8 Things I Learned by Spending the Summer in Europe

It’s the end of October, which means it’s time to start preparing for summer, right? Right. It may seem early, but now is the best time to get all plans laid out for vacations, internships and studying abroad. Although I didn’t personally study abroad through a university program, I was still able to spend the summer in Europe at my sister’s place and would love to share some of my best learning moments from it all.

  1. 1. Go outside of your comfort zone

    Chances are you will never see most of these people again, so use that as your excuse to live a little. Don’t worry about what other people think. This is your chance to go crazy and have the time of your life. Whether it be dancing your heart out to “Sweet Caroline” at a German festival or cliff diving in the Adriatic Sea, use this experience as an opportunity to try new things you normally wouldn’t do. It is so worth it in the end!

  2. 2. Embrace the European lifestyle

    Go to all of the farmers markets and street festivals. Europeans know how to have a good time, and we can honestly learn a lot from them when it comes to the endless number of events they put on. Something that really benefitted me was looking at all of the Facebook events nearby and putting the descriptions into Google translate to see if it were something I would be interested in. Turns out there were festivals and celebrations just about every night. Who knew that bands like KISS and artists like Christina Aguilera would be on their international tours in the same city as me? Without a doubt, there is always something to do in Europe.

  3. 3. Use this as an opportunity to travel to all of your #bucketlist destinations

    It is so much easier and cheaper to travel when you are already in Europe, so make sure to go out and explore. Train travel is super convenient as it starts and ends in major city hubs that are easy to navigate and can get you places in a timely manner. No matter which European country or city you’re in, there will always be another metropolitan area or little village within a few hours by train or car. I stumbled upon some of the cutest little neighborhoods just by taking casual Sunday afternoon drives.

  4. 4. Take all the photos

    How many times does one get to go on a European vacation? This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and one that you will cherish forever, so be sure to bring a portable charger and take as many photos of the beautiful scenery as your heart desires. A few selfies never hurt either. Just be careful about holding your valuables out in the open as picket-pocketing is common and can easily ruin a trip.

  5. 5. Be open to new foods, and if all else fails, get Indian food

    The food abroad is extremely fresh, and many families devote their lives to growing produce in their very own backyards, which makes their meals extra delicious. The countryside is full of beautiful vineyards (hello, sweet wines) and the city is full of rooftop gardens with the most colorful fruits and vegetables. Did I forget to mention the meat and seafood options? Mediterranean countries have the best seafood because their ports are so close and they use all of their catches fresh off the boat. The options abroad are endless. With this in mind, don’t settle for your typical restaurant order but instead be open-minded and try the country’s most authentic options. If nothing appeals to you, Indian food is always pure bliss in every country just as an FYI.

  6. 6. If available, go to the theater

    There are many European cities that have a popular theater district. If you are in one of these cities and have a free afternoon or evening, then check out the local shows and you won’t be disappointed. It takes a lot of hard work to be able to perform in shows abroad, so these actors and actors are obviously incredibly talented and dedicated to their work. There are various phone apps to win a chance to score cheap tickets for shows that otherwise would be expensive (I’m looking at you, “Hamilton”). No stress if the lottery does not work, though; there is a variety of other options to score tickets like the TodayTix app, the TKTS booth and waiting in the rush line. This allows you to purchase tickets for some shows as low as £20. Trust me, it’s worth it to see a show even if you are not a complete Broadway junkie like myself.

  7. 7. Speak the language

    Yes, sometimes I failed miserably at speaking the language of the country, but I do not regret it one bit. Even if you are just ordering drinks at a restaurant or asking where the restroom is, you will have a totally different experience when you submerge yourself in the country’s language and culture. The waiters always seem to get a kick out of it and will sometimes help you with the vocabulary and pronunciations. It truly is a learning experience like no other, and it personally got me excited about my current language classes.

  8. 8. Plan excursions with locals or through Airbnb

    It’s so easy to get sucked into tourist traps when abroad. These tourist traps are often overpriced and take you to crowded sights with little time to explore. I found that booking excursions through Airbnb or doing research on smaller companies run by locals is necessary. Some of my most memorable moments have been because of this. From cooking a traditional gnocchi dish with an Italian mother at her house to taking a boat trip to hidden gem islands with other Croatian families, the options are endless. There are so many neat opportunities out there, and it is even neater to experience them with locals who really know their culture and the best sights to see.

Don’t wait to travel. There are so many incredible learning opportunities that come with traveling, so give yourself time to follow your wanderlust dreams now. Whether it be studying abroad, getting an internship, visiting family or simply going on a vacation, the time is now. Go out, explore the world and soak it all in. Until next time, safe travels. HCXO.