There are many benefits of study abroad to consider when you embark on the journey to spend a semester (or longer!) away. Whether you plan to spend your time advancing your Italian language skills in Florence, backpacking with an exploration group around Croatia, or attending art school in New York City, adventure is no doubt within your future.
While I think you should consider your entire study abroad experience as one big adventure, there are some fun and easy activities that you can incorporate into your routine to ensure the excitement never ends. Here are three easy ways to take advantage of this study abroad benefit:
1. Explore Sights Off the Beaten Path
For most study abroad students, the thrill of being able to use a new country as the ultimate playground for months ahead is a reward within itself. If you are like most savvy semester away newbies, before departure you will have read your fair share of travel blogs, have a dedicated Pinterest board to your new destination, and already searched youtube for videos on ‘What it’s like to live in X’.
During your time away, make it a mission and priority to explore your new host city/country with intent. Maybe it’s taking a train two hours just to visit an old, historic castle. Perhaps it’s a day trip to a rustic vineyard or even just dining with friends in the town’s oldest pizzeria. The most important goal of experiencing the benefit of adventure when studying abroad is seeking out the chance to enhance your memory bank.
Useful Resources for Study Abroad Sights off the Beaten Path*:
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2. Plan Weekend Day Trips to Nearby Towns and Cities OFTEN
I will always be a huge champion of day trips and admittedly at one point in my life, they were somewhat of an addiction, especially during bank holidays while studying in London. The simple (first-world) novelty of being able to be hop on a train and visit Paris and Brussels by Friday, then hop on a plane to go to Milan on Saturday, swing by Zurich on Sunday, and still return on time for class by Monday morning never wore off for me.
No matter where you plan to study abroad, there’s an opportunity for day trip development. The biggest misconception about ‘day-tripping is that it’s not valid if it is not far in distance. Day trips can be as short or as long as you need them to be as long as you have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the overall experience.
When I was studying abroad in Florence, one of my favorite weekend activities would be to pack a day bag in the wee hours of Saturday morning and head over to the local train station.
Once I arrived, I would check in with the ticket office to ask them what trains were leaving within the next two hours. Once I had narrowed down my options, I purchased a ticket and headed off to enjoy my day. I think I did this about 15 times during my study abroad semester.
The adventure of getting a ticket to ride (pun intended!) to a new destination, with no pretense thoughts or assumptions, was so freeing. No matter where your study abroad experience takes you, I hope you choose to indulge in these day-long escapes when possible.
3. Cook Locally-Inspired Meals Once a Week
An overlooked, but exciting way to get familiar with the culture of your new study abroad country, use mealtime as an adventure. This is particularly fun if you have roommates because everyone can pitch in, prep, and dine together. Make a list of local-inspired entrees, dishes, and desserts, and make it a practice to make one per week for a special meal.
One of the key components to this going great is also to focus on authenticity. If the recipe calls for a certain type of sauce or paste, try your best to find it, instead of just substituting.
If you live near an open-air market or Farmer’s market, shop for your herbs, spices, and veggies there. They’ll be fresher and will make the dish taste better – take my word for it!
Meals as we know can be a bonding experience, and embarking on the road to honoring your local host country’s cuisine frequently and with purpose will make you feel more connected during your stay.
Have you started to imagine the ways you can seek adventure during your semester abroad? Share your thought with our community by leaving a comment below!
Until next time,