1. Currency Exchange
Before I left for my trip I went to the bank and withdrew a small amount of cash in form of euros, francs and pounds and I am SO glad that I did. It is also imperative to alert your bank that you will be traveling abroad, as many banks will automatically put a hold on your account when you try to use a card.
Having cash prior to arriving in Europe is very helpful because you will spend a lot of time getting settled in, meeting your peers and getting a feel for the city so finding a bank or an ATM is just one less thing to worry about. I wished that I had withdrawn enough cash to last the duration of the trip because when I eventually did need to use an ATM, I was shocked by the high international service charges. Having cash on hand for whatever country you might be entering adds a sense of preparedness.
2. Walk this way
Be sure to check out the “Walk This Way” document before you leave for the airport so you can see who from the program is also on your flight. It was so nice seeing pictures of other students that would be traveling with me so I could identify them on the flight and upon arrival when waiting in the customs line. Boarding a seven-hour flight is much more comforting having a familiar face on board.
I would definitely recommend memorizing or writing down some common and useful phrases in the languages of the countries you will be traveling to. Knowing some keywords or phrases is very helpful when trying to locate a bathroom, ask for directions or order at a restaurant. Although many Europeans know a bit of English, it is well-received and polite to at least try to speak their language especially as a guest in their country.
4. Pack appropriately
When I arrived at the airport I was shocked to find out that my suitcase was overweight by about twelve whole pounds. I then became the girl rummaging through her suitcase in the middle of the airport desperately trying to meet the 50-pound weight limit. I found the weather in most of the countries to be a bit chilly so I recommend bringing a jacket and limiting yourself to only clothes that you can layer, easily wash and wear again.
For many of the company visits business professional attire will be required so it is essential to also bring an appropriate suit or dress. Finally, I cannot express the importance of comfortable shoes enough! The sidewalks are often times cobblestone that makes walking in heels very painful.
Borrow or purchase a small digital camera if you can! The scenery in Europe is absolutely breathtaking and phone quality cameras just don’t do it justice. Having a camera that fits in a purse or pocket is very convenient and way less of a hassle than I initially thought. I am so happy I brought my Dad’s camera with me everywhere I went because I now have beautiful pictures of memories that will last a lifetime.