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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Your Wait time At Theme Parks Is Not Unfair, You're Just Impatient

Your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself.


Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios "unboxed" on June 30, 2018. My friend and I decided to brave the crowds on opening day. We got to the park around 7 AM only to find out that the park opened around 6 AM. Upon some more scrolling through multiple Disney Annual Passholder Facebook groups, we discovered that people were waiting outside the park as early as 1 AM.

We knew we'd be waiting in line for the bulk of the Toy Story Land unboxing day. There were four main lines in the new land: the line to enter the land; the line for Slinky Dog Dash, the new roller coaster; the line for Alien Spinning Saucers, the easier of the new rides in the land; Toy Story Mania, the (now old news) arcade-type ride; and the new quick-service restaurant, Woody's Lunchbox (complete with grilled cheese and "grown-up drinks").

Because we were so early, we did not have to wait in line to get into the land. We decided to ride Alien Spinning Saucers first. The posted wait time was 150 minutes, but my friend timed the line and we only waited for 50 minutes. Next, we tried to find the line for Slinky Dog Dash. After receiving conflicting answers, the runaround, and even an, "I don't know, good luck," from multiple Cast Members, we exited the land to find the beginning of the Slinky line. We were then told that there was only one line to enter the park that eventually broke off into the Slinky line. We were not about to wait to get back into the area we just left, so we got a Fastpass for Toy Story Mania that we didn't plan on using in order to be let into the land sooner. We still had to wait for our time, so we decided to get the exclusive Little Green Man alien popcorn bin—this took an entire hour. We then used our Fastpass to enter the land, found the Slinky line, and proceeded to wait for two and a half hours only for the ride to shut down due to rain. But we've come this far and rain was not about to stop us. We waited an hour, still in line and under a covered area, for the rain to stop. Then, we waited another hour and a half to get on the ride from there once it reopened (mainly because they prioritized people who missed their Fastpass time due to the rain). After that, we used the mobile order feature on the My Disney Experience app to skip part of the line at Woody's Lunchbox.

Did you know that there is actually a psychological science to waiting? In the hospitality industry, this science is the difference between "perceived wait" and "actual wait." A perceived wait is how long you feel like you are waiting, while the actual wait is, of course, the real and factual time you wait. There are eight things that affect the perceived wait time: unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time, pre-process waits feel longer than in-process waits, anxiety makes waits feel longer, uncertain waits are longer than certain waits, unexplained waits are longer than explained waits, unfair waits are longer than equitable waits, people will wait longer for more valuable service and solo waiting feels longer than group waiting.

Our perceived wait time for Alien Spinning Saucers was short because we expected it to be longer. Our wait for the popcorn seemed longer because it was unoccupied and unexplained. Our wait for the rain to stop so the ride could reopen seemed shorter because it was explained. Our wait between the ride reopening and getting on the coaster seemed longer because it felt unfair for Disney to let so many Fastpass holders through while more people waited through the rain. Our entire wait for Slinky Dog Dash seemed longer because we were not told the wait time in the beginning. Our wait for our food after placing a mobile order seemed shorter because it was an in-process wait. We also didn't mind wait long wait times for any of these experiences because they were new and we placed more value on them than other rides or restaurants at Disney. The people who arrived at 1 AM just added five hours to their perceived wait

Some non-theme park examples of this science of waiting in the hospitality industry would be waiting at a restaurant, movie theater, hotel, performance or even grocery store. When I went to see "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," the power went out in the theater right as we arrived. Not only did we have to wait for it to come back and for them to reset the projectors, I had to wait in a bit of anxiety because the power outage spooked me. It was only a 30-minute wait but felt so much longer. At the quick-service restaurant where I work, we track the time from when the guest places their order to the time they receive their food. Guests in the drive-thru will complain about 10 or more minute waits, when our screens tell us they have only been waiting four or five minutes. Their actual wait was the four or five minutes that we track because this is when they first request our service, but their perceived wait begins the moment they pull into the parking lot and join the line because this is when they begin interacting with our business. While in line, they are experiencing pre-process wait times; after placing the order, they experience in-process wait times.

Establishments in the hospitality industry do what they can to cut down on guests' wait times. For example, theme parks offer services like Disney's Fastpass or Universal's Express pass in order to cut down the time waiting in lines so guests have more time to buy food and merchandise. Stores like Target or Wal-Mart offer self-checkout to give guests that in-process wait time. Movie theaters allow you to check in and get tickets on a mobile app and some quick-service restaurants let you place mobile or online orders. So why do people still get so bent out of shape about being forced to wait?

On Toy Story Land unboxing day, I witnessed a woman make a small scene about being forced to wait to exit the new land. Cast Members were regulating the flow of traffic in and out of the land due to the large crowd and the line that was in place to enter the land. Those exiting the land needed to wait while those entering moved forward from the line. Looking from the outside of the situation as I was, this all makes sense. However, the woman I saw may have felt that her wait was unfair or unexplained. She switched between her hands on her hips and her arms crossed, communicated with her body language that she was not happy. Her face was in a nasty scowl at those entering the land and the Cast Members in the area. She kept shaking her head at those in her group and when allowed to proceed out of the land, I could tell she was making snide comments about the wait.

At work, we sometimes run a double drive-thru in which team members with iPads will take orders outside and a sequencer will direct cars so that they stay in the correct order moving toward the window. In my experience as the sequencer, I will inform the drivers which car to follow, they will acknowledge me and then still proceed to dart in front of other cars just so they make it to the window maybe a whole minute sooner. Not only is this rude, but it puts this car and the cars around them at risk of receiving the wrong food because they are now out of order. We catch these instances more often than not, but it still adds stress and makes the other guests upset. Perhaps these guests feel like their wait is also unfair or unexplained, but if they look at the situation from the outside or from the restaurant's perspective, they would understand why they need to follow the blue Toyota.

The truth of the matter is that your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself. We all want instant gratification, I get it. But in reality, we have to wait for some things. It takes time to prepare a meal. It takes time to experience a ride at a theme park that everyone else wants to go on. It takes time to ring up groceries. It takes patience to live in this world.

So next time you find yourself waiting, take a minute to remember the difference between perceived and actual wait times. Think about the eight aspects of waiting that affect your perceived wait. Do what you can to realize why you are waiting or keep yourself occupied in this wait. Don't be impatient. That's no way to live your life.

Cover Image Credit:

Aranxa Esteve

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My Family Sailed From California to Mexico And It Was A Life-Changing Experience For all of Us

A life changing oceanic trip to Mexico and back.


For a decent amount of my childhood, 7 years to be exact, sailboats and traveling were big parts of my life. My family and I would sail from our home in Olympia, WA throughout the San Juan islands and back every Summer. Sometimes we would even sail all the way to Canada. These journeys gave me beautiful and unique experiences such as looking out of the boat at night and seeing dozens of seals laying on the beach or getting soaked from head to toe by standing next to a large waterfall, but none of these could compare to what I experienced on my journey to Mexico and back.

The journey that changed my life began in 2011. I was 12 years old and my little sister was only 9 when my family departed from Swantown Marina, where we used to keep our boat, Pearl. My sister and I spent the first leg of the journey with my grandparents, where we watched hours of cable, ate tons of snacks and delicious meals, and prayed the rosary multiple times per night. Thankfully after a week or two, my parents had arrived in San Francisco and my dad flew up to Oregon to bring us back with him. We said our goodbyes and got on a plan to meet up with our mom and a few of my parent's friends who helped them bring the boat to San Francisco. We spent a few days exploring, paddle boarding, and just simply having fun, and then we finally began heading south all together.

We stopped all along the West coast of California, meeting new people and finding new experiences every day. A little less than halfway through California, we started seeing dolphins swimming at our bow every single day. They would easily keep up with our boat with just a flick of their tail, occasionally leaping out of the water. As expected, they would always leave eventually, but once when we went for a few days on the ocean without stopping to go to land, I was below deck and heard a squeaking type of noise. It was late at night and I had begun dozing off, so I dismissed it as just my imagination. Then I heard it again, so I decided to go up on deck and up to the bow. I peered over the edge, and that's where I saw one of the most magical images I had ever seen. There was a dolphin swimming beside my boat in the pitch-black night. The dolphin itself was just a normal dolphin for all I could tell, but what made it so beautiful was that it was glowing while swimming in the water. The phosphorescence was being activated by its movement. Everywhere it moved it left a short path of light. It completely mesmerized me. I quickly ran to the cockpit of the boat to let the rest of my family know, but unfortunately, by the time they got to the bow, the dolphin had already departed, leaving me as the only one who saw it.

We continued down the coast, experiencing even more stories like getting dragged underneath the dinghy (small boat) while beaching or nearly getting rammed by a humpback whale multiple times,and got to go to so many more amazing places such as Knott's Berry Farm, a fun-filled amusement park with the Peanuts characters as the mascots. But the most entertaining stories were when we finally made it to Mexico.

When in Mexico, I had multiple different types of experiences. Ones that made me laugh, ones that scared me, and sometimes the ones that made me cry. One of the most hilarious things happened when my dad decided to go into the water to clean the hull of the boat. He spent hours down there scraping the grime and barnacles off it, and when he finally got back on the boat, he felt like his ears were popping. He figured the feeling would go away later, but the next day he apparently felt the same. Later that same day, my family and I decided to go into town to get a few groceries, and on the way back my dad all of a sudden felt the ear popping dissipate. He told me it felt as if something fell out of his ear. After he felt that, he looked at the ground and BAM! Tiny crabs. These tiny crabs had been inside his ear the whole time and all of a sudden, they decided to crawl out of his ears. After seeing the crabs, my dad looked over at my mom to see her staring at the crabs with disgust, and when their eyes met, they just cracked up.

Along with those occurrences, there were many more, including horseback riding on the beach on my 13th birthday, and having the very next day rain so much that we were able to collect gallons of water by placing bowls and buckets outside, and so windy that our anchor came loose, and we started drifting. This resulted in us having to pull up our anchor, so our sailboat didn't crash into another boat, and our dinghy even ended up flipping over, almost causing us to lose it. We also encountered problems, such as when our engine stopped working on what we planned to be a two-day trip without stopping. We had to raise our sails and let the wind carry us, but at times the current was stronger than the wind and moved us backward, turning it into a four-day trip.

In the end, I had multiple different types of encounters at this point in my life, all of them affecting who I am today. Without them, it's possible I wouldn't have the same sense of humor I have now or the same interests. I probably wouldn't even be as close to my family as I am now because, without that opportunity, I wouldn't have had to spend as much time with them and would probably have been around friends doing whatever middle schoolers did those days instead. This experience gave me part of who I am, as well as a load of stories to tell the world, and it is something I would never give up.

Cover Image Credit:

Sydney Buelt

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