I knew when I signed up for study abroad that I was planning to travel. When else in your life will you have 4 months to explore Europe? While going to classes, of course. What I didn’t realize was how easy it really is to travel to a new city or country while living in Europe.
In the United States, you’re heavily limited by car and plane, and the occasional Amtrak line or Greyhound bus if you’re going to a major city. In general though, in exception to the East and West Coast, anything outside of a 4 hour drive can be expensive to get to. Planes are expensive and trains/buses aren’t nearly as fast as they could be and steal a lot of time out of a trip’s budget. Spain is a country comprised of many small cities, each with unique cultures, experiences and histories. This, combined with a well designed infrastructure of trains and highways, makes travel incredible easy. This past weekend I bought my tickets for a 9 day, 5 country European tour over spring break. Plane tickets are a fraction of the cost and the high speed trains are a complete game-changer for tourism and exploration.
It is crazy easy to travel here in Europe. Not only that, but it’s also heavily encouraged for exchange students while they’re here. It’s typical that students on Erasmus (EuRopean Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students) not have classes on Fridays so they can have long weekends for different excursions. I got pretty lucky with my schedule. Personally, I only have classes 3 days a week (one of those days only having one night class) with Tuesdays and Fridays off. On Tuesdays I do Madrid-focused exploring: museums, parks, monuments, etc. Thursdays are when I only have one night class, so I use those days to prepare for the weekend and get my homework due Monday finished. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are for traveling and new experiences.
Mark Twain once said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” And I believe in this whole heartedly. I considered myself a open-minded person before living abroad, but truly being immersed in a totally new culture and city has helped me grow more into myself. Every new place I go I take pictures, hoping to retain just a little bit more of the places and people I’m exposed to. There really isn’t anything like being abroad, and it’s impossible to explain it to someone who hasn’t. Anyone on the fence about it I’m telling you now, do it. Once you get to someplace like Europe or South America or Asia, it is so easy to go further and learn more than what your host university has for you. I believe study abroad is a golden opportunity to do the traveling you’ve always wanted to, while completing classes for your degree waiting for you back home.