by Hannah Saulters
It’s that time of year again. Even though we’re stumbling toward the finish line of the semester and the vision of cozy couches and warm fires at home is the only thing keeping us going (or maybe that’s just me), we also need to consider the far distant future of summer classes. If anyone is considering a faculty led summer program (and you really should), have I got some tips for you! Forthwith, for your traveling ease, the important things I learned while studying abroad.
Before you leave….
Get a summer job. I know it seems counterintuitive. “But I’m going out of town in the summer? How can I work too?” you ask. Inform your employer immediately of the days you’ll be out of town, then work your butt every day until you leave. The benefits of this employment gig are threefold: you get work experience, you have a paycheck and a reason to save it, and you can be guilt free when you use those hard-earned bucks to buy tickets for a once in a lifetime show or sports event or a shopping splurge while you’re abroad.
Buy a guidebook so that when you’re across the pond (or elsewhere) you are already familiar with where you want to go and how to get there. Prioritize people! I’m still kicking myself for not making it to the Victoria and Albert Museum (but I guess there’s a reason to go back!)
While you’re there….
Get to know the people you’re with… but take time to be alone. Have you ever been alone, lost in a dodgy part of Edinburgh, while it’s raining? I have (see above map tip). Even though it was kind of miserable at the time, it was also pretty great. I saw parts of the city I never would have explored otherwise and those memories of wandering around aimlessly are actually some of my best from the trip. It also made dinner and the cab ride home exceptionally nice.
Accept that class becomes secondary to the overall experience of traveling, for better or for
worse. I’m a good student. I like learning things. But when there’s so much to see, school kind of takes a backseat. We never did finish discussing The Waste Land and I’ve learned to accept it.
See the sights. If for no other reason than when you watch Love Actually months later, you can nudge the person next to you and say, “I’ve been there!” It’s annoying for them, but fun for you. On the flip side, go off the map. Sure the map and the things on it are there for a reason, but there’s nothing like stumbling upon a great pub or exhibit when you weren’t looking for it.
Journal! Take Pictures! Get a tattoo! Okay that last one isn’t the most prudent advice, but take the time to document the experience. People that like you like to know about your life. It’s a public service, really.
After you get back…
Sign up for another summer class, because you’ll be addicted.