As much as I love spending weekends in Sheffield eating my heart out at the Peddler Night Market and dancing nights away at the Foundry, the biggest benefit of studying abroad has been most evident during weekends spent away.
Coming from the US, where flights between two states can cost well over $100, the affordability of traveling in Europe has been shocking. When one can fly from Manchester to Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day weekend for $40 round-trip, one will find oneself casually browsing the EasyJet and RyanAir websites at least once—if not several—times a week.
Obviously, weekend trips take more planning than simply hopping on a plane. Even if you’re lucky enough to find free accommodations—I’m blessed to have friends in interesting places and have, for the most part, avoided boarding costs while traveling—the expenses involved visiting some European destinations can be exceptional, especially when attempting to squeeze every attraction in a city into the space of three or four days.
If you can budget in advance, however, I cannot recommend making at least one or two trips enough. For non-EU students, in particular, the opportunity to visit multiple cities on this continent will never be more convenient or more affordable. In the future, the freedom to travel is more likely to be constrained by work and obligations; take advantage of the opportunity while you are here, now. When people tell you again and again to see the world while you are young, this is the vital moment they are talking about.
The time I’ve spent in other cities has been equally as transformative as the time I’ve spent in Sheffield. As long as I live, I will never forget first setting eyes on the sunlit canals of Amsterdam, or climbing Arthur’s Seat to gaze over the extraordinary beauty of Edinburgh, or standing beneath the Arc de Triomphe and turning to see the Eiffel Tower just in the distance.
There is a special sense of empowerment and fulfilment that comes with traveling as a student; the days of simply wondering what it would be like to see Europe have officially passed, and life outside of school—a life that once seemed imaginary—suddenly becomes real.
Although there exists so much of this continent and of this world that I still need to see, I now know that traveling is more than something only to be dreamt of—it can truly be done. All the places I grew up reading about and seeing photographs of are out there just waiting to be discovered, and I am more motivated than ever to go out and find them.