One of the greatest opportunities studying abroad in Europe has given me is the ability to travel the world. Traveling across the Atlantic to Europe is ridiculously expensive, but once already in Europe, getting around is simple.
Just last week, during Trinity’s week long break, I traveled to Paris, Brussels, Bruges, and Amsterdam for far less than I would have had I been traveling from the States. Ryanair is a budget airline that allows me to get from Dublin to almost anywhere for less than thirty euro, and even to London for under ten (they do have strict carry-on restrictions and charges for checked bags, but it is definitely worth the sacrifice).
Trains in Europe are also very easy to use. After flying to Paris, we rode the high-speed Thalys train to our destinations. It is fast (obviously), convenient, and fairly priced.
Traveling abroad with friends instead of parents is a very liberating experience. Before studying abroad, I had never planned a trip without my parents, and rarely even helped my parents when they were planning our family vacations.
For last week’s trip, I traveled with two other American girls also studying abroad at Trinity this semester. We planned our flights, trains, and hostel reservations without the help of any parents and also managed to navigate non-English speaking countries without assistance. This is something that I never thought I would be able to do.
Before this trip, I had never been to a non-English speaking country before, but now I am confident in my ability to survive in a city no matter the language or location. Hand me a city and metro map, and I am good to go. A brochure of tourist attractions is always helpful, too.
Traveling to four foreign cities in a week can be nerve-wracking, exhausting, and even terrifying at times, but in the end, it is all worth it. I independently managed to navigate the Paris metro and its winding streets, with only a semester of French under my belt.
I managed to keep a cool head when we were stranded in Paris for a night with nowhere to sleep after realizing that we had arrived in the city too late to catch the airport shuttle.
I even successfully ordered a delicious plate of Belgian waffles doused in Nutella and whipped cream with a little bit of broken French and a lot of pointing. I was nervous before leaving for this trip, but now I feel confident that I can travel anywhere.
While traveling, there is never time to take a break and relax one’s mind. Break time is planning time, and if the planning is done, then that means it must be time to get that measly six hours of sleep before waking up at the crack of dawn the next day to beat all the tourist lines.
I always thought that spending a semester abroad would make me feel more confident and independent. After my trip, I know this to be fact. I would definitely recommend spending a semester abroad, especially if it means traveling, to anyone who wants a confidence boost. I used to be worried about living on my own after college, but now I know that I will be able to handle any obstacle put in my way.