Morgan spent her Spring 2014 term in Sorrento, Italy. Upon her return home, she became an SAI Ambassador at her home school, the University of South Carolina. Below she gives us some helpful traveling tips.
So you’ve arrived in your new home exhilarated, exhausted, jetlagged, and probably a bit homesick. You’re exploring your new town, eating lots of great food, and meeting the people who will be your family for the next four months. Maybe you’ve already started, maybe you haven’t thought about it yet, but soon you will be researching all of the exciting places you can visit during your semester abroad. Here are some tips as you begin the planning process…
- Don’t plan too far in advance… You’re going to make new (hopefully local!) friends who invite you to do fun things with them on the weekends. You don’t want to book every weekend in January, causing you to miss out on that cool beach party in April that all the locals attend.
- …but plan any extended trips in advance. If you have a long weekend or spring break, you may want to plan a longer trip. This isn’t the trip to plan last minute. Once you figure out who you’re most compatible with, mention traveling together. See if you’re interested in visiting the same places. Then research and book it. Get that out of the way.
- Don’t travel every weekend. Making local friends is one of the most rewarding things you can do as a study abroad student. Reserve some weekends for them. That’s how I ended up at a dance club in a cave in Positano on the Amalfi Coast one weekend – I never would have found it without local friends.
- Don’t be a cliché traveler. The Eiffel tower is beautiful, but you don’t benefit from arranging your travels around snagging a selfie with the most notorious sights and missing out on the surrounding culture.
- Quality over quantity. Sure, you could Instagram a picture in front of every famous landmark and try to visit as many countries as possible, but what have you really experienced? Make fewer trips, but make them mean more.
- Take advantage of airbnb and hostels. Safely, of course. Traveling in a group is always a good idea. Both are great ways to meet people from around the world. This is how I ended up staying three nights with a sweet French lady named Maria and her cat, Mischa. We sat up talking late into the night as she shared stories of her many odd jobs around Paris, including working as a museum guide and a director for a local theatre company.
- Make the most of low-cost airlines, but do your research. Make a list of each airline and the requirements for them: carryon size limitations, preprinted boarding passes, etc. There are heavy fines for not complying with these restrictions, and sometimes they aren’t communicated very clearly. Read the fine print. I bought a carryon rolling suitcase that was advertised to fit every low-cost airline for €30. Totally worth it.