It is common knowledge that every time you speak to someone about the fact that you are going back to college, the standard response is “wow, I would do anything to go back, enjoy it!” On the other hand, when you tell former abroad students that you are planning to go the response resembles a kid on Christmas morning. It usually involves a jump for joy followed by at least a 20-30 minute conversation about the best places to go, things to do, and sites to see. After a semester in Barcelona, I experience that same sense of jealousy when I hear someone is going back to my old stomping grounds, and it makes me eager to return.
When I began to travel each weekend, I kept thinking back to the various tips that people gave me, but never wrote down. I had the fortune of studying in the mecca of study abroad: Barcelona; the hotspot, the biggest and best scene in the world. Barcelona is the perfect hub for travel and exploration. Coming straight from a guy who has experienced it all, here are my 3 essential tips for your journey abroad:
1) Bus2Alps Switzerland Trip: My travel itinerary consisted of London, Morocco, Amsterdam, Madrid, Marseille, Florence, Rome, Genoa, Lisbon, Ibiza, and Cadiz. After visiting all these cities and embarking on amazing experiences, my friends and I looked back at the Bus2Alps Switzerland trip as hands down the best trip we had taken. If you’re seeking amazing scenery and awesome activities, Interlaken was like falling into a dream and never wanting to wake up. For anyone who loves to ski or snowboard in the Rockies back home, this trip was without question comparable or even better. Fresh powder up to our knees, sunny blue skies, and Bus2Alps hooked us up with the right package allowing us to demo the newest boards and gear on the market. Needless to say, the whole trip was planned perfectly. I remember thinking that there was no way we were going to have access to anything more than retro 80’s ski gear while trying to make a bunny hill a terrain park. Instead, I got the trip of a lifetime with steep slopes and full landscapes of untouched powder to ride.
• After a long day on the slopes, there was nothing better than a massage at the Victorian hotel (one of the best luxury spa hotels in the world). In fact, the Bus2Alps package gives you a great discount. I don’t know how often you get Swiss massages at luxury spas, but this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me.
• Book your Switzerland trip as early as you can! The best hostel and one of the most famous in Europe (Balmers Hostel) books up fast, and the bar downstairs will be filled with American college students placed in all corners of Europe.
• Get an early start to your day. Even if you’re hungover, it is worth it to be the first on the mountain, and witness the sun rise over the Swiss Alps.
2) Living: Going abroad gives you a sense of complete independence that you have probably never experienced before. The opportunity comes and goes way too fast, and you want to enjoy it as much as you can. When it comes to living, your best option is independent housing. This option allows you to gather a crew of friends, pick where you want to live, see your apartment photos online, and live in a comfortable place. If you want to maximize your time and have freedom to travel and come and go as you please independent housing is without a doubt your best option.
Check out www.studyabroadapartments.com for details on the best housing options in Barcelona. The decision to live independent of a dorm’s program housing or homestay was the best choice that we made all semester. For more information on where to live email [email protected] and see how you can get the best pad in the city!
3) Fall/Spring Break: Try to see as many places as you can and don’t procrastinate! Everyone says that getting villas in Lagos, Portugal is the best thing to do. From my experience, I noticed that the people who had the most success with fall/spring break were the people who planned their trip well in advance and saw as many places as they could. Typically, you have just over a week to get to as many places as possible so don’t miss out by getting stuck in one place. Remember, this is once in a lifetime and your best bet to get the full experience is to see it all.
Brett Newman is a fourth year communications major at Ohio State University. He is a former abroad student and a past Bus2Alps traveller. He also worked extensively in Study Abroad nightlife during my time in Barcelona, and planned memorable events including Abroadfest and Tripbiza. Brett is currently the co-founder of www.studyabroadapartments.com which is a website devoted to helping students find the best housing solutions abroad.