Cultural Experience | Resources

6 Basic Tips to Make Your Travels Abroad More Enjoyable

How To Keep Your Adventures Abroad Running Smoothly

When studying abroad it is so easy to get caught up in the excitement of seeing a new country practically every weekend that you can forget some of the basic rules of travel. The following six tips are key to having a successful, carefree European adventure:

1. Don’t dress like a tourist. Obviously this can’t always be avoided, but there are a couple things to keep in mind when packing. Try to avoid anything with big logos that identify where you are from, like sports team apparel.  If you are abroad for an extended period of time, you will probably pick up some of the fashion trends that will make you look more like a local.  Pick pockets are drawn to tourists so along with not standing out, you should always be aware of your surroundings and belongings.

2. Check the weather (and believe it) before taking a trip.  There were so many weekends when I wondered what I was thinking when I packed.  I am fanatical about checking the weather everyday but for some reason I couldn’t accept that temperatures in Barcelona could ever be as low as 50 and 60 in early spring.  Although I went in knowing the forecast, my friends and I still insisted on packing tank tops, white jeans, and bathing suits.  We were freezing for a week but learned our lesson.

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3. Be realistic about how much you are going to spend

while also keeping exchange rates in mind.  It is important for you to be honest with yourself about how much money you need for a trip.  It will save you time, the aggravation of finding an ATM, plus the added fee for taking out more money.  It’s easy to go into a weekend trip underestimating your costs.  When I spent a weekend in Croatia, I did a poor job of estimating how much money needed.  The seven to one Kuna to dollar ratio didn’t help either.  I barely left enough money for food after my first trip to the ATM.  By the end of a long shopping day, my friends and I ended up visiting the ATM three or four times.

4. Be prepared for anything! Along with freezing nearly my whole spring break, I was dealing with flu-like symptoms as well.  Before leaving for abroad, my mother packed my suitcase with every type of medicine imaginable and of course I left all of that back in my apartment in Florence. I suffered for a week because I wasn’t prepared for the cold or for illness.  After that my friends called me the “Walking Pharmacy” because I never left home without my first aid kit.  Even though it is a burden to carry more than you might need, you could be doing your future self a huge favor.

5. Master a few simple phrases. It is important to familiarize yourself with the native language of the place you are visiting.  Of course you aren’t expected to be fluent, but knowing a few simple phrases like “hello”, “please”, and “thank you” can really make a difference.  Many locals will appreciate the effort and will be more willing to help you.  When I toured Paris for four days, my friends and I made the extra effort to look up some basic French words.  We were greeted with nothing but kindness and I felt that our effort and respect their culture really went a long way.

6. Recognize that things do go wrong when you travel. At least one thing went wrong on every trip I took while abroad.  It is important to not let small problems and missed opportunities ruin a trip.  Flights get delayed and canceled, people have differences of opinion, and you can’t see everything in every city.  I learned to roll with the punches and remember that not doing everything on your list gives you a reason to go back.  Plus, minor disasters usually make for good stories in the end.

 Even though my advice might all seem like common sense, keeping these six things in mind during my semester abroad definitely would have made my experience better.  Going back to the basics is a surefire way to have more enriching travels.

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Julia Capano

Boston College | 8 stories

I am a rising senior at Boston College and just finished a wonderful semester abroad in the beautiful city of Florence, Italy. I am a Communications major with a minor in Italian which made my study abroad experience even more enriching. I have a huge passion for travel and I am very excited to share it!

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