1. Pack Light
While planning your trip, studying abroad in Europe, do yourself a favor and pack light. My biggest suggestion after spending 4 months in Europe is to bring 2 pieces of luggage, one large bag to check, and one carry-on size luggage. You need to be able to carry everything you bring yourself. When you get to your chosen destination your school may be picking you up, or in many cases you may have to find your own way to your living arrangements, which are most likely cab or train. If you are struggling to carry several bags you will be an instant target for pickpockets and an instant giveaway that you are new and vulnerable to this city. A carryon sized luggage is also important for weekend traveling once you are there. A huge part of the study abroad experience in Europe is being able to travel to other countries by plane, train, or bus. Your bags should be able to adjust to any transportation method. Now that we have touched on the number of bags to bring, let us talk about what to put inside of them. Pack light, in other words only what you need. I guarantee you will shop…a lot. Europe is known for its fashion, and you will want a whole new wardrobe the second you get there. I personally bought so much while studying abroad in Paris that I left an entire garbage bag full of clothes and shoes there when I left. You’re also going to want to stick to the basic items that can make various outfits. Instead of bringing 4 jackets for example, bring 1 that you can wear with every outfit and buy one when you arrive. And lastly, pack only 3 pairs of shoes: a pair of sneakers, a comfortable and stylish pair of boots, and a pair of sandals. Shoes take up the most room in a suitcase, so only pack the essentials to get there.
2. Don’t Go to the Same City as Your Friends
Moving to a foreign country is scary no matter how “ready” you feel, especially if you don’t know anyone there. Your friends can feel like a great safety blanket, but there are many benefits to studying abroad in different cities. First of all, the more cities you know people in, the more cities you have an excuse to travel to. Visiting your friends in “their” cities allows you, as a tourist, to get a much more authentic and local experience with someone who lives there and knows the ins and outs. Depending on what the living arrangements are, you may be able to have a free place to stay too. During my 4 months studying abroad in Europe, I traveled to 6 countries, and only paid for a place to stay in 1 of them. I did this by prioritizing which countries to visit based on where I knew people which helped me save a lot of money. Lastly, you want to choose to study in a different city than your friends in order to make this experience personal to you. When you are abroad you will meet so many new people, friends, and experience so many things for the first time. After going to Paris knowing nobody, I left with 2 lifelong friends and a new roommate. It is so important to have an experience that is uniquely yours in order to learn and grow from it.
3. Plan Ahead
One thing I regret not doing before I left is planning trips ahead of time. Planning will save you a lot of money while studying abroad in Europe. Most of my trips I took while over there were planned a week or two in advance and ended up being pretty expensive. While looking for cheap flights, Skyscanner is a great website. It will show you the cheapest destination you can fly to if you are wanting to travel but don’t know where. Omio is another great resource for finding cheap travel transportation. In addition to flights, this website will give you train and bus options, which are sometimes a better option depending on where you are going. A last resource, specifically used for ferries and boats is Ferry Scanner. The Greek islands are a popular destination while studying abroad, and I used this site to island hop for prices starting at 13 euros.
4. Find Thrift Stores
Thrifting in Europe is elite compared to America. Finding a great place to thrift in Europe is like finding a pot of gold. Over there they have all the same stores we do, Nike, Urban Outfitters, Zara, ect, but thrifting will allow you to find the coolest pieces that won’t exist back home. Thrifting will also help you save money, especially if you are shopping for multiple seasons. A couple of ways to find good places to thrift are the obvious google or maps search, but also TikTok. I found my favorite stores by keyword searching “thrift stores in (your city)” and found tons of people reviewing stores and sharing their hauls. It is a terrific way to find hidden gems that you cannot find on a google search and learn the truth about the ones that you can find on a google search. Thrifting while studying abroad in Europe will overall save you money and help you find the coolest pieces to add to your closet.
5. Stay and Get to Know Your City as Much as Possible
As important as it is to travel to other countries while studying abroad in Europe, it is just as important to get to know and love where you are. I know a lot of people who spent each of their weekends in a new place and barely stayed in their country for one. As human beings I believe that it is important to build community wherever you are in big and little ways. Whether it is finding your favorite local coffee shop or making local friends it is important to have some way to help feel like you belong, and it is hard to accomplish this without spending a good amount of time in one place.
I am a 22 year old student at Depaul University living in the heart of Chicago