Top 10 Ways to Get the Most Out of Studying Abroad

Photo by Sheri Vasinda

Studying abroad is the surest way to catch the travel bug.  Unfortunately it is normally before you have enough money to afford such a sickness!  Thankfully, my major requires at least 2 semesters abroad, so I’ve gathered quite a bit of information on the best way to get the most of your time abroad.

1. Talk to as many people as possible who have already been there. They can tell you the best (and worst) places to eat, sleep, and party.
2. Make sure you eat all the local food. Ask the locals about their favorite places.  I guarantee its better than what any guidebook has to say.
3. Read reviews before you stay anywhere. And always rent the cabin on a “cruise ship”.  20 euro is so worth not getting bed bugs!
4. Ask everyone (locals and friends who have visited) their favorite places to party. Pub crawls are the best way to check out the hottest night clubs and meet really interesting people from all over the world.
5. Take tons of pictures, but be sure to actually be in the moment. If you get too caught up in remembering it, you will forget to focus on what it is like when you’re actually there!
6. Get lost. Wandering allows you to find things you never would have thought of looking for.  It’s an adventure that you don’t have to plan for at all!
7. Take risks! Do all the things you have always been too afraid to do.  Whether it is skydiving, paragliding, canyoning, skiing, or just trying crazy foods!  The rush will make your trips even more memorable.
8. Look for all the cheapest options possible, and make some plans. Or let someone else do it for you.  Many cities have groups that arrange trips for American students, such as Florence for Fun in Italy, so there is usually a group discount and a chance to make new friends.
9.  Do anything and everything that is free. New Europe is a company that gives tours working only on tips, which is the cheapest you will find.  Get a little bit of history and I’m sure the tour guides can tell you the most interesting places to hang in the city.  And its a great plan for a future job if you can’t get over the travel bug by the time you graduate!
10. Most importantly, meet as many people as possible. Networking is the way to go in today’s job market, and the most people you know, all of the world, the more likely you are to get a nice travel job, or at least a free place to stay.

These are my top ways to get the most out of your study abroad experience.  And if that one semester isn’t quite enough to fulfill your cravings, pick a major that requires more : )

P.S. Let me know if you need any tips on studying abroad in Australia or Italy!

Travel is…

Ok, so I finally figured out exactly how to write this for my purposes.  I want to tell you about the year I spent abroad in Australia and Italy (as well as next semester when I’ll be in London) without just saying “I did this and it was cool”.  So I have decided to model it kind of after “Love is”.  Because travel is love to me.  But there will be more than just the one sentence.  Haha!  So today I will start with what travel actually is!  And what it means to me of course.

Riding in a cab in Capri
The Coolest Cab Ride I've Ever had in Capri

Travel is “to go from one place to another, as by car, train, plane or ship; take a trip” according to dictionary.com.  I think they left out  a few modes of transportation, but maybe that’s just me.

Even when I was a kid, I loved the actual act of traveling.  It didn’t matter were we were going.  My family and I always took trips, once or twice a year.  I remember the anticipation the night before, not being able to sleep even though I had to get up early.  Then my parents would wake me well before the sun rose, and barely opening my eyes I would climb into the back of our sea foam green van.  Where I would sleep for hours in a nest of blankets.  Wish it was that easy now!

My dad always told me I loved these trips because I didn’t have to drive.  But I found him to be wrong.  Since sophomore year of college, each semester that I actually attend my school in America, I drive halfway across the country from Dallas to Philly.  Usually by myself.  And I love it even more.  I can stop to pee as much as I want.  I can eat whatever I want.  Listen to whatever I want.  And nothing gives you the feeling of freedom and accomplishment that finally arriving at your destination brings.

But driving is not necessarily my preferred method of traveling.  I really enjoy anything that takes me to a new place. Or even an old place I haven’t been in a while.

I love travel by plane, boat, train, kayak, camel, walking, paragliding, swimming, horseback, or hiking!  And I’m sure there are many I have yet to try.  But I’ll save those for another post.

This is just the beginning of finding out what travel is.

You Can Always Go Home Again

Oh, the end of the semester.  Papers, finals, piles upon piles of stress.  Hence why there have been no posts.  But no worries, I am home for the summer with lots of free time!

The 2 day 1,492 (give or take) mile drive was completely worth it.  Crossing over that Texas borderline gave me chills and maybe a little bit of a lead foot as well.  Luckily, no tickets so far.  Knock on wood.

Every time I get back to Texas, there is the biggest feeling of relief.  I know its a strange thing to say, seeing as this is a travel blog.  But one of the things I love so much about traveling is the thrill of coming home.  It always seems at least slightly new.  Just small things like a new water tower, or the town hall being moved.

And of course, it gives me the option to change a few things about myself as well.  While attending school in Pennsylvania, I do not get my hair done, as my sister is my stylist.  So coming home means getting a hair cut.  And a little bit more!

I decided to go blonde.  I’ve done this once before, sort of.  Right before I ventured to Australia, I decided I wanted to be a blonde beach babe.  But seeing as I’m a natural brunette and would not be able to get touch ups for five months, it ended up being a dirty blonde.  Not this time.

This time my sister and I decided on super blonde!  I was shocked the first time I looked in the mirror.  Never in my life has my hair been this light.  And, as much as I’ve always thought  brunettes were better than blondes in every way, I have to admit, I love the blonde.

So I guess its time to see.  Are travels more fun blonde?

I love travel

To me, traveling is everything.  Anything besides travel is secondary. But it’s those secondary events that make traveling so worthwhile.

Although I live in the best place on earth, Texas, traveling manages to remain my favorite activity.  As much as I love Texas, I love pretty much every new place I visit as well.  I mean, you always need a home base.

So what do I love about traveling?

I love the actual act of traveling. Whether it’s in on a bike between vineyards, a car between cities, on a plane between continents, or floating on a boat from Italy to Greece with EuroAdventures.  It’s the feeling of moving towards a new adventure.  The feel of just moving between where I’ve been and where I’m going.

Then, there are the new experiences when you finally get to the destination.

The best experience: the food.  I eagerly await the food in every new country.  I feel the same anticipation whether it’s food from Australia, where most travelers’ don’t give the cuisine a second thought or in Italy, a country many people go to only for the indescribable flavors.  And every time I come back to Texas I am immediately ready to get back the best of the best, Tex-Mex.

So what experience could be as good as food?  Well, parties rank pretty high on my list.  Everyone, everywhere loves to party.  Visiting the  most popular parties in the entire world is my favorite way to pass the time.  After sitting down to a desirable dinner, of course.  Who can resist a quick trip to Oktoberfest or partying on a beach in celebration of Australia day?

As much as I love the food and the parties, they are nothing without considering the relationships I form. Relationships tend to be the most critical element of my travels. I’ve met my best friends, my worst roommates, some people I’ll never see again but can’t forget.  These people give me the best stories and make each moment worth every trial it took to get there.

This is what gets me, these are the reasons I travel.  These are the reasons I live.

And it doesn’t hurt that it gives me something to write about!

Tex-Mex Madness

Texas is the best place on Earth.  Not just the best state, the best place ever.

The main reason I love my home state is the same reason I love any place I travel. The food.  No matter what kind of food you’re craving, Texas has something to offer.  But my personal favorite is the Mexican food, or should I say Tex-Mex.

For anyone who’s been to Mexico, you are missing out on what is only a few miles north.  The Tex-Mex cuisine creates the most tantalizing tastes that will ever touch your tongue.  This specialized zest is captured by combining about five ingredients and tons of spices into an endless variety of dishes. Whether its tacos, fajitas, or the scrumptious chicken quesadillas shown above, you can find it in Texas.

I search high and low for good Tex-Mex in each country I visit, but nothing has come close to the food I grew up with. Chuy’s, Mexi-Go, On the Border, Chipotle offer some of the best Tex-Mex in Texas. Or if you happen to be in London and need a fix, stop by the Texas Embassy.

But if you’re just traveling around the United States the best part is you don’t need a passport to get it.