While it’s true that the main purpose of your study abroad experience is to give you a valuable global perspective on business, that doesn’t mean your trip needs to be all work and no play. After all, even international executives often take advantage of downtime during business trips to check out local sights:
- Landmarks: the Eiffel Tower, Heidelberg Castle and the Great Wall.
- Exotic cultures and floating markets.
- Delicious local delicacies.
- Famous museums, operas and art galleries.
- Exciting nightlife.
- Wildlife, forests and beaches.
How can you squeeze in a visit to your personal bucket-list locations during a short-term study abroad trip? Planning ahead is essential. Follow these nine recommendations to get the most out of study abroad travel.
1. Identify Free Time
Step one is to check out your travel itinerary and make note of exactly how much free time you have, as well as in what cities. If you really want to enjoy every moment of your trip to the max, don’t leave planning to the last minute; get started immediately.
In addition to understanding what travel opportunities you have, you’ll also want to decide whether you’re comfortable taking to the streets on your own or prefer grabbing a travel buddy or two. When seeing the sights with another person, you’ll have to coordinate the locations you visit so everyone gets to see what they want.
2. Learn To Love Research
Inside information is extremely valuable when deciding what places are worth your precious time abroad. Investigate the cities and countries on your itinerary, check out reviews and recommendations from other travelers, and try to discover hidden gems that make a huge difference.
Don’t just skim the surface, dig deeper to find out essential information:
- Cost of admission to museums or landmarks.
- Best methods of transportation around cities.
- Transportation times.
- Important calendar dates that coincide with your trip.
- Local weather.
Don’t be surprised if your initial search turns up tons of potential candidates, each seemingly more exciting than the last! The fear of missing out makes it very common to end up with way more locations than your trip can handle. This is natural, since your main focus is studying abroad, not vacation.
Now comes the fun part: trimming away most of the locations and ending up with two or three top must-see spots. Start by numbering every place with a rating from one to 10 based on how important they are to you. Treat the process like a singing competition, sticking with the winners each round and gradually narrowing things down.
To be a truly life-changing experience, your trip needs to allow you time to really absorb your surroundings without feeling pressured to rush from one place to another.
4. Focus on Personally Important Goals
Let’s face it: not everyone likes museums or ancient temples. Some people prefer immersing themselves in the sights and sounds of exotic locales, while others value legendary libraries or iconic vistas. Will you remember painting in Trafalgar Square for the rest of your life, or does hanging out in an authentic dim sum bakery sound more fun?
5. Count Travel Time
Don’t make the mistake of stuffing your schedule with tons of activities and forgetting to include travel time. Getting around some European and Asian cities takes a while because of traffic. Of course, hopping on a train through breathtaking mountains is an experience in and of itself, so travel time isn’t necessarily a loss.
6. Take Your Gadgets With You
Smartphone apps, maps and GPS locators are extremely helpful in making the most of your time studying abroad. Find out beforehand whether you need to purchase a new smartphone on arrival, take an unlocked phone for international use or opt for an overseas plan with your local operator – and how much each option costs.
7. Leave Some Wiggle Room
Studying abroad has a way of inspiring you in directions you didn’t expect. Always leave small spaces open for spontaneous sightseeing. How can do this without wasting valuable time?
It’s easy: keep a few backup activities in mind when planning your itinerary. If you find something better once you arrive in London or Beijing, go for it! If not, opt for your original alternative.
8. Get Enough Sleep
If you feel exhausted, you won’t have the energy needed to benefit from business instruction or visit the places that matter to you. Dealing with jet lag is especially critical when traveling to Europe:
- Sleep well before you leave home.
- Nap a few hours on the plane.
- Set your watch to destination time.
- Don’t sleep during the day.
9. Keep a Journal
Traveling overseas to study business is one of the greatest opportunities you will have in your life. Make the most of it by staying alert to experiences and living the moment. Keeping a journal – whether written or digital travel blog style – is an awesome way to benefit from free time studying abroad:
- Important business advice from Fortune 500 pros.
- Personal impressions, memories, feelings and ideas.
- Connections with new friends are future business contacts.