By Trevor Bellwood
You are many weeks into your dream semester overseas in Europe. Countless memories have been made. Your journey has been nothing but incredible. A lot of that can be credited to the priceless tips you received from your friends, family, and first-class travelers. Your Dad’s and Mom’s “be smart, be safe” lecture could have done it, or maybe your Greek brother’s and sister’s study abroad guide helped. Nonetheless let us make sure those memories keep on coming. No bad ones, just good ones. Here are 6 tips that I feel are very important for you and every student for these next few months. I want to make sure you all keep living the dream
1. Walking’s overrated, take a taxi.
Nearly all of the cities and towns you visit are unfamiliar areas. And there’s a good chance you don’t have a working iPhone 5/5c/6 to get you around. After a late night at a club, going to or leaving a train station, or just getting back from a walk gone wrong, call a taxi. Bartenders, bouncers, shop owners, and local law enforcement all are capable of either getting you to a taxi or helping you call for one. Here’s a simple question to ask yourself: “How would Mom want me to walk back?” Sounds silly, but it works!
2. Bar crawl, but don’t crawl.
As you probably know, crawls are one of the best ways to get immersed in any city’s nightlife and visit the top bars and clubs. They are offered in nearly all of the great cities in Europe–from the epic Clock Tower Bar Crawl in Prague, Czech Republic to the new crawl in quaint ol’ Interlaken, Switzerland that ends at the dynamic Metro Bar Nightclub. But joining in on them responsibly is key for them to be great experiences. It is pretty easy. Just take whatever you do back home to stay in control, and add a few more precautions. Be careful with the welcome shots and stay with one brand of beer for the night. These ‘welcome shots’(a.k.a. sugary shooters) tend to throw many students off their pace.
European beers, on average, are a bit stronger than the typical American brands. Try to find a good one with a reasonable ABV percentage, and stick to it for the night. If you try to taste every beer on tap and in the fridge it gets tough to keep track of the intake of alcohol–some beers can be the typical 4% U.S. brand or the lethal 10% Dragoon (Florence students, you better know about this sensation!).
3. You don’t have to GoPro everything
The love for GoPros is at an all-time high. Studying abroad and owning a GoPro will soon become an application prerequisite. But owning one does not mean that you need to put blood, sweat, and tears into getting every single GoPro action shot.
Is a GoPro cliff-jumping video worth a trip to the hospital? Injuries from cliff-jumping are far too common: massive bruises and banged up backs happen all the time. Do not let a half-second jump ruin your semester. Take the cooler pictures from land.
4. Stick to the trails when skiing the European Alps.
There is east coast skiing, then there is west coast skiing, and then there is the mighty skiing that can be done in the alps throughout Europe. The thrills that these mountains offer are second to none. These thrills attract countless students to get on the slopes, like in the Jungfrau region of the Swiss Alps or the Dolomites in Italy. And at times there seem to be no limits for what can be done. But oh, there are. Skiing “on piste,” as the French say, is skiing and enjoying the fresh powder within the marked boundaries. Going “off piste” presents a large risk, and can result in severe or fatal injuries. In addition to these injuries, the high cost of rescue will be added to your bill, as rescue off piste is not guaranteed or covered by most health or accident insurance. If you are looking for some good local backcountry, play it safe and hire a local guide.
5. Buddy system is the best system
Being with a buddy ensures two important things: you will always have a partner in crime to help get out of the bad times and a buddy to celebrate the glory with–such a win-win situation. BFFs, ya know.
6. Love the locals
Studying abroad is not a right, it is most certainly a privilege. You were granted permission to leave the United States and explore the world. Wherever in Europe you ended up, you were greeted, welcomed, and allowed to come into and enjoy. Please remember to respect this environment since that place is someone’s home and you are just the guest. You can show this respect in many ways, from being quiet and respecting strict noise ordinances at night and in the early morning, or refraining from making harsh irrational judgments based on someone’s perceived actions. I know your Dad and Mom taught you to always think before you speak; well, that is as important as the famous golden rule (treat others as you wish to be treated) when crossing the pond to Europe.
Have fun, get out there, explore Europe, and be safe.