Summer Abroad: European Experience (and Morocco)
aka the NINE-country summary of my worldly travels
As a peer advisor for Xavier’s study abroad office, I’m pretty familiar with the types of programs students want to go on. It’s either a full semester to somewhere that the student hopes to see as his or her second home, or a short one-to-two week trip with Xavier University faculty over the summer. I did neither. Instead I signed up for CISabroad’s multi-country summer program that spanned over mid-May to the end of July.
The program, entitled European Experience, is an overlapping series of programs that first takes a two-week (3 credit hour) tour of Ireland and Scotland, and then lands in London, England for a month of classes (6 credit hours) taught at Roehampton University. Lastly, we were flown to Barcelona, Spain where we spent the last month that remained of our trip (6 credit hours).
Here are my top 3 overall trip tips:
DON’T PLAN TO RETURN DIRECTLY AFTER YOUR STUDY ABROAD
You’ve crossed the pond, congratulations! Now, don’t dare stop being curious about the world. Once you’ve made it to another country, you begin to unravel the amount of things you don’t know and haven’t seen. So give yourself some free time to explore sans classwork. You won’t regret it.
HERStory, Surprise Trip to Amsterdam: I had five days between the end of my official study abroad and my visit to my German exchange student. So I went to Amsterdam, Holland. Alone. Because nobody else on my trip had the freedom to just go wherever when our classes ended, they all went home or went on vacation with their parents. So I literally bought my ticket to go to Amsterdam at the airport in Barca, rolled my luggage onto a train, then wheeled myself towards hostels. I ended up staying on a mattress on the floor of an old wine cellar. It was weird and awesome. I made friends. It’s easy to make friends in Amsterdam, everyone just wants to eat Holland cheese, mill about the canals and engage in otherwise illegal-smile inducing activity.
SPEND YOUR MONEY ON EXPERIENCES
Invest in your time. Do things you normally wouldn’t do. Truly, just learn about the culture of wherever you are through experiencing whatever niche that culture falls under. Sometimes it’s food and you’ve got to taste it all! Sometimes it’s music and dancing and you need to just suck it up and embarrass yourself or else pay money and watch professionals.
HERStory, Must-Do in Dublin: If you’re in Dublin, Ireland you’ve got to go to the Guinness Factory. It’s a tourist thing to do but it’s also THE thing to do. Don’t waste your money on things Dublin isn’t known for. Buy your food at the grocery store most days; don’t spend money on stupid trinkets and t-shirts.
MAKE A BLOG!
I deeply regret NOT doing this. There are so many reasons why this is a good idea. Let’s break it down in list-format:
- Parents. Mom and Dad want to know what you’re up to and you don’t have time to skype them every day. You’re too busy having the time of your life.
- Memories. Okay, selfies aside, you’ll want to record your thoughts and not just your excited touristy face in front of Stonehenge (which I totally did not do). You will want to look back on that trip to Oxford and think about why it made you feel inspired. Or you’ll want to think back to watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s on Barcelona’s salsa de montjuic and remember how grateful you are to be surrounded by amazing travel companions and a beautiful city. You’ll want to write down the feeling of your hair falling over the edges of the cliffs in the Aran Islands…. I could keep going.
- Jobs. What’s the best way to get noticed or have something concrete to talk about during an interview? Your study abroad experience. You’ll be able to direct your future employer to a webpage that allows them to see your personality as well as your passion.
Places I went Summer 2014 (favorites in bold):
- Galway, Ireland
- Aran Islands, Ireland
- Dublin, Ireland
- Ballintoy, Ireland
- Belfast, Ireland
- Derry, Ireland
- Glasgow, Scotland
- Scottish Highlands
- Edinburgh, Scotland (birth of Harry Potter idea)
- Liverpool, England
- London, England
- Oxford University, England
- Bath, England
- Statford-Upon-Avon, England (birthplace of Shakespeare)
- Stonehenge, England
- Warsaw, Poland (for a music fest, how cool and random is that!)
- Barcelona, Spain
- Valencia, Spain
- Granada, Spain
- Tangiers, Morocco
- Amsterdam, Holland
- Weiden, Germany
- Munich, Germany
Intrested in studying abroad and wondering how to start your journey?
- Get into GSC 230 (the Study Abroad Office on campus) anytime between 10am-4pm Monday through Friday and ask to speak with a peer advisor (like me!).
- Acquire passport.
- Find a place, program, and classes that work for you.
- Apply, fill out forms, learn about the culture.
- See the world.