Getting the Most out of Your Experience
Read as much as you can about the country where you will be studying and other countries you plan to visit. There is a great deal of material available in libraries and bookstores. You may not want to take all of the books with you but you might actually consider tearing some apart and leaving unneeded sections at home.
Let’s Go Europe (also for individual countries)
Michelin Guides to any country or city
Rick Steves’ Europe through the Back Door
Rick Steves’ London
Rick Steves’ Best of Europe
Regent’s College has a number of resources. They have books available and can tell you where to find good deals on travel and theater tickets, and often organize weekend trips.
Ryan Air has very inexpensive airfares to and from various airports in Europe. Ryan Air charges fees for a number of extras, such as checked baggage, etc. Be sure to carefully read all of the information about fees. These can add up to quite a sum if you are not careful.
Visit other travel websites.
Accommodations - Consider Youth Hostels (www.hiusa.org)
Talk with others who have traveled. People who have traveled internationally love to talk about their experiences. (You will too!) Ask them for suggestions on where to go, what to take, and places to stay while traveling.
Take an Art History course, either before you leave or while participating in your study abroad program. It will make those visits to galleries that much more enjoyable. You really do want to know what a triptych is.
Keep a journal. It’s a good idea to keep some sort of journal. Some days it might just be recording the weather and what you did that day. Other days you might write more about your observations. It’s especially helpful when you’re traveling away from campus so that years later, you can remember just where you were and what you were doing. When traveling for a number of days things can tend to run together.
If it’s stupid in Cleveland, it’s stupid in London. Remember that you are guests in another country. Be on your best behavior. Take full advantage of the culture and customs of the country you are visiting. The most powerful safety net for students going abroad is their own commonsense and cultural sensitivity.
Tourist Offices. When arriving in a new city, check in at the tourist office in, or near, the train station. All cities have one, even fairly small towns. Ask for maps, directions, lists of places to stay (they may even phone to make the reservation), places to eat and sites to see.
Walking Tours. When checking in at the tourist office, ask about walking tours. They may have printed, self guided tours you can take on your own. Or, they may have information on guided tours. It’s a great way to see a new city and gain some very useful information. The Jack the Ripper walk in London is very popular (though I was disappointed), and many cities have ghost walks.
Internet As you can imagine there is a great deal of information on the internet. Just google your anticipated destination and see what comes up.
Eat where the locals eat If you’re walking around and see a restaurant or café packed with what appear to be locals, make a point to check out the place. Europeans will often share tables with strangers. Don’t be shy! Join them! You will be amazed at how much you’ll enjoy the experience, even if you don’t speak the same language.