Making the Most Out of a Semester Abroad
Many people afflicted with wanderlust would agree that their passion for travelling started early in life. In a lot of cases, it was a semester spent abroad that fuelled this desire to explore more of what the world has to offer. If you have the opportunity to participate in such a program, you will quickly realize that this experience goes well beyond just studying in a foreign country. This is a unique chance to travel, discover a new culture and perhaps learn a new language. If you’re serious about collecting stamps and memories while you’re studying abroad, follow these simple tips.
1. Pick your Destination Wisely
The options are unlimited when it comes to choosing where you will study during your semester abroad. However, if you intend on spending all your free time exploring your surroundings or going on side trips, find a city that is well connected. Check the distance from the main airport, but also from secondary airports. In Europe, for instance, many ultra-low-cost carriers (like RyanAir or EasyJet) operate from smaller regional airports to reduce costs.
Alternatively, look for universities or campuses in hub cities that are centrally located and easily accessible by bus or train. Want to save one night of accommodation and be time-efficient? Go for night buses which are generally budget-friendly and let you enjoy more time at your destination rather than in transport.
2. Organize your Schedule Logically
You might not have the luxury of building your own schedule. However, if you can, avoid classes on Mondays and Fridays to give yourself extra-long weekends, every week! This is the best way to use your time efficiently for out-of-town side trips. This might prove difficult, so compromise with late classes on Mondays or early ones on Fridays.
You don’t necessarily need to travel outside the country every week, unless, of course, you budgeted accordingly and have the financial resources to do so. Allow yourself to get lost in your own host city, do some people-watching and try to integrate completely as a local. You could also take cooking classes, join a conversation club if you’re learning a new language or simply enjoy the outdoors by going on a day trip.
3. Search for Student Discounts
Being a student has its perks almost everywhere in the world. Even if you have a strict budget, you can make your dollar go further by researching activities that offer discounts to students or free activities around you. In many big cities, you can take part in a variety of free walking tours.
Your student card also allows you to save money on transportation with bus fares or train passes sold at a deeply reduced rate. Additionally, within your study abroad program, you could join organized tours or trips tailored to foreign students.
Follow happy hour specials for students and always ask bars and restaurants if they have student discounts, you will be surprise how many do. It’s recommended to have a universally accepted student ID, so get an ISIC card and flash it any chance you have!
4. Adapt to the Workload
Not all programs will require the same time involvement in school work. There are even universities that only ask you to pass a class regardless of the grades in order to obtain your credits while studying abroad.
Your organization skills will be tested as you find ways to have more freedom on weekends. Spread your workload to keep all your assigned reading for long journeys in buses or trains while scheduling group projects during the week.
5. Extend your Stay
Leaving for a longer period of time than the allocated semester might seem daunting at first. Remember that you are already gone for 3 or 4 months, so what’s a couple more weeks to travel? Your friends and family will still be there and with all the technology keeping us connected nowadays, you’re only a FaceTime session away from the latest gossips on campus.
If you don’t need to rush back home, take some time at the end of your semester to visit more destinations. Real-life will come knocking on your door soon enough with bills, responsibilities, jobs and maybe kids so make the most of this precious time to embrace your inner nomad.
6. Travel Safely
During your escapades, you will most likely stay in hostels or take public transportation to get around in order to save money. It’s simple: spend less, travel more! However, this means that you need to be more cautious. Keep your belongings safe by investing in a lock, leave your valuables home on short trips and subscribe to a travel insurance plan.
While some universities make it mandatory for all foreign students to be insured, it is your responsibility to make sure you have the proper coverage. Reach out to your travel insurance representative to find a suitable plan for you which will cover medical emergencies, theft or loss of luggage and trip cancellation.
Spending a semester abroad is the perfect opportunity to further your knowledge while travelling the world at the same time, enjoy it to the fullest! Ignite your curiosity in a foreign environment and make lifelong friendships during this memorable study abroad experience.
Article by Nomad Junkies team