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Best Way to Attack Your European Study Abroad Experience: Map it Out or Go With the Flow

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Chapel Hill chapter.

I am currently studying abroad in Florence, Italy and before leaving the States I mapped out my plan of attack of Europe to ensure I hit every spot I wanted to visit. However, last week, while paragliding in Interlaken, I met a Swiss guy who provided me with some life changing insight that caused me to throw my plans to the wind.

My friend and I were in our hotel lounge decompressing from a 13 hour day, that we survived with only three hours of sleep, when an employee of the lounge asked if I wanted some tea to go with my dinner. I declined but he stayed to talk to us about Switzerland and our other travels. I explained that we planned on taking a day trip to Bern, the capital of Switzerland, and asked what we should visit. The Swiss guy looked at us chuckled, smiled and replied “Just go with the flow”.  My friend and I laughed and shortly after the conversation ended. I thought to myself, well… that was not helpful at all, now we are going to have to Google the best things to do in Bern, and all that is going to come up are tourist activities.

The next day we went to Bern and decided to follow the Swiss guys instructions. Carnival was going on so we moseyed around the city and ate bratwursts from the stands in the street, danced with the impromptu bands that paraded through the streets, and grabbed drinks with some Brazilian students studying in Geneva. The entire day was extreemly chill and spontaneous, which is what made it one of the best trips I have taken so far. While the Swiss guy’s advice was cliché, his philosophy is embraced by every European I have met and it seemed much more insightful after actually implementing it into my life.

Top three things I learned from the Swiss guys wise words:

1.     Leave Room To Visit the Unheard of Places

Taking trips to those random unheard of places is what can make your study abroad experience unique. There are traveling American students in every major European city and because familiarity is comfortable it is easy to hang out with American students instead of meeting people from the country you are visiting. Smaller places have the most authentic feel and normally people have time and are willing to talk to you about their life and culture. These interactions really help you understand the culture of the country, which will intern teach you things about American or yourself that you, otherwise, may have never noticed.

2.     You Don’t Have to See It All

Have faith that your life is going to eventually send you back to Europe so not being able to hit every single tourist destination is really okay. Decide on the top two or three places you want to visit and really get to know those sights. That way when you think back on your experience, you will remember how nice the city was rather than how stressed you felt trying to get to your desired destinations.

3.     Have One Day Where You Leave the Map At Home

If you take a weekend trip somewhere map out one day of your stay, and spend the others just going with the flow. Wander around and soak up the city. My friends and I have done this for every place we have visited and we have gotten so much more from the experience. Having one day to simply enjoy the fact that you are in a new place usually results in the most interesting stories and most memorable experiences.

University of North Carolina at Chapel HillMajors:Journalism and Mass Communications (Advertising Sequence)History (Third World Countries Concentration)