After finally deciding that I would be attending graduate school at Newcastle, I made the decision to take some time between the end of work and the start of graduate school to do some traveling! Knowing that I’d need to be on campus toward the end of September, a friend and I decided that we would do a trip through Europe for the two and a half weeks leading up to me moving to campus.
For several months before this trip, I spent countless hours searching, planning and thinking through all the logistics that would have to go into this transition. I thought I’d share some of the most valuable insights here. I hope at least some of them will help you the next time you plan a trip, or if you choose to attend school in the UK!
5. Do your research
We made a list of dream cities we’d love to visit in Europe, then paired that list down based on what was actually feasible. We ended up with Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Rome and London. If you’re traveling on a short timeline, make sure you take the time to look into the sights that are “must-see’s” for you. Check into ticket packages and travel cards and make sure to read the fine print! Have a general idea of how the transportation works or how far apart each attraction is so you can be sure you don’t miss anything.
In the case of heading to university, make sure you take advantage of the meet & greet service many uni’s offer to take some of the stress out of
navigating yourself to campus alone. Look into where your accommodation will be in relation to a gym, coffee shop, grocery store, etc. Sometimes just being familiar with the basics can go a long way to being less overwhelmed when you actually arrive.
4. Be Flexible
You just never know when a flight will be delayed, a train cancelled, a road closed or a bag is lost. It is impossible to be prepared for everything, so you must instead just be prepared to go with the flow. Travel is much easier when you realize you can’t control it all and when you don’t try to! As a general rule, people are friendly and don’t mind helping. Just don’t be too afraid to ask!
3. Pack light!
Take out that fifth pair of heels. You do not need that extra “just in case” outfit. You certainly don’t need those items you’ll only wear once. Be selective, be smart. Pack only what you wear now and feel good in. If you don’t wear it or use it in your daily life now, I assure you, you are not going to use it when you’re traveling or once you get to school. Best to just leave it behind! Worst case scenario, you have to go shopping in your new city. Also remember that what you bring, YOU have to carry. Two fifty pound bags and a couple carry-on’s will not be a good decision when you get to the train station and the lift is broken 😉
2. Temper your expectations
The Mona Lisa is not as big as you think it is, the Eiffel Tower is not as tall as you imagined it and you can’t get as close to Buckingham Palace as you’d like. Be aware of your expectations when you travel and try not to spend time in each city thinking “oh man, that wasn’t as cool as I hoped”. The “cool” part is that you are there! You’re experiencing history! You’re learning about a culture different from your own. You are expanding your knowledge and pushing your boundaries. Whether or not the site you see is as epic as you’d hoped, and the fact that you even had the opportunity to see it is worth celebrating!
1. Enjoy each moment as it comes
It can be easy in our world to get caught up posing for the perfect insta-photo with your beloved selfie stick. I’d urge you to ditch the selfie stick and ask someone near you to take the picture. Ask them where they’re from! If you dare, try asking in a different language. Take the long way back to your hotel/accommodation. Wander to an area outside the main tourist sites. Go to the cafe’s that don’t have W-Fi and engage in conversation with the people you’re with. Travel is incredible, pictures are beautiful and lasting ways of capturing memories, but the best part of a new adventure is that you get to live it. Don’t forget to be present for it and have FUN!