Hello from Copenhagen!
You might remember that in my last post, I was feeling a little bit down. School stress was mounting, I wasn’t having much fun, and I was getting overwhelmed trying to balance my workload with my desire to just have fun on exchange. Luckily, I managed to hand in all of my assignments, dig myself out from my mountain of books and readings, and take a break for a few days. And what better place to take a break than Copenhagen?
Copenhagen is somewhere I’ve dreamed about going since I was a little kid who developed an oddly strong passion for all things Scandinavian. Even though I’ve grown up (a little), I was still seriously excited about the prospect of going to Copenhagen and riding around its canals on a beautiful bike, going to museums, eating lots of rye bread, and being cozy (something the Danes excel at). So far, my visit has been wonderful, and if you’re looking for a reason to go on exchange, I think this is the ultimate one: finally getting to see places you’ve spend years day dreaming about.
Alright, I’ll be honest though, this sounds a little bit more glamorous and jet setter-y than it really is. I managed to go to Copenhagen because I found insanely cheap flights (that left at 6 am, yikes), had a mid-week break from class, and split a very tiny hostel room with a friend. But the point is, it really is possible to travel and go on fun trips while your on exchange, even if you have lots of work to do, and even if you’re a little bit broke.
Since this is such a great part of going on exchange, I thought I’d put together a list of tips that I’ve picked up over the last few months for travelling while on exchange. Without further ado, here are some things that will make it easier for you to travel (because it is too easy to find excuses not to go!).
- Join exchange student clubs, Facebook groups, and international student organizations at your school. Most schools have a few of these, and (in Edinburgh at least) they run lots of trips to a whole bunch of locations. They make it really easy to travel, because they pick the place and do it all for you, and they bring along a ready made group of friends for you to travel with.
- Find a favourite cheap flight website, and check it obsessively. Well, maybe not obsessively, but it’s good to keep your eye on flight prices, since they change all the time, and cheap flights are always cropping up. You can also set up flight alerts on lots of websites that will tell you when cheap flights from your city are available. I did this and ended up finding a $40 flight to Prague. On a whim, I booked it, even though I had no real desire to go to Prague, and hadn’t planned on it. But it turned out to be an amazing trip!
- Think up an easy way to save money every day. This way, you’ll slowly accumulate some extra cash to travel with. For me, for example, I made the very painful decision to stop going out for coffee. You could also decide to stop buying chocolate, eat out less, not buy new clothes, or whatever works for you. It doesn’t actually seem like such a sacrifice if you get a really fun trip out of it.
- Find cheap places to stay. There are so many options, you just have to do a bit of hunting. Look for hostels, Airbnb, couch surfing, cheap hotels, guest houses – the possibilities are almost endless, and I promise there will be something you can afford (although it’s worth mentioning that it’s important to keep safety in mind – only stay somewhere that you feel comfortable with).
- Make friends with other exchange students. If you visit their home towns they’ll have tons of tips for you, and they also make great travel buddies who you can easily talk into coming along on spur of the moment trips with you.
So those are my big travel tips for those of you who are on exchange, or who are planning to go. The biggest tip though is probably to just do it – book a flight or a train or a bus ticket on a whim, and see what happens! You won’t be disappointed.