Studying abroad is certainly an experience that one will never forget. Most people think it’s just a really long vacation where students travel as much as they want while simultaneously taking classes that will be a breeze–and for some, that may be the case. But for others, the semester may be accelerated for a number of reasons. That means one may have only 4, 6, or 8 weeks to fit in classes, studying, homework, projects, exams, time with the host family/friends/locals, and above all, traveling! iQue fome! (one of the many chilenismos I have learned abroad).
It’s difficult to fit in weekend travel when studying abroad, and it’s even more difficult to do so in such a short amount of time. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are studying and traveling abroad.
Organization is key. This does not mean that you have to overthink and over-analyze every single detail. But having a general idea on where you want to travel, excursions to do, and who to go with will definitely make planning a weekend getaway that much easier.
Overthinking everything will just stress you out even more. Yes, be organized but learn to go with the flow, too. I made the mistake of worrying too much about everyone and everything, which made it that much harder to enjoy an awesome trip with my friends.
Learn to budget your money, Try to think about how much you want to spend for hostels/hotels/camping, tours, excursions, food, etc. and roughly estimate how much certain weekend trips will cost. It may be overwhelming at first but it’s good to know where your money is going before you spend way more than you intended in one weekend.
Plan ahead for places to stay and how to get there. Book tours when you arrive to your destination. It’s easier and you might even find better deals in person than online.
Communicate! Trust me, we all want everyone to be included in a dance around the campfire and singing Kumbaya into the wee hours of the morning at the cheapest hostel we can find. But let’s be real–it’s very difficult to find a place for 10+ people at such short notice. Plus, having to be the designated parent of the group who is constantly worrying about everyone is not what one should have in mind while traveling. If you want to travel as a large group, consider booking separate hostels/hotels/campsites and then come together for tours and group activities. You’ll save money and you won’t have to worry about everyone all at once. There are pros and cons to traveling in big groups or small groups. It is truly up to the people you are with, where everyone wants to go, and what you are willing to do.
In spite of all this, try not to worry too much about how much money you’re spending. Just think, you can earn that money back when you get home. This experience abroad is once in a lifetime. As good ol’ Dolly Parton stated so beautifully, “never get too busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”
Take your time and don’t worry if you can’t go everywhere you want to go while you’re here. Make the most of it and do what’s possible (and within your budget).
But hey, sometimes you just gotta say YOLO and book those flights to Torres del Paine, Peru, Paris, or wherever it is you want to go! It’s called balance, and when abroad, it is absolutely necessary. If you feel it in your soul that this trip will be worth it, take a chance and do what you know will make you happy.
When traveling in general, try not to have too high of expectations for everything. I know, that sounds a bit cynical, but it’s true.There will be miscommunication due to the language barrier. You may get lost and might have to find another way home. I apologize for being so cliché, but expect the unexpected. Not everything will be perfect, but that is the beauty of traveling. The entire experience is supposed to be an adventure. Now is the time to reflect and learn from those crazy incredible adventures you had with some pretty awesome people.
All in all, have the time of your life! Life goes on no matter how long you wait for the perfect moment, and while you wait, you could miss it. Be rational, be safe, and most importantly, have fun! These weeks or months in your host country will be one of the greatest adventures of your existence. Don’t forget to be yourself and enjoy the wonders of travel.
The world awaits…discover it.