Reflection on Easter Break

In the time since Easter Break I have been compiling a list of the things that went well and the things I would change.

With regard to studying abroad:  

  • Bring extra passport photos for things like school ids.
  • Bring a bank statement for customs (if you are staying for a long period of time).  If you travel outside the country you are studying in bring all your documents with you as you will need to get back in this country.  I forgot my University acceptance letter, it was not a problem but it worried me for a while.
  • Apply early & plan early.  This goes for study abroad programs, applications for credit cards, activities, day trips.  To apply and plan early has almost become a life goal.
  • Bring your own sheets and pillow.  My school provided ones were thrown out over break & they weren’t replaced.  No problem because I brought my own.
  • Don’t worry about a cell phone.  I was, but prepaid phones are cheap.  I got a phone with a qwerty keyboard for £20 and spent £10 a month on 100 minutes and 300 texts.  No big deal.  Also prepaid phones can be topped up at gas stations.  They print a receipt with a code & you top up with your phone, real simple.
  • Wire transfers take a week, plan accordingly.  I didn’t know this & was late with my housing payment.  Thankfully English people are very nice.
  • Bring an external harddrive or have cloud storage.  I took so many photos and videos that my harddrive is full, even after deleting my 30GB music library.
The following are more related to travel:
  • Book flights and hostels/hotels in advance as this will serve as the framework of the trip.
  • Email your bank and credit card companies.  I did this but forgot one card & it was frozen for a few days.
  • Have more than one card and keep them in separate locations.  I brought one ATM card and two Credit Cards.  (Capital One cards dont charge for international transactions, the card from my bank charged 3%.  Luckily my bank doesn’t charge ATM fees so I always just paid the exchange rate).
  • Get travel insurance.  I missed a flight & lost the cost of the ticket, not a fun day.
  • Bring a pad lock and key to lock lockers in hostels.  Bring two keys. 
  • Bring extra electrical adapters, more than you think you need (I brought 4).  I had a computer, phone, camera, video camera, iTouch, all that needed to be charged.
  • Do not get a Eurorail Pass (it’s too much money & the flexibility afforded is still not that great & booking fees still apply as well as restricted travel times).  Take the extra time and plan point to point travel.
  • Get the most comfortable walking shoes you can European cities are made for walking.  
  • Save money by eating at markets and grocery stores and ask concierges for local places to eat.  The food is better and enhances the experience of the location.  I ate breakfast and lunch from markets and grocery stores and spent more for dinner.
  • Cheap bottled water is in the back of grocery stores at room temperature.  I got 4 liters for 52 cents in Spain.
  • Try new food.  This is key to being in a new culture.  How can you enjoy the local atmosphere if you are eating a BigMac?  I’ll admit I did have American food every now and then but that was when we got to a city at midnight and everything else was closed.
  • Also do not get to your next location at midnight.  I tried to get the most out of one city before going to the next but if you arrive too late things are closed & it is difficult to get settled.
  • Send a complete itinerary to you family or friends (this should include flights, hostels, addresses, people you will be staying with).  You want family and friends to know where you are.  Also, email often as emails have location data in the header of the email.
  •  Bring your own over the counter medicine.  I think medicine at home is stronger than medicine here.  I took some antihistamines in Spain and they hardly did a thing.
  • Send post cards home.  People love snail mail & it’s a cool way to share your experience.
  • Save room in your luggage for souvenirs.

I hope this list helps you with your adventures.  I’ll be referring to it next time I travel.  Best of luck.