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To Travel or Not to Travel: How to Spend Your Weekends Abroad

by Otso Castrén
To Travel or Not to Travel: How to Spend Your Weekends Abroad | AIFS Study Abroad | AIFS in Salzburg, Austria

Last Updated on June 20, 2019 by Otso Castrén

Even if your entire study abroad program is a traveling extravaganza in and of itself, there comes that point during your few months overseas where you may experience a sort of stagnation because you’ve become comfortable. You make your way around your host city seemingly blindfolded, the beautiful countryside feels more ‘meh’ every day, and you find you’re considering skipping those nice little cafes and shops you once frequented. We’ve all been there, and it is a natural part of the cycle of studying abroad — right before the stage where you panic because “it is all going by too fast.” So, what should you do, then? Why, travel, of course! Or travel more, if the case may be so. 

Europe, where I am at the moment, is a perfect place to study abroad if you have that sprinkling of wanderlust — and why wouldn’t you? When compared to the United States, the old anecdote goes, “In four hours of driving in Europe, you have visited four different countries; four hours of driving in Florida, you are still in Florida.” Central Europe is blessed in that many of the countries are small enough that you can easily get a taste of the culture and way of life there in just a day’s trip, and in that day’s trip you can easily have driven from capital city to capital city, or through a country and straight in to another! For example, the Balkans are seven or so countries grouped very near to each other, all of whose cultures are distinct and worthy of experiencing.

Writing this during the International Education Week, what comes to mind is that a huge part of studying abroad is learning from different cultures, the biggest one being of course one’s host nation. But the chance of visiting other nations and thus, experiencing more cultures, is something that should not be passed up — especially in Europe, where so many are at your fingertips.

It still bares to be said that there are only so many weekends to travel during your study abroad program. And, in the end, it is a study abroad program, so the studying portion should be the primary focus. You don’t want to completely miss out on discovering your host nation either! It’s all fun and well to travel from Barcelona to Paris, Vienna, Brussels, or Venice on subsequent weekends in a row, but besides your wallet taking a hit, you could miss some awesome events happening right in your own backyard! For example, at the beginning of my time here in Salzburg there was an annual Rupertikirtag, or St. Rupert’s Festival (Rupert being the patron saint of Salzburg). It was an awesome, awesome mini-Oktoberfest type of event where I was really able to try and experience many facets of Austrian culture that are concentrated in Salzburg especially.

Of course, there are a lot of other places to explore outside of Europe, too. And there are many ways to travel — like using long-distance buses, renting a car, or using intercontinental trains. You can, of course, fly, but it can be on the expensive side. Plus, by flying you can miss much of the countryside that can be absolutely stunning to view.

This post was contributed by Otso Castrén, who is spending his fall semester studying abroad with AIFS in Salzburg, Austria.

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