Making the Most of Study Abroad:
Planning Ahead for Study Abroad
In the previous section, I stressed the importance of doing research ahead of time. It doesn’t end with flights and accommodations, nor should it end when you step on the plane. The point of traveling is to see world famous landmarks, attractions, museums, festivals, architecture, etc. The only way you will be able to travel effectively is to have some knowledge of the area you’re visiting. Do research and ask questions not only before you leave, but once you arrive as well.
1. Research what sites you want to see prior to leaving for your trip
There are millions of guide books pamphlets and internet sources dedicated to helping you make the most of your sightseeing experience.
You will be able to account for costs, popularity (you may have to wait in lines) and travel routes from site to site. You may want to include or eliminate sites depending on cost and ease of access. By researching beforehand, you will not only save money, but time, having already planned where you want to go and when.
2. Talk to reception at your hostel
If you’ve booked a respectable hostel, the staff will probably be more than willing to assist you with planning your itinerary. Discuss the plan that you made before departing and see if they agree or have any suggestions. Most hostels will have maps of the city with landmarks in bold right on the map.
Since staff members at the hostel are presumably familiar with the area, they will know the best transportation routes to take from place to place, good restaurants to try, and what times of the day to visit certain sites. Have them mark it down on the map so you don’t forget.
3. Avoid tourist traps
This will be the result of all of your research and planning. You will already know what you’re willing to spend money on and what’s worth paying an arm and a leg for. Take the London Eye, for example. One of London’s most popular attractions, it’s a giant Ferris wheel that has a ride length of half an hour and a price tag of about $30. Depending on the time of year, you might be waiting in line for half an hour for a 30 minute ride. While it may be a popular tourist attraction, you will need to decide if this is a wise way to spend your time and money.
- A side note to avoiding tourist traps: Ask the staff at your hostel where the nightlife is located and how much the average cover fee is. Find out which venues are student-oriented, and which offer the best deals geared towards students with limited budgets. I know some of the cover fees for the bars and clubs on the beach in Barcelona were about $20,. Except for the Ice Bar (which you should definitely check out), I realized it wasn’t worth it to pay that amount of money to get into most of the clubs.
While doing research on your own is great, don’t forget you have resources other than the internet or guide books. The people who have already lived in the city you’re going visit are often the best resources.