As per most of my blogs, this is aimed as advice and my personal experience on travelling whilst you are abroad. This blog will take a particular look at how a group of my friends (who I met out here) and I planned our Inter-rail around Europe. We don’t actually leave until May so I may write another blog about the experiences we had during our travels but this blog is more for how to plan one / things to consider for anyone studying abroad.
How will this fit into my Studies?
Before you can even think about going inter-railing or on an extended trip exploring the world you need to remember that you are on your year abroad to study. By all means, I think travelling is a key part of the experience but you don’t want to be missing too many classes. That being said, it is still possible to travel, you just need to be organised. At the start of your semester take a look at your host universities academic calendar and you may find that you have allotted time off already, for example Easter breaks. I know some universities that Edinburgh are partnered with have a month off in-between semester one and two, for example Zagreb in Croatia. That would be an ideal time to take the time off as an opportunity to travel for a few weeks. For my university (Groningen) there are seven weeks of classes then 3 weeks of exams and then a new block starts. They do this four times so I essentially have four mini semesters. If you look at the beginning of your semester you may find that all your exams/deadlines fall in the first week, giving you two weeks off where you could travel before the next block commences. I think all of the Netherlands universities follow a similar structure. So definitely take the time to travel, just be organised and look ahead to see when the possibility will arise.
Travel possibilities depending on where you are studying
Now, whilst I am studying in Europe so my area of expertise is how one would travel around this part of the world, that doesn’t mean it is the only extended travel trip you can take. Quite a few of my friends who are studying in Singapore this year have taken two weeks out and travelled to Bali, Vietnam and Thailand. Others are currently studying in America, if that is/ will be you perhaps looking up routes or transport to see different places in America would be good. For example, if you drive, hiring a car and taking a road trip may save you a lot of money and be a great way to see more parts of America than where you are studying. In terms of Europe, one of the best ways to travel around for an extended period of time is via train. I found ‘Interail.eu’ was a great website because it offers all kinds of passes, ranging from 1 country, 9 days, 30 countries and much more. I found that really helpful because you can pick and choose what will suit you. We are only going for two weeks so we chose a package that would work out the best value for our criteria. There are also, on the websites, pre drawn routes that you could explore to see where you want to visit and how long for. A final option for travelling around Europe is through ‘Flix Bus’. I think this is a great company and anyone who is going to study in Europe should look this up. It has an app, so you can access it and book buses anytime from your phone. The journeys are usually long hall and can take you from one country to another for seriously cheap prices! We booked a bus to take us from Prague to Vienna and it cost less than a tenner.
One of the main issues with travelling is that we are all students who are probably on a budget. I’ve already spoken about cheaper methods of travelling than paying for flights, now I want to discuss accommodation. When first planning our inter-rail, we assumed we would stay in hostels the entire time because we are a group of six and we wanted to spend as little money as possible. However, when we actually started looking into it we realised that where we were going (Eastern Europe) Air BnBs worked out the same price, if not cheaper and it meant we got the whole place to ourselves. So before jumping to find your nearest hostel, take a look at what Air BnB’s in the area have to offer. If you are set on hostels and are in a bigger room, you might want to think about booking out the full room just for your group, for example if you are a group of seven, everyone pays a couple extra pounds each and book the entire bedroom of eight so you get the whole place to yourself. Having said that though, if you are a smaller group it can be a lot of fun to fully immerse yourself in hostel life and stay in bigger rooms so you can meet more people on your travels. Finally, you may find you can save money on activities in each city by booking ahead on websites like ‘HeadOut’. They do great student deals for most of the city’s big attractions.
I think that if you are already away from home on a year abroad it makes sense to take advantage of it and see the world. If you find you don’t have as much time as you would like to do this, you can always explore the different cities of the country you are staying in. In a previous blog post I discussed how I travelled around the different cities in the Netherlands.