I would like to preface this with a statement that this blog post is an entirely subjective post based primarily on my interests, preferences, and somewhat snarky personality. That being said- I would like to introduce you to the biggest regret I have about my abroad experience, and hopefully impart some meaningful advice. As I wrap up my spring break and reflect on my almost complete semester, I have come to realize that I have royally –and irreversibly—screwed up. Yeah, you heard that right, I SCREWED up. Not that I haven’t had an amazing semester, I have, but I could have done it WAY better.
As it stands, I have seen over 12 cities, seen major landmarks and masterpieces and had the time of my life, but in retrospect, there may have been a better way. Rather than checking monuments off the bucket list and sight-seeing all across Europe, I should have been doing things. I should have been hiking in the Scottish Highlands, skiing Interlacken, riding camels in Morocco, or sailing in Greece. Instead, I would spend 2 or 3 days in Barcelona, Rome, and Copenhagen, seeing friends and looking at impressive but overrated monuments like the Little Mermaid, the Colosseum (overrated!), and many others. Here’s why.
Sightseeing can be SO repetitive. I have been in the world’s most beautiful churches all across Europe, and they’re all amazing but they all look a little similar. I’ve been in at least 10 art museums. I’ve done so many boat rides and cable car trips. Each city is in its own way both incredibly unique and insanely similar in how it sells itself. In addition, viewing these monuments and landmarks may be breathtaking, but will it change you? Will you learn, live, and grow from taking the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower? I’m going to guess not. Third, it’s expensive! A typical museum/landmark fee will run you up about $20 and it’s incredibly easy to run through 3 or 4 of these in a given day. This, coupled with the fact that you’re most likely to consequently eat at touristy places (also expensive), means you’ll be accidentally dropping a LOT of money on sightseeing in a given day. All that being said, sightseeing can, at times, be incredibly satisfying and enjoyable. Seeing the Belvedere in Vienna was a personal favorite of mine and seeing La Sagrada Familia truly took my breath away. However, I still fully believe in the power of excursions and activities.
When you go on an excursion, or do something on your own, you can grow personally and get a new and unique experience from the typical abroad student. For one, these excursions are usually very small groups that allow you to socialize with new and like-minded individuals that can teach you something new and allow you to make a new friend! Also, as a young individual in a new country and continent, you may be in your best physical shape, so take advantage of this advantage and be active and do fun things.