A few weeks ago, I embarked on an adventure to backpack through six cities in Europe. A trip like this requires thoroughness and above all, patience. Initially, the planning process was daunting and extremely time consuming, but the end result was implausible. The two girls I went with were seemingly “the planners,” while I was more concerned about trying every flavor gelato, being a part of history in Vatican City during the Canonization, and climbing the Eiffel Tower. This was the Eat, Pray, Love moment I’ve been waiting for. Truth be told, the whole reason why I entertained the idea of crossing the pond was because my virtuous sister was studying abroad in Southern France. I have always wanted to visit Europe, but this gave me a good excuse to take the plunge.
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Looking back on my college years, the only thing that would have made it superior would have been studying abroad. The experience one receives when transporting into another country and culture is inconceivable. It is quite intimating thinking about navigating a foreign city, eating unique cuisine, all while working through the obvious language barrier. With that being said, if given the opportunity to study internationally, the answer should be an immediate YES.
Preparation may be the toughest part of the whole experience, but that should not shy anyone away. Deciding what classes to take abroad, what kind of agenda you will be following, and how you will adjust to the time difference is all par for the course. Most things will work themselves out, and it will be smooth sailing in no time. Living on campus at the university is a great way to quickly meet other students in the same boat as you. Often before going abroad, there are different local groups set up for students from the same school or geographic area to meet before taking off. There is a sense of comfort that comes from meeting people who are travelling to the same place as you.
One tip I learned from visiting my sister in her temporary home in Southern France is: adapt as much as you can to their culture. If in France, make sure to enjoy a baguette, crepe or croissant at least twice a day. If in Rome, do as the Romans do, and drink from public water fountains which resemble bath tubs. Overall, if in Europe, be sure to enjoy gelato every day; it will never get old. Learning the day to day customs of each country not only make you feel more authentic, but also give allow you to blend in more as a local, and not so much a tourist. The most important advice is, never rush, try to eliminate any kind of schedule, and do things on your own time. The best kept secrets are often found unannounced. Getting lost on the streets of Montmartre, a neighborhood in Paris was one of the highlights of my trip.