an FBI agent on Facebook to stalk your best friend’s ex-boyfriend, you can dig and find those dirt-cheap flights!
Over a month ago, I remember sitting at my kitchen table in Madrid, surrounded by my three roommates. We were discussing spring break, in which I had no plans. My program (ISA Madrid) had offered a guided trip to Morocco for a bit less than $800. This is very expensive for 5 days of travel! That was my first reason not to go. Second, I was not allowed to go to Morocco – a wish from my father. I felt left out, and knowing that my Pitt roommate had her family coming to visit, I turned to my two roommates from Mexico. Without plans, the three of us decided to go to the nearest beach for a few days. Though, I was still unsatisfied.
One day in marketing, I struck up conversation with the girl next to me about spring break. She told me how she was planning a trip to Italy with her two roommates, but they were being slow to book and she was stressed that she would not have as much fun on the trip because they were “two peas in a pod”. Knowing this dilemma from past experiences, I told her I understood her concern, but that the Italy trip sounded wonderful. When she turned the conversation to me, I told her how I was planning to go to the beach but I wished I was doing a trip to Italy like her. To my surprise, she invited me along! She followed up on all the details later that night, and we booked our flights and accommodations. We traveled to Pisa, Florence, Verona and Venice. We ate our way through Florence, awed at the Juliette and Romeo house in Verona, and boated our way around during a gorgeous Easter weekend in Venice.
Moral of the story? Don’t be afraid to make new friends in your classes! Especially travel friends who are studying abroad – they could turn out to be new best friends. Too many people go abroad with a “squad”, and I highly recommend staying away from this. If you end up going with a good group of friends because your destinations and timing coincide, then great! But, the mentality of not reaching out, staying within your circle and extending travel plans only to those within it will let you down. This experience is about growth and maturity; what better way than to meet new people and grow in your travels as you figure out who you are and who you want to be.