It is that time to write again and while I was sitting and thinking about what to write, I was also trying to think of what other trips I needed to plan before my return back to Stonington. I realized that writing some travel tips may be useful to all potential study-abroad students! Before you come, all you can do is think about traveling and everywhere amazing that you will get to see. You create this idea in your head that you will be gone every weekend, exploring the world. I recommend these tips before you start planning trips in your head and on paper:
#1→ Explore the country you are studying in!
Before I left home, someone told me to make sure that I travel in Spain, my home for the next four months. That was some of the best advice that was given to me. I watch people fly away to different countries every weekend, but there is so much to see right here in Spain. I made a vow to stay here for most of the semester. Spain is huge and there is so much to see. I feel like it was the right decision for so many reasons. I know a lot of the history about Spain because I have been to so many different places and seen so many different things, which is very useful in class. I make use of the buses and trains in Spain by taking day trips as well; there are so many wonderful places that are within 3 hours of wherever you will be (plus this makes traveling cheap!). Spain is beautiful and I really feel that I am getting to soak up all the culture from this amazing place.
#2→ Plan trips before you leave.
Before I came, I made a list of everywhere that I wanted to visit. I knew exactly where I wanted to go but made the mistake of not booking any trips before I came. This meant two things: 1) I had a LOT of planning to do when I got here and 2) Planes were more expensive than they would have been before I came. I wish I had booked one or two trips before I had arrived. That being said, try not to book everything because you will make friends here that you will want to travel with. But, for example, if you know you want to go to Dublin over St. Patricks day, make sure and book that flight and hotel ahead of time.
#3→ Visit friends that are also studying abroad.
One of the best things about studying abroad is that you will know other people studying abroad from either high school or from your university. Make sure you plan a trip to see them. It is one of the best experiences you will have because how often do poor college students get to travel the world together?! You will create lifelong memories. It also is like getting to have a little piece of home abroad, and trust me, you will need that.
#4→ Be flexible.
I am not someone who likes to travel on a school night, or even get back super late on a night before I have class (I know, dorky). But, I have had to learn to be flexible. Usually, flights are cheaper early in the morning and late at night. This is helpful because you get to make the most of your time, but you should also know that the later you travel on cheap airplanes, the more likely it is to be canceled. I have wrapped my head around the fact that if my plane is canceled and I miss class, it will not be the end of the world! I also have learned that flying out on a Thursday is a lot a cheaper, so I have booked a trip to leave on a Thursday right after class and to return late on a Saturday night. You should be trying to make the most of your money, so use Google Flights (in an incognito window) and explore what dates are cheapest to fly. The less you spend, the more you can go!
#5→ Go to class when you can.
I know that for my program specifically, we have a limited number of classes we can skip. In my program, I can only miss 2 classes (excused or unexcused) before I drop half a letter grade for each class missed. At my local university, I can miss three classes before my grades start dropping. This is a lot different than many schools in the US. I know people that go to large universities can skip pretty much whenever they want (not necessarily the case for those of us in small private schools), but when abroad most programs require you to attend class. This was a shock to many. I know people that used their skips in the first month, and then when their Ryanair flight was canceled and they could not get home until the next day, they lost half a letter grade. My point is, be wise about skipping class and do not skip unless you have to. You never know when you are going to be stuck in Barcelona for the night. **sidenote– I have not skipped any classes and have not had any canceled flights yet**
#6→ Be a tourist in your own town.
I created a schedule of all my weekend trips when I came to Sevilla, and set aside my last three weekends to just stay in Sevilla. I have not spent enough time in my own city. While yes, I am always here during the weeks, I tend to be bogged down with homework and not enough time to explore (you want to get your homework done during the week so you can travel on the weekends). I have a list of things that I want to do right here in Sevilla, so I know that I am going to be very busy those last few weekends. There is so much to do and see in your own town, and you need to make sure that you explore it. My advice is to make sure that you see a fair amount of both touristy sights and local sights. This will help you feel more like you are at home. The place you traveled to to study abroad for four months will become a third home for you.
I hope that these tips are helpful before your trip abroad. The time flies by, so make sure you plan it well. More later,