The plan is to study and travel. I knew that I have to take advantage of my exchange program and travel around different places because of three reasons: 1) I am studying in Italy and countries are simply within reach, 2) I paid for my Schengen visa so I have to make every penny I paid for it worth it (!!!), and 3) I have a major wanderlust.
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Months before my flight going to Italy, I already claimed myself as a “student traveler”. I did all my research about the places I wanted to go to and checked various blogs for student traveler tips. I also listed the things I needed to survive for six months, prepared all the documents I might need, and even googled about how Italians – or Europeans in general – dress (because hey, countless travel blogs advice you to dress like a local, right?). So when the moment to hop on the plane came, I was pretty confident. My Mom even asked me whether or not she will be the one to leave at that time because it seemed like she was more scared for me than I was. I repeat, I was pretty confident.
But when I first arrived in my exchange country, it was like all my confidence was gone. Who was I kidding? I was just a 19-year-old who never left her country before and was, at that time, a stranger in a different part of the world. Like a school exam, I had a total mental block of all the things I searched and read about. Travel blogs, travel tips, budget reminders? Poof, gone.
But like after every fall, I needed to stand up. I needed to keep myself together because I knew that I’m miles away from the people who I’ve been depending on during the previous years of my life. So that’s why I did; I stood up, gave myself a little tap on my back, and moved forward. I kept in mind that experience, after all, is still the best teacher.
That is also why I’m making this blog post. All the things I’ve read about being a student traveler couldn’t be more helpful but it’s still important to note that we all can be in different circumstances. I’ve found that some of the tips and reminders I searched about before I left my country were not working for me as a student traveler now. Anyhow, I’m sharing these tips with you so, at the very least, I could help you make the most of your travels as an exchange student.
But before anything else, be confident and know that you have it in you to study, reach your goals, and travel the world. Have fun and here’s something I’ve read a couple of days ago to inspire you:
The only difference between the people who want to travel and those who actually go is action.
10 Useful Tips if You’re a Student Traveler
1. Pack only what is needed but don’t hesitate to bring a few things you love that you almost always use at home.
Here’s the thing. A lot of blog posts I’ve read before told me to only pack what I think I needed. They were right; it surely saved me tons of extra baggage weight. However, you can still try to squeeze in those favorite shoes that you’re hesitant to bring just because it takes up more space in your luggage. Effective packing is the answer, loves!
2. Before leaving, inform your bank that you will be out of the country and make sure they confirm that your credit/debit card will work abroad. Or better yet, get yourself a travel or backup card.
I cannot stress enough how important this is. I did inform my bank that I will be out of the country for six months. They asked me where I will be going and I answered that I will be in Europe. I didn’t follow up after that, assured that my ATM debit card was going to work already. It turns out, it still wasn’t. I called my bank (which cost me quite a lot) and they told me that I could use my card abroad. When I told them it really wasn’t working, they just didn’t know what I could do. Unfortunately, I got two of the SAME cards so I cannot use one for backup. Thankfully, I had a friend who I borrowed money from first while my bank settled what’s happening with my card. That’s why I suggest for you to get a backup card so you can have an alternative when the other one’s not working. Learn from yours truly!
3. Buy necessary things at home. They will be much more expensive when you’re already traveling.
I was glad I brought some pens, notebooks, and toiletries with me when I went here. That’s because they actually cost double or triple the price if I buy them here. For example, one ballpen in my country may be as cheap as PHP 5 (~ 0.08 EUR) but in Italy, it costs around 0.50 EUR (PHP 31). I know it seems like it isn’t that big of a deal but when you put together all those cents you saved, it really means a lot for a student traveler like us.
4. Bring an extra phone.
Apart from bringing your backup card, a backup phone is also important. It goes especially here in Europe where pickpockets are almost everywhere and tourists or travelers are usually the victims. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
5. Don’t be afraid to sleep and socialize in hostels.
When it comes to travel accommodations, my mantra is: “As long as I can sleep feeling safe and sound in that place, I am good with it.” I don’t care much about luxurious hotels or apartments because I’ll be out almost all day, after all. Of course, this is not unless you plan for a staycation but when you’re in a new place, wouldn’t it be more exciting to go out and enjoy the city?
Sleeping in hostels saves me a lot of money that I intend to use in my other travels. What’s better is that some of my hostel experiences also gave way for me to meet few of the coolest student travelers like me who I instantly became friends with! Just be more wary of your things and make sure to keep them somewhere safe like a locker or ask if you can leave them in the reception area instead. Of course, don’t ever leave your valuables when you’re out!
P.S. For your information, my hostel accommodations are made through Booking.com! Are you planning your next trip? Get 10% back from your accommodation cost by booking your stay through this link!
6. When traveling, imagine yourself as a local.
Have you ever heard of the phrase “Be not a tourist but a traveler”? That’s what I’m trying to tell you here. Ask the locals where to find the best food in town or what places to check out in a city. Do not hesitate to go through the streets or roads less traveled by (of course, as long as they’re safe) and see the beauty of the place in the perspective of someone who is actually living there. This is a better and more beautiful way of traveling than just going to touristy places and eating on expensive we-speak-your-language restaurants that may not even serve food as good as the locally made ones.
7. When going to touristy places, be really early and check their opening and closing dates.
I know we have just been talking about not being so touristy in tip #6 but of course, there are lots of “touristy” places that are still worth going to. Beat the crowd by always getting up early and being an early bird in the queue lines. This will save you lots of time, trust me.
8. Book your trips in advance.
I can assure you that it’s always better to book your trips in advance. Flights and trips usually are much cheaper if you book them 1-3 months before the actual date of travel. For example, I was able to book a flight to London in December by only paying 12 EUR (~ PHP 745) because I booked it early in November. Besides booking it through RyanAir, which is probably the cheapest budget airline here in Europe (though I’ve heard they’re having internal management problems now), I also used the 12% discount that I am entitled to using my Erasmus Student Network card.
9. Plan your trips and itineraries in advance.
This one’s really useful. I know it sounds pretty difficult and hassle for us especially if we are student travelers who are balancing travels and studies but I’m telling you, it’s always worth it. Research about the weather so you won’t over- or under-dress, food so you’re sure to eat the best budget food in town, places and attractions so you won’t miss out on the must-see places, accommodation so you’re sure about the place you’re staying in, and activities so you can really make your trip exciting and memorable.
10. Finally, just go and travel, my love. Enjoy and live in the moment.
As vague as this sounds, have lots of fun and live as if it’s your last day on earth. Traveling is the dream and you’re doing it as a student makes it more worthwhile. What makes it more amazing is that you can balance your studies while doing the thing you love which is traveling. Also, there may be times when you think you can’t do it but I can tell you how faking until you make it really helps. So go out there, love. Explore and make your mark in the world!
Thank you so much for reading, loves! I hope my student traveler tips – all of them I learned firsthand – are useful to you! Take lots of photos and tag me through the hashtag “#YoursTrulyMyrra” on Instagram or Twitter so I could see and comment on them! Also, did you find this post useful? Share them with your family and friends now!
Are you going on exchange or have you been on one? If so, where? Comment down below!
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