Summer’s over and most of us are headed back to our college campuses where we’ll be met with stacks of books and piles of homework. But for all the lucky students headed overseas, it’s time to get excited about all that you’re about to discover abroad. I’ve compiled this list of the do’s and don’ts when abroad to help you have the best semester possible. Follow these simple tips and you’ll become a city slicker in no time.
1. Know your pace and priorities
We all have people in our lives that walk extremely slowly, and if you’re anything like me and you like to walk briskly, the slow pace can get bothersome. Sometimes it’s nice to find someone who walks at the same pace as you—you’ll stay on schedule and you’ll both be happy.
Uber or bikes are two other great solutions for those slow walkers. Warning: the majority of arguments start when the fast walker is hangry, so know when it is worth it to Uber.
#SpoonTip: Ubers split between 4-5 people can oftentimes be more economical and convenient than public transportation. It usually comes out to roughly $2-3 per person for a 20 minute ride.
2. Check out your city’s hottest Instagrammers
Instagram is definitely the new Yelp. Search your discover page for the city’s hottest ‘grammers when looking for places to eat. @infatuation is a great Instagram to check out for city-based food.
3. See the city by bike
This is hands down the best decision you will ever make. Everyone I’ve talked to about their abroad experiences say their best days were spent biking. Wake up early and bike down the Seine or cycle around the Notre Dame. Almost all European cities (as well as other countries) have city bikes that are roughly $2 for 24 hours. They also always have docking locations at sightseeing attractions or restaurants.
#SpoonTip: It can be frustrating un-docking the bikes. Use one credit card for all of your friends and repay each other with Venmo or PayPal. It’ll save frustration with card restrictions. Also, make sure you see a marker that your bike has been properly returned.
4. Check out the latest art exhibitions
My favorite part of my time in Paris was looking at the Mona Lisa through a bullet-proof case from behind a pack of people with selfie sticks…SAID NO ONE EVER. Sure, it’s one of the most famous works of art in the world, but my favorite art viewing has been exploring little galleries and traveling exhibitions.
You really never know what once-in-a-lifetime opportunities you will come across. Simply google the latest art exhibitions nearby and talk with locals about their favorite art galleries. Through Instagram, my friends and I got to experience the art of Yaiyoi Katsuma—magnificent.
5. Markets are great for lunch
Samples on samples on samples. Free samples are any abroad student’s dream, and you’ll find them in multitudes at the markets. Before you know it, you’ll be full and won’t have reached into your wallet once.
Most cities have amazing markets, so find them as soon as you arrive for the semester. In addition to the free food, they’re also great for experiencing the culture you’re immersed in. You’ll meet incredible people who are truly proud of what they are selling.
6. Musicals are always fun
NYC isn’t the only city with amazing plays and musicals. Viewing musicals in other countries is another great way to experience the new community and learn the language. A play is also a perfect activity for when the ‘rents are visiting.
#SpoonTip: If you just hang around the theatre about five minutes before the show, you can usually score tickets for $5.
7. Rooftops are a MUST
What better way to see the city than from above? Finding the city’s best views is essential. Usually, these views are the locations of some of the best restaurants. Scout out these dazzling spots as soon as you can. They also make for great #drinksintheair photos.
8. Download all the right Apps
This list of apps will make your life one hundred times easier: Dojo, Citymapper, Yelp, Bookatable, Deliveroo, Open Table. They help you find great restaurants, figure out what sights to see, and make everything more convenient. Check them out, especially Citymapper, which will make your tube/subway life infinitely easier.
9. Trendy breakfast spots are everywhere
Whether it’s breakfast or brunch, I recommend you work this meal into your daily abroad schedule, even if you’re not normally a breakfast person. Picking out an adorable or trendy spot for breakfast will get your group up earlier and fueled for a fun day. Also, nice breakfasts are oftentimes much cheaper than fancy dinners (and usually even tastier).
10. Always carry a bottle opener
Nothing’s worse than sitting down for a picnic and not being able to open the delicious wine you’ve brought. Plus, you never know when you’re going to want to splurge on a spontaneous bottle of wine any time of day. Throwing a bottle opener into your purse is always handy for that impromptu bottle of rosé in front of the Eiffel tower.
11. Look Up!
Oftentimes, we miss the coolest things when we’re looking down at our maps or phones. Whether it’s a quirky clothing store, a delicious gelato shop, a beautiful monument, or an enchanting side street, you don’t want to miss the parts of the city that might be less known, but are the most magnificent.