A semester is a long time. A semester can seem excruciatingly long when you receive that first syllabus which outlines your entire workload for the next four months. But a semester abroad goes by in the blink of an eye! You might think that you have more than enough time to go everywhere and see everything but it tends to go by quicker than you would imagine and before you know it you’re heading back home.
So, how do you plan for such an extended trip away and fit in all of the things you want to do? The best way to constantly pack your weekends with exciting things to do and places to go is to plan ahead as much as possible. If you have specific destinations you want to visit before leaving, make sure to schedule those ones first. It’s easy to plan your trips before you leave home and get caught up in the honeymoon stages of being abroad, but it’s a good idea to be patient and wait until after your first week of classes. You wouldn’t want to schedule a trip the weekend before a big exam or project that’s due and have to forfeit a plane ticket or sacrifice your time to study. Also, waiting till your abroad to begin the planning stages of weekend trips is a great way to include additional friends and roommates who might want to join you.
Once you feel like you have figured out your school schedule, sit down with the people you plan on traveling with and pick some mutual destinations and weekends. If you’re on a budget, pick your top five destinations or even you’re top three and schedule these ones first. Don’t forget that traveling while abroad can be a bit less expensive and much simpler than at home so if you find an open weekend and some extra cash you can easily schedule a little getaway and cross another destination off your list!
Keep in mind that some weekends could be more popular or busier for some cities than others. These weekends tend to be much more expensive than if you try and go at another time during the month, especially during peak tourist seasons. Do some research before booking flights and hostels to see if there is anything of significant importance happening in the city you plan on visiting that might spike the prices. If you want to visit a specific city because of a certain holiday, festival, or weekend they celebrate be prepare to pay a bit more for both a flight and accommodations. If your weekends and travel mates are flexible, a good suggestion would be to check the prices of multiple weekends to go in order to find the best deal. Also, scheduling trips during non-peak travel seasons will help you save a bit of money…better yet: less crowds!
One last piece of advice: don’t become a stranger to your host city! Being able to schedule an abundance of traveling during your time abroad is definitely a luxury. But don’t forget to experience as much of your host city as possible. You want to make sure you leave feeling as if you could be a local!
Want to learn more tips from Abroad101? Find out how to make the most of your study abroad experience, how to couch surf, pick the perfect travel mate, the pros and cons of travel abroad, and how to win another chance to study abroad by entering our IEM China Scholarship Contest! Only four days left!