Sophie: Travelling While Studying

Just to make it clear from the outset here: I do not endorse skipping uni. You’ll find that your time in classes here at Lund is just as much as part of every other piece of your exchange, and because of the structure of the university (where you’ll do two papers for half of the semester and then two different papers for the second half of the semester), you don’t get as much class time as you think.

Sintra, Portugal

Definitely try to attend all your classes, as that’s where you’ll meet new friends, both international and local! And enjoy your classes, and the experience of studying at a different university! It’s absolutely amazing! I really really loved some of my classes, and when it got to halfway through the semester and they stopped, I found myself caught off guard and wishing the courses would go on for longer! So make sure you make the most of it!! I was lucky with my university schedule for the first half of the semester, as I had long weekends every week, which allowed for lots of travel while staying on top of my uni courses!

However, despite my relaxed schedule, I am more thankful that one of the first friends I made here at Lund was another girl who was very keen to travel, and we sat down together and just booked a few things straight off the bat, and started talking about travel plans!

She told me she’d known international students who had come to NZ and only started travelling late in their semester abroad and not done everything they wanted to, and she was determined not to make that mistake! I am so grateful, as it is definitely easy to get caught up in the excitement of arriving in Lund and meeting so many new people, and especially as we arrived in winter, it is much cosier to stay indoors and do fika, or dinner, or pot-lucks, or parties, than to think about venturing out into the cold! And at the start of semester, you might also be feeling a bit cautious about trying to budget your money to make sure it’ll last the whole trip too. But don’t let that stop you!

Travelling in amazing, and there are so many places to go, whether you go far or near! I have a couple of friends here who made it their mission to travel around Sweden and Denmark as much as possible, almost every weekend! They used trains and buses, and saw so much of both of these beautiful countries! So whether you go far or just stay close to home, and whether you’re on a budget or not, just get out there and get going!

One of my friends made the excuse most of the semester “I’m too disorganised and lazy to bother looking through everything to book a trip”, but he managed to do some awesome trips too! If you use Road2Rio or Omnio you can easily see buses/trains/ planes for whatever route you’re looking at, and Skyscanner and Google Flights are both great for finding flights too! And then use HostelWorld or to sort out your accommodation easily (the maps make it easy to see which spots are close to the city centre, or close to train stations and such) to find a cheap hostel, and you’re good to go!

Going up the Eiffel Tower! Yes, so touristy, but it was incredible!

‘Moovit’ is one of my biggest recommendations for anyone travelling anywhere – it’s fantastic for public transport within a local area (much more reliable than the recommendations that will pop up on Google Maps!) and makes getting around pretty much every city in Europe a piece of cake! It’ll even show you where you are on a map so you know where to walk to the stop/station, and where to get off! And if you ever do get lost, it is so easy to wander into any shop or cafe, or stop pretty much anyone on the street and ask for help!

Don’t assume that everyone speak English, as some people dislike that, but if you politely ask for help and ask if they speak English, you’re fairly likely to be able to find someone who can point you in the right direction! And if you ever get really stuck, pull out Google Translate! It’ll get the point across well enough! I also find that if I at least try to learn “hello” and “thank you” in the local language of whatever country I’m in, local people really appreciate it and love the effort! Would highly recommend making the effort to do that!

Irish coastline reminding me of home in NZ!

Travelling Europe has changed me in so many ways. I have had so many wonderful experiences (and a few stressful ones that we’ll call “learning curves”!), meet so many amazing people, and learnt so much about myself. Some trips were solo, some trips were with friends, some trips were with people I barely knew. In every way, each adventure was different, incredible, and so so special. I have memories that I will cherish for years to come, and friendships that will span continents and lifetimes.

Travelling while on a university exchange is so special too – it is like no other travel you will ever do in your lifetime. You are surrounded by young people from all around the world, who also want to travel and have new experiences and meet new people; and you have a home to base yourself in, which makes the whole experience much easier, as you create a home for yourself there and don’t spend so long being homesick for NZ.

You have an opportunity over here to create yourself as whoever you want to be. Nobody here knows you, or has any preconception of who you are as a person, or what to expect of you. You have the freedom to be anyone and anything. It is an incredible opportunity that we don’t have in our day-to-day lives where people feel like they know you, and they expect you to act and react in certain ways. You grow so much as an individual when you have the opportunity to leave it all behind for a couple of months and see who you are when you have no expectations on you. It is such a beautiful opportunity. So make sure you make the most of it, be conscious of this opportunity; be conscious of reflecting on your experiences, your actions and reactions; be conscious of who you want to be.

And also be a conscious traveler – don’t assume everyone will speak English; try new languages, food, experiences, music, dancing styles as part of respecting, appreciating and experiencing new cultures; try to be conscious of the carbon footprint of your travelling too; and try to represent NZ well!

Marching in the student protest against climate change in Madrid! Amazing to feel such a sense of togetherness with so many people I’ve never met, chanting in a language I don’t know, with signs I barely understand…all united for a common cause for the good of the whole planet and everyone on it!


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