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Making the most of your Year Abroad
With the vaccine being rolled out and the pandemic hopefully coming to an end, many of you will be looking forward to being able to travel abroad again in the future. If you haven’t already decided whether you want to take a year abroad during your time at university, you definitely should! A year abroad is truly one of the best opportunities your university can offer and I highly recommend that you take it, if you are given the chance. As a French student, I was able to spend my year abroad in Paris, however, there are equally opportunities to stay outside of Europe for almost every language that Warwick offers. For fellow French students, Mauritius and Martinique are potential options, and although these islands did tempt me, one of the main reasons I chose to stay within Europe was because of the opportunities to travel.
When staying in mainland Europe during your year abroad, you really do feel more connected to the countries surrounding you. Opportunities to travel between neighbouring countries become so much easier and more affordable because of the close proximity and access to transport links. And although (of course!) your year abroad is focused on the act of studying or working in your chosen location, it is more important to fully immerse yourself in the range of culture that is on offer.
Personally, I regret not visiting more cities than I did. However, with the pandemic causing travel restrictions and ultimately, cutting my year abroad short, I can’t blame myself too much for that.
Luckily, I was able to visit Brussels and Montpellier in my first term: both of which made for really enjoyable trips. When travelling to Brussels, a group of Warwick students and I, all staying in Paris, decided to take the overnight bus there and back, leaving us an entire day in the city to explore, without the cost of accommodation. Despite the unsurprising fatigue we experienced on arrival, taking the bus was actually a really good option, as it is considerably cheaper than a train or flight. Consequently, I chose a similar method of travel when visiting my friend in Montpellier.
In essence, I would suggest that you really consider the places you want to visit and make them a priority. Whether you choose to study or work abroad, you will definitely be able to find time in your schedule to travel – and even more reason to do so since you will have no academic stress or pressure!
Due to the pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions, it makes it even harder for students currently on their year abroad to travel. However, I definitely recommend for students going on their year abroad in 2021 to make the most of these opportunities (here’s hoping that travel will go back to normal by then).
Undoubtedly, travelling can be expensive, even if you do only choose to take the bus. My advice would be to plan ahead and budget throughout the year! Each Erasmus student gets given a grant at the beginning and end of the year to help financially support us whilst we are out living our best life. I would recommend to save as much of this money as possible to put towards big trips away, rather than spending it on unnecessary meals out (or in my case, night outs!).
Enough of the boring stuff…let’s talk locations. These are some of my top picks for travelling within Europe:
- Lisbon – I visited Lisbon for a friend’s birthday last year and absolutely loved it. It has a good mix of culture and beaches, and so would recommend going in the warmer months to make use of the beaches.
- Prague – Prague is probably one of the prettiest cities I have visited, and happens to be home to the largest club in Europe, Karlovy Lázně.
- Budapest – Budapest truly has so much to offer; but is also the type of place than can be completed in a weekend. I advise reserving in advance if you want to visit the thermal baths because they get fully booked very quickly.
- Italy – I truly believe that you could pick any town in Italy and have the best stay there. No need to play it safe with Milan or Rome! Venture out to Bologna or Lake Garda for a quieter holiday destination.
- Amsterdam – Amsterdam is perfect for a city break, and usually has fast and affordable transport links. The Red Light District is an element of Amsterdam’s culture that you have to see first hand to believe, and you should try the Lookout for a great view of the city.