How to Experience all of Europe on your Student Exchange
By College Tourist of 08/30/16
With only a short bus, plane, train or car ride you can be in a new city, province or country. Here’s how to experience it all.
Heading to Europe for your student exchange is exciting, exhilarating, educational and transformative. But arriving in your destination and settling in for your semester ahead is only part of the journey. With your toes touched down in Europe it would be sacrilege not to travel further. There is so much on offer in Europe. Here’s how to experience it all.
How to fit travel in with your studies
The idea of moving to a new city and starting at a new university may feel plenty enough of a new experience as it is. But don’t let yourself get too overwhelmed with a sense of busyness. There’s always space for travel. Read on for some quick tips on how to fit it all in.
Start dreaming now
If you’re heading to Europe to study it’s highly likely you’ve been dreaming up a destination wish list for this continent for awhile now. This is your perfect starting point. Dust off that list, talk to friends and family, check out travel guide websites and get excited about all the possibilities that will soon be on your doorstep to explore when you arrive in Europe.
Plan to be unplanned
You’ve likely heard it before but the best moments in travel (and life) can be those unplanned ones. Think about it, your new fellow student has a holiday home in the South of France and invites you for the weekend, or a spontaneous group trip to Morocco is suddenly on the cards. You don’t want to be turning these opportunities down because all your holidays are booked up.
Workload and holidays
As soon as you have a course schedule in your hot little hands scan the calendar and ink each holidays in your diary. These are precious days that are to be used wisely! Make sure you also talk with your university lecturers and learn when your assignments are due and exams are to be sat. You’ll notice gaps outside of your semester break where a city break or weekend escape can be squeezed in. With your ‘free’ days identified start locking in trips to those your must see destinations, while keeping a bit of room to move for spontaneous adventures.
Weekend breaks vs. Long stays
Don’t feel restricted by the idea that you have to visit somewhere for more than a weekend to enjoy it. Weekend breaks in Europe are the perfect amount of time to soak up the vibe of a destination, especially cities. Due to the wonderful proximity you enjoy in Europe most destinations are only hours away too. This means you can arrive for dinner on Friday night with two full weekend days of exploring ahead and be home Sunday evening for a good sleep before the week of school ahead.
On the other hand some destinations warrant a long stay. Those more obscure destinations that aren’t so easy to get to are best to book in a good week’s stay if you can, especially if you want to move around and explore more. Think Morocco, exploring Portugal, South of France, outdoor explorations in the Alps, you get the idea. When travelling outside of cities you often need a bit more time to settle in and really scratch the surface of your destination.
Don’t forget you’ll need to budget
Yes, travel does cost money. Before you leave for your exchange make sure you have a budget allocated to travel. And when you set up home in your new city find a part time job to allow a little more spending money for your excursions. There are also plenty of cheaper destinations such as Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and most of Eastern Europe that are as worthy of exploration as the more pricey countries such as Denmark, United Kingdom and France. Remember, where there’s a will for travel there is a way to find the dollars needed.
How to get around Europe
Europe is incredibly well connected and easy to get around. Depending on your purpose of travel, preference and budget you can choose to jump aboard a plane, train, bus or even in a ride sharing car to reach your destination. But what’s the perks and downfalls of each transport mode?
Travel by train in Europe
Trains are an absolute favorite for getting around Europe. Contrary to popular belief, they are often faster to travel by than plane. You avoid all of the hassle of airport security, can jump aboard in the city center with minimal baggage restrictions, enjoy a comfy seat and experience incredible countryside views in transit. However try to book in advance with trains, they can be a bit pricier when purchasing tickets last minute.
Travel by plane in Europe
There are a huge number of budget airlines in Europe that make a quick trip to Paris, London, Rome and beyond both affordable and quick.
Travel by bus in Europe
Many travelers haven’t clued on to just how great bus travel is in Europe. It’s incredibly friendly on your wallet, plus the buses are wonderfully comfortable. Buses also get you to those more obscure locations easily. What’s more, most buses also have free Wi-Fi on board!
Car ride-shares in Europe
Car ride-sharing is fast becoming the norm in Europe for awhile now. As the modern, safer version of hitchhiking, new travel apps such as Blablacar have made the process of jumping in a car ride-share both easy and safe. It’s definitely one of the cheapest options for travel and also a great way to get to know more people. Don’t be shy and give it a try!
Must Know Travel Resources
So you’ve learned all the tips on how to make your travel dreams in Europe happen! Here’s a few helpful tools to get you on your way.
Where to find the best travel advice
Talk to classmates, your barista, lecturer, tutor, any locals you can for ideas and inspiration on where and how to travel in Europe. You’ll find their little jewels of experience and knowledge will set you off on adventures you’d never dreamed of. Plus you’ll likely make some good friends or travel companions in the process!
Airbnb has revolutionized the way we stay in travel destinations. They offer a huge variety of accommodation options in locals homes that really have you living in the city or town you’ve made home for a few nights. But if you’re looking for a more social experience with your accommodation try searching on Hostelworld for a great range of hostels. Or if you enjoy the traditional feel of hotels and bed and breakfasts you can’t go past Booking.com to provide you with the perfect place to rest your head.
Booking your travel
When searching for the easiest, fastest and cheapest way to get around Europe you’ll be wanting to use travel search engine GoEuro.com. The platform combines results for plane, train, bus and ride-shares, meaning you’re served up the best option across all modes of transport in one easy search. They even have a useful resource examining which Eurail pass is right for your travels No more jumping between different websites hunting for the best deal!
Once in a city or destination you’ll need help with finding your way around. Citymapper is a fantastic app that often has more local and up to date information than Google Maps. On both Citymapper and Google Maps you can plan your journeys, plot key places you want to visit and save your maps offline. No more frustrations with getting lost.
Planning and organisation
TripIt is like your personal PA for travel plans. Save all of your travel and accommodation itineraries in one place and get handy reminders as you need them. Perfect.
Knowing your dollar’s worth
Although most of Europe runs in Euros it’s handy to have the XE Currency app to keep up to date with how much your American dollar is worth. It definitely saves you from those budget blow outs when on the spot calculations fail too.
Translations and the language thing
Google Translate is an absolute must when traveling to a country where you don’t know the language. The camera tool is also incredibly helpful for quickly translating written words (try it out, it’s like magic!). But, it also helps to learn a few phrases before arriving, ‘hello’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ really do go a long way with the locals. Try out Memrise or Duolingo
With no excuses left on what’s holding you back from travel on your student exchange, it’s now all up to you now to jump in and soak up the beautiful diversity of Europe. Really the hardest thing about fitting in travel while studying is simply deciding where to start!
Lily Clark is a travel writer and studying health and well-being coach. Focusing on holistic health and nutrition in her work she is also an avid traveller who enjoys writing and sharing stories of her encountered adventures. From New Zealand but based in Berlin Lily is currently enjoying discovering Europe. #sponsored