Thursday, January 29, 2015

TBT: Five Tips When Traveling While Studying Abroad

This isn't a link up, although, I'm sure there is some sort of "Throwback Thursday" Theme out there already. However, I thought it might help me come up with a fun series on my own blog. This week I'm going to do a *short recap on my study abroad program in college!

While mindlessly perusing my Facebook newsfeed this week, I actually came across an article that was really cool! It's the top 50 study abroad programs according to Best College Reviews, and my school got #5! All you FUS grads, feel proud!

I attended a small Catholic school called Franciscan University of Steubenville, and in 2006 I had the opportunity to participate in their amazing study abroad program to Gaming, Austria.
Home Sweet Home

Gaming is super special because it's quiet, nestled in the Austrian alps, and the students actually live in a renovated 14th century monastery. There is a Hapsburg ancestor buried right under the marble church floor!

Right under there! 
Although it might sound secluded, we had the opportunity to travel wherever we wanted every single weekend. Plus, we didn't have classes on Friday. You definitely found me rushing out of every Thursday afternoon class, racing down the road to the tiny one car train, dragging my suitcase or backpack behind me, and hopping on to explore France, Germany, Italy, Poland and even Slovakia.

Sacre Coeur, Paris

Salzburg at night

Our Lady of Czestochowa, Poland

The school also includes one ten day trip to Assisi and Rome, complete with accommodations and tours.

Vatican City

And, another ten day break we got to plan all on our own. I traveled to England, Ireland, and Scotland.

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland. 

Here are my top five tips for traveling while studying abroad.

1. Leave room for spontaneity: By all means, make sure you know how you're getting to your destination (i.e. train, bus, plane) and I always did make reservations for hotels and hostels, but don't plan out every single second of your trip. Leave time to watch the street performers, discover random eateries/pubs, and maybe even make a few friends.

Make some friends: We met some Irish cows

Be spontaneous: get your ears pierced in Paris!

2. Travel with people you like: You don't have to be best friends, but make sure you travel with people you get along with. Some of these places you'll only see once, and you don't want to remember your experience squabbling with your travel partner.

I happened to get along just swell with my traveling buddy :)

3. Bring good walking shoes: I had lots of people tell me that Europeans look down on Americans when they wear gym sneakers or tennis sneakers, but you're going to be doing a lot of walking! I wore a pair of Italian leather high heeled boots one night, and I was literally crying while trying to get home at 2 a.m. (you stay up late there! There's a lot to see!). Also in Rome, I lost a kitten heel in a sewer cover while crossing a street (my friend and I rescued it, don't worry). For the most part though, I wore a comfy pair of Puma sneakers or Sauconeys You can also only fit so many things in your backpack. Personally, I'd rather be comfortable, see as much as possible, and let the Europeans laugh at my attire than wear shoes that would fall apart.

4. Take pictures and keep a journal: I was really good at the picture taking part, but a little wishy washy on my journal. There are a lot of things I wish I could remember more details about. With taking pictures though, make sure you're taking time to enjoy the sites without always being behind the lens.

Venice sunrise

5. Eat lots of chocolate: This should be pretty self explanatory. You might gain the study abroad program 20, but you'll enjoy every calorie. If I had to do it over again... maybe I wouldn't have eaten that giant, jumbo Milka bar over finals week... but probably not :)

Do you have any travel tips? Did you get to study abroad? What was your favorite place? I'd love to hear, so please share in the comments!

*The only people that may understand how this is "short" will be those who have also gone to Gaming.

*All photos were taken with an ancient Nikon point and shoot that was only 4 megapixels (remember they used to make them that low!?). I would have loved a DSLR, however, with how much I was traveling and lack of security, I probably would have found it cumbersome.

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