Traveling While Abroad While Studying in Europe

Programs for this blog post

Liberal Arts

By: Alex Smith

The first thing you might think when you get that acceptance letter to your study abroad program (especially Europe) is of all the places you want to travel. Romanticizing traveling is so easy to do, but why did you choose to study in your host city in the first place? That’s like traveling itself, because after all you’re still a temporary visitor. I am going to give my piece of mind about how I strategized my traveling based on my priorities and experiences while living in Sevilla, Spain. 

I traveled probably about 40% of the weekends abroad, all for only 2-3 days each. I do not regret any of the places I went, but every time I came back to Sevilla only after 2 days, I would feel so relieved and at home, almost wishing I had never left in the first place. I am so lucky to have felt this way about my host city. To me, traveling is not to try to see as much as possible and to check as many countries off the list as possible, as tempting as those sounds. I feel like some of the places I went for only 2 days didn’t really give me much perspective and much of a feel for the place as a week would, obviously because 2-3 days is not enough to really visit a city and learn about it. Yes, some trips aren’t meant for that, such as meeting some best friends in Ibiza for the weekend or meeting them in Munich for Oktoberfest. But some trips really are to get to know a unique place, such as Marrakesh, Morocco or Granada, Spain. 

I had a great mix of trips, all with different vibes and different goals. Some more cultural and educational, some more to see friends from home and socialize at popular tourist events. I am satisfied with all the trips I took and the cultural exposure I got in unique destinations. 

The thing I am most satisfied with has been my lack of travel, however. I know 60% of my weekends in Sevilla are not a ton, but they are so necessary because during the week, all the students are too busy with schoolwork and other commitments and responsibilities to really get to know their host city. I know some people who traveled every single weekend hitting multiple cities in that same weekend, and really missed out on their own chosen host city (and saving money!). I chose Sevilla for a reason and to travel means to have a deep understanding of one place rather than seeing the streets of another for 12 hours just to check it off your list. My weekends in Sevilla were some of my favorites; I discovered niche places to study and journal, to people watch, I went to museums, I went to cafés and bars to converse with locals, and I just walked around observing the dynamics of people and I got a great sense of understaffing how people live here which broadened many perspectives for me. 

My greatest piece of advice to anyone studying abroad, especially in Europe, is to stay at least 50% of the weekends so you can know your host city, or even country better, because that is one of the richest things about the whole experience that I will keep close to me for the rest of my life. 

Your host city will start to feel like more of a home if you give it time to. Travel to the places you have been meaning to go to for so long, because it will never be this cheap again, but also stay localized in your host city connecting with locals, other people in your program, and the city in general, and you will come back having the richest perspectives and experiences ever. 

Referral link:

CIEE Liberal Arts Program, Sevilla, Spain