One of the tips you will often hear from people before you study abroad is that you should “just get lost” in the place you are in. While I agree with the sentiment behind this advice, there are definitely better and worse ways to go about “getting lost.” In this post, I will share with you a few tips that I think make exploring a more enjoyable experience while you are abroad.
Tip #1: Limit each exploration to a specific area.
I know, it sounds like the anti-adventure, but hear me out. Setting up specific areas to explore and get lost in is useful for a myriad of reasons, especially when you first arrive abroad. For one thing, it cuts down on the overwhelming-ness of the experience. No matter how prepared you are to study abroad, if it’s your first time in a country you WILL be overwhelmed at some point. It may not be a big deal for some people, but if you want to cut down on stress, sectioning off a specific area to explore can be a great way to start.
Tip #2: Set aside a block of time to “get lost.”
People don’t always like to hear it, but study abroad is exactly like other times in your life when it comes to responsibilities. You still have work to do. You still have a schedule. No matter how much you romanticize it, you still have to do your laundry. Setting up a planner and devoting specific times to exploration is simultaneously useful for time management, and it pushes you to go out when you said you would. It also can be useful in taking away an element of stress. Exploring is much less fun when you are stressing about the paper you have been ignoring, so sectioning off your time guarantees that adventure gets your full attention.
Tip #3: Document where you’ve been.
Getting lost is always lots of fun… Until you realize you’ve been there before. Nothing kills the feeling of exploration more than accidentally wandering up on a place you are already perfectly at home with, especially at the start of an adventure. So use a physical map or an app (I recommend one that is pre-downloadable and doesn’t require Wifi) to mark off where you’ve been. This will also help you get in more activities, and guarantee that every place you try to explore really will be new.
Tip #4: Bring a friend!
Friends not only make exploring more fun, but also bring with them a support system, a second opinion, and a differing perspective. Feeling overwhelmed? Bringing a familiar face with you helps you stay grounded. Not sure where to eat? Your friend might have a suggestion. Don’t like the area your exploring? Your friend might love it (and hopefully they can share why).
Tip #5: Don’t stop exploring.
The time that you have to study abroad will, inevitably, be over in what seems like the blink of an eye. But it’s hard to realize that in the moment. Just like anywhere else, there will be times when you’re tired, there will be times when you want to lay around and do nothing. My best advice? Fight these urges. You can sleep when you’re home. You can catch up on your favorite shows when you’re home. You CAN’T fly overseas and make up for lost time whenever you want. Yes, everyone has their own pace. Yes, you have to treat yourself right and get enough sleep. That being said, sightseeing, exploring, and general adventure are worth losing a few hours of sleep over. It’s (almost) always worth it. I promise.
This post was contributed by Emery Schoenberg. Emery spent his summer studying abroad with AIFS in Prague, Czech Republic.