As it turns out, traveling takes some planning. I guess you can’t just snap your fingers and be anywhere you want. The best thing about being abroad is the ability to be like, “This weekend I’m going to Prague.” That being said, you don’t have to be like, “I’ll just figure out my hostel and where I’ll get my money when I get there,” because that’s straight up stressful. Spontaneous has definitely become the new cool. But you know what else is cool? Knowing where you’ll be able to sleep at night. Be smart about your spontaneity. Before you go to Prague (or anywhere), take five minutes and book a hostel.
I might get in trouble for telling you this, but academics are only a part of the experience you will be getting abroad. If you’re anything like me, you’ve gotten into the abroad program you’re in because you’re already self-motivated. Use a part of that self-motivation to do the work that is required of you and kick butt at your exams, but use the rest of it to make and execute travel plans. Academics open cultural doors, but traveling allows you to walk through them.
Academic programs and colleges will have a tough time advocating for risk-taking, but really take risks! Travel on your own. Talk to your professor or sit next to a new person in class. Go paragliding. Get a nose ring. I don’t know. But by the time you go home, you’ll have stories and experiences so rich you’ll basically be an experience-billionaire.
It’s so easy to latch onto the people who are with you in your program group – you’ll live and learn with them, you’ll be going through the same brand new experiences, etc. But don’t be afraid to make local friends, too! Take yourself out of your comfort zone and go to a club or society meeting. You won’t be offending anyone in your program if you bring home some local friends for dinner.
Eat blood sausage. Crowd an old, hardwood pub for a Rugby game. Go out on the weekdays with the other Irish students. Drink Guinness. Drink tea. Try everything at least once. You’re here for an adventure – make it responsible, make it safe, but make it exciting and make it your own.