These are tips for while you’re in your host country. They aren’t necessary, but I think they have enriched my experience.
- Keep a journal:
Write in it every day, even if it’s just a few words about what you did and how you felt. Make sure to write down all of the places you go; historical landmark, restaurant, market, etc. If you bought anything at that place, write it down, and if you would go back/recommend it to a friend. People are going to ask you what your favorite restaurants/places were when you come back. Plus, if you get the chance to go back, you’ll know where to go.
- Get a map of your city:
A physical, detailed copy, not just one on your phone. Put it on your wall or just have it somewhere you can get to it. Cross off places you’ve gone and look up places you haven’t. Mark the routes you take to get to school, where your home is, etc. It shows you how much you’ve seen and inspires you to see more. It’ll be cool to have when you go home, trust me.
- Take pictures:
Do it. Take a hundred a day. Take a picture of everything. People will tell you it’s ridiculous, but I really treasure all of the pictures I took. And I’ve taken a ton. Save them in a million places in case something happens to your phone or laptop. You won’t want to lose them.
- Day trips:
Day trips are really amazing. Most people really want to travel all over when they’re abroad, especially in Europe. While that is fun and is worth it since it’s cheaper while you are closer, don’t forget to explore your own city and the areas around it. Day trips are cheap and a ton of fun, plus you learn a ton about the history and culture of your host country. If you’re in Sevilla, Cadiz is a wonderful historic beach town to spend a day at.
- Go on tours, walks, etc:
If your program is anything like mine, they will offer free or discounted tours of your city and surrounding areas. Go on as many as you can. You learn so much and it’s a great way to meet other people in your program. If your school doesn’t offer free tours of places, your student ID card may get you discounted tickets to things like museums in your city, so check that out too.
6. Talk to people:
And not just other Americans in your program. Become friends with the natives! Talk to students at the local university. Talk to strangers on the streets! If you have a host family, talk to them about the city. People who live there can give you the best advice on where to go, and they know the history and other cool facts.