Going abroad while studying abroad: Budget tips and traveling with DIS

You don’t need to do this now

The first and probably most fundamental thing I can recommend is to wait on any travel plans until you know the full extent of your course syllabi. I knew numerous people who had planned trips before they really understood their class schedule, special events related to the course, and big assignments that required a large delegation of time to complete, and that came back to bite them.

For reference, my roommates and I only began planning our trip to Paris about a week before leaving. Ordinarily, I would be planning months in advance before an international trip, but it’s important to remember international trips in Europe more closely resemble visiting other states. Many places are train accessible, housing is pretty easy to find, and there are no thousand-dollar tickets to worry about.

When I was planning to come to Copenhagen, many of my friends asked me if I was going to travel anywhere else, and my answer was always that I’d figure it out when I got there. Really, that’s all you need to do. Experience Copenhagen first. Find friends once you’re here, or a find a good weekend to go alone. Seek out hiking trails or festivals or sports games to experience, book your tickets (always making sure the website is trustworthy), and then just…go.

Getting away for a weekend while you have this proximity and availability is a unique position and so worth it.

Now, take that with a grain of salt as I also tell you, you also don’t need to travel.

I know people who left for a new country every weekend over their session, and many more who didn’t leave Copenhagen at all. Those who stayed were just as happy with that decision! There are so many opportunities to take in by staying in your owncity, spending weekends exploring new spots and becoming a regular at a few places you really love.

For me personally, my singular personal trip, alongside my Study Tour provided the perfect balance of feeling truly a part of Copenhagen while also taking advantage of the possibility of travel.

Hostels >Airbnbs > hotels

When figuring out where to stay in a different country, information can feel overloading. Which neighborhood to stay in, what price will work for your group, and all the details to work out while navigating different budgets and finances can stall progress.

Generally, the rule is that hostels will usually be cheaper than Airbnb’s, which will usually be cheaper than hotels. But if you travel with a larger group, the option of an Airbnb or VRBO might even get you the best deal.

Hostels can be somewhat intimidating for many, especially newer, travelers, but they often provide a young and vibrant international community to engage with. My friends Ava, Marta, and Thalia were taken across the city on their trip to Turkey with their hostel, which had a designated employee to help the hostel engage with local culture. Many hostels now are very clean, modern, and defy stereotypes of how they may have once been. But, if you would like a more private space for you and your group to settle down together at the end of the day, go for the apartment rental.

Plan your events with discounts in mind

Whatever you do, check if there’s a free weekday or student discount! In Paris, we paid full price for entry at The Louvre, Musée D’orsay, and L’arc de Triomphe (of which was totally not worth it), and Sainte Chapelle. This added up very fast. Keep an eye out for events such as free Friday evening entry at the Louvre or student passes more generally across cultural monuments you plan on visiting. Paris for example has their own museum pass, which grants you full access to the best museums for either 2, 4, or 6 days.

Let yourself wander

Transitioning to my unsubstantiated opinion here; I have never really felt a good grasp for the culture of a place through visiting its large monuments.

I had no real desire to see the Eiffel Tower from seven different viewpoints, or climb L’arc de Triomphe’s hundred stairs. When I did feel connected to the city, I was just sitting on the Seine as the festival de musique began, speaking to small shopkeepers and vintage collectors I’d stumbled into, and stopping to watch a children’s dance recital held on the steps of a large church in the Marais.

All these events, that of everyday life in the city, felt much more profound (and were much more budget-friendly) than the big sites. I will never ever discourage visiting museums and I do understand the bucket-list allure of visiting “the spots”, but I do want to encourage a sort of general rest and relaxation to your approach. It’s still a vacation after all.

And do look out for events! Small posters on the side of the road, events on Facebook, and word-of-mouth go a long way in finding exciting, immersive, and “real” experiences of a city. Maybe it’s a long-term symptom of indoctrination from watching too much Anthony Bourdain at a young age, but few things feel better to me than sitting outside and people watching with friends over good food.

Know what’s cheap

When I say, “good food”, I want to emphasize that absolutely does not correlate to expensive. An important part of travel is knowing what things might be much cheaper in that country than your home one. For instance, produce is much cheaper in Copenhagen than back in the states, and in Paris, a great baguette, some cheese, meat, and wine will all cost you less than eating out most anywhere. Utilizing not only grocery shopping for your meals but also selective shopping based on whichever country you’re in’s food economy will save you a lot of money.

Paris tips and places I loved:

  • I was there during the summer solstice, which is actually a big deal in Paris, as its also Fete de la Musique, where the streets are overtaken by artists, DJs, and every cool Parisian in the city
  • Early June: rotating chef concept, amazing food and wine bar, no reservations
  • Holybelly: probably one of the friendliest, best breakfasts I’ve ever had. Such great vibes
  • Use the metro entrance at the Carousel de Louvre to get in without the line
  • Bonjour Jacob
  • Bobby vintage
  • Palace Callas
  • La Frange á L’envers
  • Thanxx God I’m a VIP
  • Fotoautomat for a Souvenir you’ll actually like
  • Le Peloton Café
  • For the best view of the Eiffel tower you’ll get all trip without all the commotion: Bramble Bar
  • The Métro has an app now! Use it!

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