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Enhancing Your Study Abroad Experience

By: Victoria Driver

Crazy, fast, overwhelming are probably all words you will use to describe the first few weeks in the new city you call home when you choose to study abroad, but it is worth every second of the madness. You probably weren’t sure what to expect when coming to a new country with a new language and culture. I experienced this culture shock myself, but within a month, I’ve already begun to learn the “ins and outs” of surviving abroad and have organized my tips and tricks down to the essentials

Hydration is key With so much going on around you, it’s easy to forget about what your body needs to stay healthy. In most of Europe, water at restaurants and eateries comes at an extra price.  If you aren’t a fan of tap water, buy a large bottle of water from your local grocery store and make sure you stay hydrated. Your mood will improve, and your body will thank you.drink-water-stay-hydrated-abroad-student-travel-tips

We can all use a bit of beauty sleep Europe has a bustling nightlife for Study Abroad students. If you go out too often and begin functioning on limited amounts of sleep you will run the risk of getting sick. The key to fueling your love for nightlife and being at your best to explore Europe is to find balance. Planning is key to every aspect of life abroad, so try to map out the nights you spend out on the town by planning your week and nightlife events beforehand. This way, you will be sure to elevate your social experience.

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Exercise is good for the soul Homesickness and culture shock are two of the most common reasons that students struggle with their Study Abroad experience. Therefore, try exercising at least once a week to produce natural endorphins. Join the local gym (If you’re also studying abroad in Florence, the Swan Gymnastic Center is great). You can also jog around your city – there is so much to see in your city and only so much time to see it – you may even start to enjoy your weekly exercises just for the sights.

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With just these few simple tips and reminders, you can enhance your time in your host city and your study abroad experience!

Bus2alps Make it Rain Sale

In Europe, the hint of crispness in the air and leaves changing colors signal more than a shift in seasons; it means new places to explore! Bus2alps wants to help you check off everywhere you want to go, so tonight, we’re making it rain. Don’t worry, no actual cloudy skies in sight–we’re just dropping discounts on our fall trips so you can save big and see it all!

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From 6 pm – 8 pm, tune into the Bus2alps Make it Rain Sale Facebook event for voucher code announcements to save you anywhere from 10€ to 300€. Every half hour, we’ll be releasing more discounts on trips everywhere from the French Riviera to Prague to Interlaken and more, not to mention Fall Breaks. You can see and book all our trips at www.bus2alps.com.

The vouchers are first come first serve and have limited uses, so be sure to check the event right away to snag the deals! Here’s when we’ll announce them:

Beach Trips (Rome & Florence Departures): 6 pm
Winter Trips (Rome, Florence, & Prague Departures): 6:30 pm
Fly-in Weekend Trips: 7 pm
Fall Breaks (All Departures): 7:30 pm

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These deals will be expire after Wednesday, so book fast to save big on your fall semester!

These voucher codes are valid in addition to staff discount codes for even more savings, so let us know if you need a discount code for an additional 5% off. 

Prague & Munich

By Becca Pilolla

There’s only one word that really describes Prague, and it’s fairytale. It’s so easy to get caught up in what the city of Prague has to offer. Form the huge castle, to the gorgeous Cathedral at the end of it, from the Old Square, to the cheap food! What kind of fairytale doesn’t include great beer that’s cheaper than water? It’s such a magical place. The John Lennon wall is one site you can’t miss either! All the cool graffiti and people’s expressions of peace is so fascinating. Walk across the Charles Bridge, and you will sure get a feel of the kind of atmosphere Prague is filled with.

Art, music, culture, vintage, gothic, my list of descriptions can go on, but let’s be honest, you just need to go there and check it out for yourself, I promise you wont’ be disappointed. Make sure to hit it up and Czech Prague off your European list!

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And since you’re heading to Prague for the weekend, why not take another historical pit stop along the way, and check out Munich for a day? The history and architecture there is another must see. The way the city has overcome all that happened during the wars is really neat. One of my favorite things I’ve ever done is Europe is the bike tour in Munich. The stories, the sites, and of course what’s more European than riding a bike through the streets of Munich, Germany? You actually feel like you’re biking through history. The guides of Frankie’s Bike Tours make you feel like you’re there in that moment in history. From standing outside the Hofbrauhaus where Hitler used to have his meetings, to the streets the Nazi’s used to occupy, to biking through the gardens eating great sausages and drinking a big iced cold stein.

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You can’t leave Europe without holding that stein as big as your face, showing off to all your friends how fast you can chug it; or your jumping pic in front of the Lennon wall.  Your Euro-trip is simply not complete without a weekend to these places! Summer time in the USA is filled with beaches, but we’re not in the USA anymore, so it’s time to spend your summer like a European, and hit up its top sites during this gorgeous season!

Bus2alps is a student travel agency that offers weekend trips to Prague & Munich.  For more information on how you can see the John Lennon Wall in Prague and eat pretzels the size of your head in Munich, please click here

 

Behind the Mainstream Study Abroad – Moments that are Worth Duplicating

Sitting in my apartment, I can hear tourists pass by on the Florentine street outside my window. Some complain about the rain, others comment on how beautiful the Duomo is. Some girls pass talking about day trips they’ll do while they study here, while others scoff at the fact that there’s a Subway Sandwich shop across the street. “Are you kidding?! When there’s an amazing Panini place right around the corner?!” All the conversations are varied, yet so much the same – living or visiting this beautiful city and looking at it through the eyes of a foreigner. But sometimes, I wish I could tell them that they need to stop and step off the main path. Adventure. I wish I could share some experiences that are my favorite – but if you’re reading this – maybe you can recreate these moments.

Sunrise somewhere: Before the tour groups step off their busses, before the restaurants open up their doors and unfurl their tablecloths out into the summer air, stroll the streets of dawn.

We woke when it was dark out and crawled out of bed, fumbling in the unfamiliar hotel room – donning jeans, a sweater, boots that I thought would make me fit in while I was in Italia. Caitlyn looked at me and questioned this decision, is it worth it? I responded with a resounding yes. I had done this before. We stepped outside our hotel – a small canal silently greeting us, a red rowboat sleeping peacefully in off-season air. And then we began, a walk through twisting and turning streets of dormant shops and ornate doors to come up upon the Grand Canal of Venice – just in time to see the golden sunset begin to shed light on the City of Bridges. Below us, the only boats were of the Venetians – Gondoliers uncovering their golden gilded boats, their striped shirts contrasting upon the rose and faded walls of an exhausted city. But in this moment, senza touristi, it became alive again. The real Venice; radiant in life instead of a travel book.

Conversation without Social Media: Turn off your phone when you travel. The person next to you could change your life.

I was lost in Rome, again, but managed to find a bus stop that seemed to point me in the right direction of the Vatican, I hoped. It wasn’t too crowded – not like rush hour when you are pressed up against other bodies, all just desperately clinging onto the bars and handles available. Now, in the evening chill, I stepped lightly into the orange bus and faced forward, beginning to search for signs that confirmed my arrival at the heart of Catholicism. He was quiet at first, and maybe it was my outfit that gave me away, but when the bus came to a stop at the next station, he patted my wrist. “Due piu” he smiled at me behind thick-rimmed glasses. Two more stops until the Vatican. When he realized I could speak minimal Italian, his face brightened, his brown eyes swam and he began teaching me the landmarks that were passing by the window. He spoke about the beauty of women when they don’t wear makeup: “that is when they look most beautiful, when they first wake up in the morning,” and as the Vatican came into view, he grinned, told me to drink the water from the fountains in the square and sent me off. A true Roman, he will be in my memory forever.

Adrenaline: Do something that scares you:

“I can’t wait,” I had boasted as we rode through the Swiss Alps. I saw the guide’s eyes flicker to my face in the rear-view mirror. I loved heights and adrenaline. I had seen my friends jump before, but canyon jumping was new to me – and as we pulled up to the bottom and saw another jumper fall gracefully into the crevice with a loud WHOOP, I was terrifyingly ecstatic. And the higher we climbed up to the platform, the more nerves began to creep into my system. The tremors in my legs began as I was fixed into the harness. I stepped out onto the metal grate with the guide. His smile was trumped by the sheer drop off behind him. “Are you ready?” he asked, and as I turned to face forward, I looked around. The Eiger was to my right – in the setting sun, in all of its glory – a Swiss Alp towered above us. Below, so, so far below, the river crashed over the rocks, daring me to jump, daring me to try and fly. Split second decision, my muscles moved, my feet left solid ground and I was falling, falling so fast, so far, my stomach clenched, my heart raced, it was too far, too fast, a free-fall like a bird soaring, and then the rope caught – swung me through past those that had already jumped, and back again. I could breathe, and as I looked up from where I had just come, I gave a “whoop” of my own. No roller coaster will ever compare.

Delve into other cultures: Break out of your comfort zone to begin to understand others.

“Here, I cannot speak with a girl like this,” he says. His dark brown eyes squint into the Moroccan sun, searching the horizon for the next surge of water from the Atlantic. I don’t understand what he means. I lean forward to look at him closer and the nose of my board settles into the water. He turns and glances at me and then back to the water, his dark brown shoulders glistening with droplets of salt water.

“If I want to speak with a Muslim girl, it is secret. No one can know. Here is one. Turn,” he leans toward me and pushes at my leg, eyes still on the ocean. I look out, see the swell, and obediently turn and lie on my blue and white surfboard, chin hitting wax, resting my eyes on the golden Moroccan sand with Mounir’s board and back to my left. Still sitting, his muscles ripple as he balances.

“That’s stupid,” I say over my shoulder. “How can you talk to them in private if you don’t know them?” The sun is hot. He chuckles and tickles my foot.

“Paddle.”

“I couldn’t be Muslim,” I say as I feel the wave build behind me. He laughs again and takes hold of the back of my board, one hand resting on my calf, he pats it twice. The earthen scent of Argan Oil from his skin drifts towards me on the breeze.

“No…you are too strong….paddle,” he reminds me.

I sweep my hands into the water and under my board, pushing. I hear the wave crashing to the right of me. I feel Mounir push me forward.

“Stand up!” he calls under his French/Arabic accent. The wave carries me from him, surging me toward the beach. I can feel the board bouncing on the tumult. My hands push up against the board, my muscles tense, legs bend. I stand and shift my weight, easing the board into the side of the wave, gliding it down the stretch of water. I push against the water, up and down, pumping the board parallel with the wave until it breaks. I glide to the shore with the foam, jump off, feel the grit of the sand under the soles of my feet. I turn toward the horizon, raising an arm up to shield the sun. His silhouette gives a thumbs up as the ocean glistens behind him.

Run, hike, bike, climb – while you are still young enough:

“You won’t last in jeans,” I tell the guys as they stand in front of me. It’s autumn in the Swiss Alps, about fifty degrees, and I’m in a tank top and shorts. “It’s too rough and you’ll be sweating in about fifteen minutes.” But they were stubborn and came anyway, and as we started our ascent, the hike grew steep and they started stripping layers. I hated to say I told them so. But it didn’t matter – because they were doing it. We talked as we hiked, getting glimpses of the snow-covered alps on the other side of the valley – with the town of Interlaken nestled before us. I learned about the group, their time abroad, their home life, what sports they played, and we stopped to take pictures along the way. It grew steeper, and sweat started pouring, the banter stopped, for we needed to breathe and muscles ached. We climbed up into the mountain pastures, collected water from a hollowed out log used as a basin for the spring water used to satisfy the thirst of the cows that grazed there in the summer – their bells chiming in an unorganized harmony. When we reached the summit, I turned to the group and was met with smiles and astonishment as they looked out over the lakes and mountains. “Thank God I did this and have the ability to do this,” one said to me. Take care of yourself and challenge yourself – for sometimes the best views are at the other end of a climb.

Travel Advice for Flo-Town Peeps – Recommended Places to Visit this Summer!

Summertime travel is simple. There’s less to pack, everything is open, people are happy, and the sun is (usually) shining. Trying to decide where to travel – especially with so many options so close and easy to get to, is difficult. Take it from an experienced traveler; go with your gut feeling. Go where you’re drawn to and don’t second guess your decisions. Feel like the Swiss Alps would fit you like a glove? You’re probably right. Rather just hang on the beach all day? Positano on the Amalfi Coast is calling your name. But if you’re bad at decisions, Bus2alps may be able to help you out a bit. Let’s look at the options of getting you out of Flo-town: There’s almost too many to mention, but for an ideal travel schedule – hitting all of the main points, this is a list of a few suggestions to get your mind reeling about the possibilities:

Amalfi: Some of the bluest water you’ve ever seen, black sand beaches that make your skin glow with the summer sun, towns built up on breathtaking cliffs painted with beautiful pastels, and seafood that is out of this world. Welcome to the Amalfi Coast. Bus2alps has you staying in beautiful Sorrento, and then transports you to the Isle of Capri, Positano, and stops in Pompeii on the way home. A perfect mix of touring, beach time, and historical sites – there’s a reason why this tour has won awards in the past. Go cliff jumping, browse the coral jewelry, sip on limoncello on the rooftop terrace of Seven Hostel, and enjoy a weekend in paradise.

Rome: Though Florence is gorgeous, the Eternal city is just a few hours south and well worth the journey. Head to Rome and explore the sights you’ve had in your history books for ages. Walk through the Coliseum and picture the Gladiators, picture the war celebrations parading through the Forum, throw that coin over your shoulder at the Trevi fountain, and end the day with a look up at the ceiling of the Pantheon. Then head out to explore the illuminated city – Vatican, the Spanish steps, and check out a few of Bus2alps’s favorite restaurants and nightlife spots along the way. It’s a weekend roaming Rome and well worth it.

French Riviera: Spend a weekend pretending to be famous (or maybe even taste a little bit of real fame) while strolling the French Riviera with the likes of Beyonce, Keith Urban, Jennifer Aniston, and the Kardashians. Head to Wayne’s Bar and dance above the crowd, and maybe even find someone with a yacht that’s feeling generous enough for guests (no, but really, it’s happened). During the day, travel to Eze, Monaco and Antibes, hit up the Monte Carlo Casino and try your luck. This place will require a little shopping, but that’s the perfect excuse to get a nice Italian suit or a new pair of heels, right? Plus, needless to say, the beaches are gorgeous.

Munich: Though Springfest may be over, Munich is still bustling with life in the summer when the snow has cleared and the people are out in the streets. Take a bike tour and learn a little history – you can even have a sobering visit to Dachau, the local concentration camp and remember how recent history really is. Then spend the night meeting the locals in the beer halls and gardens all while making sure you get in that taste of perfect brews and the biggest bratwurst you’ll ever see.

Croatia: Picture it: you get off the bus and begin your walk through a rainforest – the roots of the trees are tangled above crystal clear water swimming with fish swimming against the current. You’re walking on wooden paths twisting and turning among the vines. Waterfalls can be heard in the distance. On your left and right, meadows flourish with little purple flowers – a carpet of sweet scented beauty and finally, you round a bend and see the most beautiful tumult of waterfalls with a pool at the bottom of emerald water. The swimming is gorgeous. This is just the last day of your time in Croatia. Before this, you’ve been whitewater rafting and island hopping off the coast of Split. Yes, it is a little bit longer of a bus ride, but the beauty is worth it.

Prague: Spend a weekend in the city of fairy tales  Watch the clock tower, riddled with myths and legends, come to life on the hour and ring out over beautiful architecture and the river below. Then, visit the “happily ever after” John Lennon wall – where words and art depicting peace and love will make your cameras glow and your hearts grow two sizes bigger, plus you can leave your own mark. Remember to bring a sharpie! At night after a day of beauty, meet up with your group to head out onto town and maybe even finish at one of Bus2alps’s favorites – Lucerna a club that plays the best of the best 90’s music.

Cinque Terre: Only a two hour drive from Florence, Cinque Terre is a gorgeous one-day getaway that is good for those that want some time in Florence for the weekend, but still go to somewhere beautiful on the coast. Spend the day hiking between towns, or sun bathing on the cliffs or on the beach in Monterosso. Eat tons of pesto-covered things like focaccia bread and pizza. Get a pina colada and use your photography skills for the brightly colored towns precariously perched on the cliffs. It’s a day getaway to get out of the stone of Florence, and you’ll be back to go out that night!

These are just a few places that we’d recommend for the summer – of course there are many more that may peak your interest, but now is the time to plan! Get moving.