How-to Guide to Having the Best Time Abroad

By Jackie Jabson, 4th year Student in Creative Industries, FCAD

6 months. That sounds like a lot of time, but it goes by faster than you’d think. Time is of the essence. It sneaks up on without you noticing. One day you’ll wake up and it will all be over. The reality of it is that exchange is only a small fragment of your life. That’s why soaking in every bit of the experience will ensure you won’t be left feeling dissatisfied with it.

I traveled to Denmark for my student exchange and  stayed in Copenhagen for 6 months. I discovered that there is always a shortage in time. It is up to you to make the most of it in this foreign and magical place. How long is your stay abroad? 6 months? That is 26 weeks or 4,380 hours. Take note on some of these tips to help make the most out of your exchange.

Schedule, SChedule, Schedule

Make a rough plan of what you want to do and when want to do it. This will save you time and money in the future. If you have a spring break in March, it will be productive for you to plan out the places you want to travel to within that time frame.Scheduling in advance will also allow you to spread out your travel and ensure you visit all the places on your list. If you have a large block of time, I would recommend choosing destinations that are a bit farther away to make the most out of the opportunity.

The feeling of missing out does not feel good. When a friend of mine tried to book a tour at Harry Potter Studios in London,  all the spaces were long filled up. Turns out that it needed to be booked at least 2 months in advance. You don’t have to plan every detail, but it doesn’t hurt to start looking.

Moral of the story: Start researching  early to know about the minor details that may prove to be vitally important.

I used Google Calendar as a way to display and organize my travel plans. Setting this up saved me some headaches and unnecessary future conflict. This  allowed me to block out times for travel and still be aware of any school deadlines. I was also able to share my calendar with others, especially those I was either planning on traveling with or had already arranged trips with. That way, we were able to agree upon dates and activities.

Say yes to new experiences

Before going abroad to study, I had limited international experiences. I traveled to Asia several times  with my family, but Europe was a whole different ball park. I told myself that I needed to maximize my opportunities from it. This meant leaving behind my reservations and being open to things outside of my usual comfort zone, which led me to memories that were out of this world.

This brings me back to a particular time when I was unsure about attending a music festival in Copenhagen. I heard positive things about this event, but I was hesitant  about the type of music at the festival. I thought it wouldn’t be for me and that I would have a horrible time.  I ended up having a great time even though the music wasn’t exactly my taste. It was a new and unique experience I lived through with some of my closest friends, making it into one of my fondest memories. As they say, your company does make a huge impact on your experience. Say yes to those events or evenings out with friends that might sound unfamiliar to you or seem out of your comfort zone. It’s your time to explore and try new things! With that said, make sure to stay safe and make wise and reasonable decisions.

Be careful with the company you keep

Having the right people around you will keep you on your toes and eager to explore foreign lands. They can help remove any fear of the unknown or help ease your transition to a new place. However, the wrong company may feed anxiety, feelings of discomfort or lack of belonging. Instead of  spending your days and nights in front Netflix, you’ll find that the right people will provide with encouragement and drive to experience everything and anything. They will give you the right ideas and spark different curiosities that can lead to new adventures.

My trip to Turkey was proof of this. I had never considered visiting Istanbul, nor was it my plan. After days of convincing, my good friend persuaded me to get a visa and buy a ticket to Turkey four days before the flight.

I have to admit – it was one of the best trips of my life. It was a beautiful place full of history and culture.

As a Canadian, it was a definitely affordable trip from the accommodations to the food. A 4-night stay at a modern AirBnb near the city centre cost us both a total of $100. Meals at exceptional restaurants were no more than $10, including the tip.

Istanbul is a city that never sleeps. Retail stores are open until midnight and restaurants seem to never close. If you are a history buff or simply love architecture, there are amazing sites to visit that include The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. The weather was beautiful during the month of March. The air was fresh and it was neither too hot or cold.

Looking back, if my friend was not there to persuade me to visit Istanbul, I would have missed out on a great opportunity to experience such a beautiful and unique culture.

All of these tips may seem like common sense but the smaller details can often be overlooked with the overwhelming feelings and changes that come along with living abroad. By  maintaining an open mindset and being aware of your time, rest assured you will be living your best life abroad.

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