Six weeks ago, I began my summer of European travel. Exploring new cities, trying new foods and meeting new people are pretty unfamiliar for me. I’ve been outside of my comfort zone for the better part of the summer, which was to be expected as I prepared for this three month adventure. But somewhere among the new ideas and exciting opportunities, I found familiarity in one key element of traveling abroad. This economics student found comfort in efficiency.
This term is used sparingly by many when planning a vacation or describing exciting adventures. But as a student who is preparing for limited vacation time after graduate next year, I have found efficiency to be one of the most necessary priorities for students who spend time abroad.
I personally perceive efficiency while traveling as the concept of not wasting a moment of my time. This means waking up early most days of the week to catch an early train. This can mean researching the attractions in a new city before arriving. This may mean spending 15 or 16 hours a day outside of your hotel room, experiencing as many opportunities as possible.
My summer abroad began with two weeks of coursework at Swansea University in Wales. As soon as classes commenced for the day or we turned in our completed assignments, my classmates and I left campus to explore the local community, nearby beaches and ancient castles. Our weekends allowed time for extra sleep, but also involved additional travel. We spent our weekends traveling to important sites, like Stonehenge, Stratford-upon-Avon, Brecon Beacons National Park, and the colleges in Oxford.
We then quickly shifted gears to begin internships in multiple different locations. While we worked during the day, we spent our evenings trying new foods and researching locations and attractions for upcoming trips. We spent our weekends exploring new countries. A group of us made a weekend trip to Scotland – which involved long days and eight mile hikes through cities. We have another trip planned for Ireland this weekend, too!
After we finish our internships, we will be back in class again. This will provide more opportunities to explore the region we have called ‘home’ for the summer. We have booked our remaining weekends with horseback riding excursions through national parks and a multi-day tour through London.
In other words, we are seeing as much as possible. We are experiencing as many new ideas, cultures, flavors and sights while we are here. Don’t get me wrong – the days are long. I have resorted to power naps on public transportation on multiple occasions. But the long days and exhausting hikes are worth it for us. We may be enjoying our final ‘summer vacation’ before entering the world of full time professional employment – but we have managed to do this efficiently, which I think is the best way to do it.
Joseph is a second-year Masters student at the Bush School of Government and Public Service