What travel tips would you give someone studying abroad?
Traveling was a major issue for my friends and I when we first started planning trips. We got to Rome and were so excited to explore and travel so we started planning trips right from the start. None of us had ever traveled on our own so nobody necessarily knew what they were doing, which may have been our first issue. When planning our first trip to Amsterdam I was in charge of finding a hostel. Side note, if you are traveling with more than 3 people I highly recommend Airbnb over hostels, anyways, I found a cheap one, it said it was “2 M” from the city center so I was like “perfect!” and booked it. Then it asked if we wanted to pay 5 Euros a person more for insurance and thinking “Let’s save money!” I clicked no. We then booked it and it gave us the address and it was 2 hours away from the city. So first tip, get insurance and double-check your location before you buy anything. Then, we went to book a flight. We found the cheapest flight through a third party and booked it. The day finally comes, our first trip! We got to the airport and go to check-in, and we were not actually on a flight. The third-party site never confirmed anything with us and so we had no flight to Amsterdam, but they booked us on the flight coming home. So the next tip, stay away from unreliable third party sites.
Our next travel problem was our flight to Greece. We booked it and we’re super excited because it was a lot cheaper than we were finding on other sites. We book it, confirm everything, then check the bank statement and it was $100 more per person than we thought. We called them and were demanding answers, turns out, the site was in pounds, not euros. So, check your currency before booking anything. As you can see, traveling was a little bit of an issue for us, but it could have all been avoided if we were a little more observant. So make sure you check locations, use reputable sites, and check currency every time! Otherwise, traveling was one of the best parts of being abroad and I wish I could have went to even more places! If you have the ability to definitely travel but don’t forget to explore your city as well!
What was your favorite thing to do in your host city?
My absolute favorite thing to do in Rome was going to the cat sanctuary. That may sound weird but it was amazing. It was in the middle of the city so you could people watch, enjoy the city life, and see the amazing cats. I loved it. I also LOVED sunsets. There were a lot of beautiful places to watch the sunset. Getting a bottle of wine and going up to a lookout point with your friends was always a great time. I would love to be able to go back and watch the sunset at the orange gardens again. I highly recommend it. Normally there is live music by a local and it is a very relaxing thing to experience.
What did you learn about yourself when you were abroad? How have you changed?
As cliche, as it is, being abroad really did impact me in so many ways. When I left Minnesota I never did anything alone. I was always with someone, talking to someone, etc. When I got to Rome I knew I had to learn how to be alone because I knew to go into it, I didn’t have a friend 2 minutes away from me at all times and regardless of if I were outgoing or not that wasn’t going to change. I started the semester out only doing things with people, then I realized people are busy, and if I really wanted to do something, I just had to do it.
I started going on walks alone, going to the store alone, and even traveling alone. Before I left that is something I would never have imagined would happen, especially in a city where I didn’t know the language. I found that spending time alone is so important and far more relaxing than I could ever imagine. Being alone is 100% okay and honestly great sometimes. Coming back home, I’ve found that it has been something I have continued on with, I now make sure I have time to just do things I enjoy, alone. This may not seem huge, but because of doing things alone and having this experience I am so much more mature and independent than I ever thought. This is just one of the ways I grew over my study abroad experience and although there are more, I am so thankful that this was one of those changes.
Brianna was a spring 2019 Rome student from Gustavus Adolphus College.