College Freshman Tips I Learned From Traveling Abroad

This year, I got the opportunity of a lifetime. I traveled to Dublin, Belfast, Edinburgh, and London in late June and early July with my high school photography club and I had the best time I could have ever imagined. I learned so much on my trip and many of those lessons have served me very well as I’ve transitioned to a college environment.  

1. Waking up on time and getting ready quickly

Everyday we would be out exploring the city until late at night and then we would have to be up early the next morning to travel to the next city. We learned very quickly how to do as much as you can to prepare for the next day the night before, which is great for college because doing that allows you to sleep in a bit later in the morning and not be rushing around right before an 8am class. Some days this tip is easier said than done, but when I do remember to do it, I’m always glad that I did!

2. Wheels Rolling!

Our tour director would always say “Wheels rolling at 9” before she let us go to our room for the evening. This way we knew to be outside and ready to go by 8:30. Budgeting time to make sure I leave early enough to get to class on time has been a great lesson. I always try to leave 30-45 minutes early when I can, especially depending on the building. That way I have plenty of time to get wherever I need to go and I don’t have to panic about being late if I run into heavy foot traffic, slow walking lights, or the dreaded West Penn elevator line.

3. Use the Toilets whenever you can

The UK doesn’t have as many public toilets as we do here in America, so our tour guide always advised to go to the restroom whenever we found one, even if we didn’t have to! While it’s very important to stay hydrated while you’re in class, you should always try to use the restroom before going into class. It’s so hard to concentrate when all you’re thinking about is how you wish your professor would stop talking for just 5 minutes so you can run out to pee!

4. Buddy System

This should be a given but in a foreign country, like a college campus can feel sometimes, it’s so important to take someone with you when you go out. Now obviously if it’s just across campus to class, you’re probably alright. But if you’re ever going outside of campus or somewhere that you’re not 100% comfortable or even sure where it is, find a pal and ask them to go with you! I promise, you won’t be annoying them and in fact they may be thankful that you asked because they weren’t doing anything anyway!

5. Pick Pocket Proof

This is a big one, especially on our urban campus where we interact with all different types of people. We were told to keep bags close to our person, valuables tucked away, and no pockets open. Even if it’s only for my own peace of mind, I always keep my hand on cross body bag and keep it as close to me as I can. Backpacks are a bit harder, just because you can’t see who’s behind you, but it’s also very important to always be very aware of your surroundings.

6. Always have a book with you

I try to always have a book on me anyway, but I’ve found it’s extremely convenient both in college and while traveling. I get bored when I refresh my phone and nothing changes, so I like to have something to read and pass the time while waiting for a plane or a class. And you don’t always have access to a charger, especially when abroad, so using your phone less and conserving your battery is a major plus!

7. Take Chances, Have Experiences, Make Memories

The greatest lesson I have learned from both traveling and moving to the city is that adventure is out there waiting for you. It’s up to you to take advantage of it! I’m the type of person that I have to push myself to go out of my room and do things, but when I do I feel so much better. And when I think about my day, I feel accomplished that I went out and was in exploring the city. It’s always better too to have great friends that invite you places that you would have never gone. I’m so thankful that I had a great group to travel the UK with and I’m even more thankful that I’ve made great friends at school that are always up for a good walk!