One of the first questions I was asked when I arrived in Spain was, “Are you going to travel on the weekends?” I thought that was a ridiculous question. Of course I am! I’m in Europe, aren’t I? A whole different country is, like, an hour away… Why wouldn’t I take advantage of being here?
Everyone else in the program seemed to have the same mentality, and no one really told us that there could be another approach to the semester. One that included more afternoons spent trying new tapas restaurants and less time on uncomfortable RyanAir flights.
I wish someone would’ve told me during orientation on the first day that my best weekends during my four months abroad wouldn’t be in Venice or in Morocco, but would be in Sevilla hanging out with new friends while exploring the very city I had come to live in.
You see, there’s something so beautiful about just being in a place and fully experiencing it. There may be more opportunities in the future to go be a tourist in a foreign city, but chances to become a local are few and far between.
The reason I say all of this is because I’m not sure that many people get the advice to stay where they are and to not go and explore new places around them. In fact, I’m almost positive that if you ask your friend who just got back from studying at Oxford, you’re more likely to be sent tips of which apps to download so you can find the cheapest flight or find your way through Paris without Wi-Fi. Sending you a paragraph on why you should spend weekends at home is probably not their first instinct.
Which is why I can’t stress this enough: Stay.
Sure, book that trip to Prague that you’ve been dreaming about your whole life. But also join a local group of people who play soccer each week in the park. Get a language exchange partner and have them show you their favorite places in the city. Attend a local church or youth group and watch as you become deeply intwined into a culture that is not your own. And see how it changes you. It sure changed me.