1. Each weekend trip is just a small taste of the city you are visiting.
European cities are filled with rich history and interesting things to see - there is no way you can see everything in the few days that you are there. Some cities you can only visit for a few hours, so remember that this is just a sampling of the city. It is kind of like the bachelor. You get to date all of these places for a few days and then figure out which ones you want to give a rose and visit again in the future. When I visited Amsterdam, I knew the 24 hours that I spent there were not enough. It is definitely a city that I will make a point to go back to in the future. That being said, you probably will not get the chance to return to every city you travel to during your time abroad so do make sure to hit all of the highlights while you’re there and get your instas the first time.
2. Make a schedule of what you want to see and when.
Know you want to go to Germany for Oktoberfest or to the French Riviera when it’s finally warm? Make a list of all of the places you want to go and any particular times you want to visit those places. It also helps to know places you don’t want to go as well as places that you might want to go to if you have extra time. Once you have this list together, it will make booking trips much easier.
3. Don’t plan everything right off the bat.
It can be tempting to book everything right away. I know I wanted to fill my calendar when I first got to Europe, but sometimes it is better to wait. You will find that you can get discounted trips if you wait for sales on certain sites. You may also find people with whom you want to travel a few weeks in. Book anything you know you absolutely want to do right away, like Dublin for St. Patrick's Day, because chances are flights or hostels will fill up fast. Book out your first month, but then just take a break from planning a few months away. Your credit card will thank you for doing this too!
4. Travel with different people.
Whether you end up abroad with your best friends or not knowing anyone, don't be afraid to mix up who you travel with, and maybe even travel alone for a weekend. Discovering new cities with different people can bring out new sides of you, help you develop as a person, and really get to know yourself.
5. Get suggestions of places to visit in each city before you go.
Most cities you visit will have very expensive tourist traps. People will stand outside of restaurants, trying to corral you into their over-price establishments with mediocre food. To avoid this, get recommendations of places to eat and things to do from any friends who have visited there before. Travel sites and even the hostel you stay in can be great resources too! If you do end up winging it in a city, always look for the green Trip Advisor sticker indicating that other tourists have recommended it.
6. Mix guided tours with trips of your own.
There are lots of companies specifically designed for college students studying abroad that can actually be a great deal. Often, their tours leave at times that allow you not to miss any class and come with great guides who really know the area. Also, they are great for transporting you to places you want to go without having to organize transportation yourself or having to pay an exponential cab fare. That being said, don't rely on these for all of your trips. Some cities, especially bigger ones like Paris, London, or Athens, can be more fun to explore yourself. You get to decide your whole weekend, which can be challenging but also allows for you to do more of what you really want.
7. Interact with the locals.
Really. Do it. It is truly one of the best ways to learn about culture. The locals want to get to know you and your culture as much as you want to know them and theirs. I was fortunate enough to stay with a host family for a weekend in Belgium, and I really got an authentic taste of European life. Also, if you happen to have any family, even distant relatives, living in Europe, this is your opportunity to connect with them.
8. Do something to remember each place you visit.
All of the weekend trips you take and the memories you make should be commemorated. Buy a small souvenir such as a postcard or magnet in each city, or take pictures of street signs wherever you go. Collect coasters from bars or business cards from restaurants and assemble them in a journal. All of these mementos will help you remember funny stories or great experiences you had while abroad. You’ll be glad you did it!
9. Leave free time to explore the city you are living in.
Traveling every weekend can be exhausting. You can try to hit everywhere in Europe and forget to enjoy the city you are living in. Take a few weekends off from traveling and just spend some of your free time enjoying the city you get to call home for a few months. It will be a welcome break from always being on the go and will help you really appreciate living in Europe.
10. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Take advantage of this amazing opportunity! You might miss a train, have a delayed flight, or let your bank account go completely to zero. Don't worry about any of it. It is all part of the experience and every little thing will help you grow. This time is for you, so make the most of every second.
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