Tips For Traveling While Studying Abroad

Tips For Traveling While Studying Abroad

Fitting every place you want to see into 4 months may not be as hard as it seems

If you're planning on studying abroad, you probably know that you're going to be traveling a lot. You may even have a list of places you want to get to during your stay. Before leaving, though, here are five things I wish I'd known before starting my semester.

Plan your trips beforehand.

Or, at least, plan your trips during the first few weeks of school, especially the major ones. You don't necessarily have to book all of your trips right away, but you should know when and where you want to go before you get too far into the semester. This will keep you from missing any places on your list that you don't have enough time left at the end of the year, and will leave you time to make and invite friends before they book up all of their weekends, too.

Be careful not to overbook.

One of the main regrets I've been hearing from friends recently is the fact that they are booked every weekend from now until the end of the semester. Most of them booked most of their trips at the beginning of the semester and are now feeling pressed for time to do other things in the few weekends left of our program. Keeping a few weekends in your schedule open will be helpful when you hear about a place you hadn't even considered traveling to, or realize that you are running out of time to explore the city you're actually studying in. Also, keep an eye on the academic calendar for your program while you're booking your weekends and trips. Knowing when midterms and finals are, or when you're getting an extra day off or long weekend is important to planning out your stay.

Bring two backpacks.

Having a big travel backpack is helpful while traveling, especially on flights. Buy a backpack from a store selling hiking gear that can hold all your clothes, your camera, homework, some souvenirs, and anything else you might need while traveling and use it as your carry-on. You won't have to pay for luggage and it'll be easier to tote to the airport or train station with you. Unfortunately, that backpack won't do you much good once you're actually in the city you traveled to. It'll probably stay in the hostel, too big to carry and still full of clothes, and a purse is too small to carry a spare sweatshirt or your camera. What you need is a small backpack or something like a satchel, big enough to carry everything you need while exploring but small enough that it can either fit inside the larger bag or be your personal item.

Bring your homework with you.

You think, Oh, I won't have time to do homework. I'll be too busy, so why bring it? I'll do it when I get home. And, sometimes, you will be right. But others, you will have extra time at the hostel, probably at some awkward moment between the shops closing and dinner. Plus, you'll have travel time, to and from your destination. Any homework you have for the weekend can be done. If you don't bring at least some homework with you, traveling can become one very long excuse for procrastinating.

Don't forget to travel within the country you're studying in.

Most people spend their time studying abroad trying to hit as many countries as they can, especially if they're studying in Europe. They often forget to take advantage of how easy it is to explore the country they are actually in. Most of my traveling has been day trips to different places around Italy, sometimes just an hour or two train ride outside of where I'm studying. It's easier and cheaper than leaving the country every weekend, and lets you understand the culture of the place you're actually living in a bit better. There's a reason you chose the country you did, so don't let all of your free time be spent somewhere else.

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Finding Happiness In A Trip Back To The Motherland

A state of being only becomes once we set our minds to it.

We all crave happiness. We seem to find happiness as though it’s a unique object to be discovered and treasured. We are constantly riding the journey to attach this state of being to tangible objects.

However, being back in the motherland provided me with a different perspective.

One of my favorite cities in India is Mumbai. As my sister is getting engaged in Chennai, my family and I decided to make a stop at Mumbai before heading to the extravagant ceremony. It had been more than 10 years since I visited the city of Bollywood and I was thrilled to return to this beautiful city.

As I set foot on the road outside the airport, I smelled the crisp air that was unique to the city. Seeing the unbeatable traffic, hearing everyone honk their car horns, and witnessing the motorcycles drive in a zigzag manner, I was reminded of the civilians' comfort with the lack of structure and organization.

We were fighting our jetlag as we stepped out to explore the city and devour in authentic Indian food. The buildings seemed old and the roads were filled with objects I was unable to identify but I sensed the same invigorating energy I felt about a decade ago. The breeze blew my hair and men sold fresh coconut water on every other street we turned. These small aspects seemed to draw big smiles on my face.

When we reached the lobby of our hotel, the staff members wore traditional white and golden sarees and veshtis in the spirit of Pongal, a festival celebrated in the southern part of India. The chefs had a different menu consisting of Southern Indian delicacies in light of the festival. I was surprised to see local Mumbaikars celebrating festivals and embracing cultures from different parts of India.

Although we covered a majority of the places in our itinerary, my heart sank as we headed back to the airport. Sitting in the plane and departing the beautiful city made me realize the pure essence of happiness.

Happiness can be found anywhere. No matter where we are or what we are surrounded by, being happy stems from within.

We carry the emotion of joy in our hearts no matter where we set our foot in this world. It’s simply due to our ability to channel that specific emotion we claim ourselves to be happy and radiate positivity.

Our happy endings are destined to occur if we set our minds to it.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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Be Respectful, Always, Especially At A Place Of Reflection

It’s not your right to be able to experience these places, but a privilege.

A couple weeks ago, my mom and I toured all over Berlin, Germany. We saw amazing art and shopped a lot, but mostly we learned about the history of Germany. There is so much to learn about Germany, and it’s incredible to have been at the site where so much happened. I had such a wonderful time while in Berlin; however, I was disappointed to see how disrespectful some people were being while visiting these sites.

At the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, there are large blocks of many sizes and different paths to walk through. The site is similar to a maze, where you get lost in it and have a hard time getting out because there are gates and multiple paths on a huge space of land. The memorial is up for interpretation, but to me, I saw it as each block resembling one of the Jews killed.

Each block being a different size showed that they were all different, but the one thing they had in common was being Jewish. While I was at the memorial, I was disgusted to see people stepping and standing on the blocks. This was a memorial for Jews who were MURDERED, and people were stepping on them. To me, this was massively disrespectful, and I was honestly embarrassed to be near these people.

Underneath the Memorial, there was an exhibit where each person held a remote and listened to a speaker. Each room had different videos, pictures, maps, and words related to the Holocaust. One of the rooms, called the Room of Names, showed a name on the wall while the person's story was explained. The room was (mostly) silent, besides the speaker. When I was in the Room of Names, I was shocked to see a group of people on their phones chatting and laughing while playing games. I found it inappropriate to be on a cell phone in the exhibit, as well as laughing in such a serious space.

The East Side Gallery, a memorial for freedom, is a long piece of the Berlin Wall, decorated and painted in different sections. Each section portrays a different picture/painting of something representing freedom to the artists. Many sections were vandalized, and I found one to be extremely disturbing. A person wrote about Donald Trump over a piece of artwork. Vandalism is never OK, especially at a place with such an important history. Seeing this really bothered me because the fact that it’s in English and is talking about my president makes it likely that this person is from America. This could give off that American tourists are disrespectful and ungrateful for their freedoms, and I don’t want to be associated with that.

The Jewish Museum was set up very strategically so that on the bottom floor one axis had information on the walls about exile in Berlin, and the other axis was all about the Holocaust. The top floor had an exhibit about Jerusalem. At the end of the Holocaust axis, there was a room with thousands of metal pieces shaped like faces on the ground. Each face represented one of the thousands of Jews who had died. People were walking through the piece and stepping on the faces. Although many were kids, there were adults as well, with full knowledge of what they were doing.This seemed absurd to me, being that those are representing real people, and they should not be walked all over like they once were.

One of the most important parts of my trip was going to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. Although most of the camp had to be rebuilt since the war, it was set up to look the same and to give visitors a feel of what it was like to be there at the time. Being there was so surreal and so heartbreaking. Visiting a concentration camp is not supposed to be a fun activity. It’s a very sad experience but so important. In my tour group, there was one family in particular that stood out as not taking this experience as seriously as needed. During the tour, this family was smoking and throwing cigarettes on the ground. We were at a concentration camp, not a garbage dump. They also took pictures of each other smiling in the different rooms and areas we were shown. They took pictures constantly, which was not only distracting, but disturbing to see that they were smiling in the photos. Being at Sachsenhausen, I thought it disturbing to photograph most of it, especially the absolutely horrible stuff.

Getting to experience so many amazing and educational places in Berlin was truly life changing. We are lucky that people take the time to put together amazing places where we are able to learn about history and how the world came to be the way it is today. Reading about these events in a book does not compare to seeing them firsthand, and there’s always something more to be learned. When visiting important places such as these, remember to be respectful. It’s not your right to be able to experience these places, but a privilege.

Cover Image Credit: Stephanie Birnbaum

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