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.