My roommates let out a “whoop” of exhaustion as they opened the apartment door and tossed their luggage through the door. I was seated in our window looking out over the Italian piazza with a cup of tea in my hand as I did my homework. They were just getting back from a weekend trip to the islands of Greece.
As we recapped their trip, they told me about pink and golden sunsets, muddy ATV rides, and showed me their beautiful necklaces they got after spending a night with some Grecians on a quiet beach with sand as pink as the sunset.
You need to take a step back and look what’s right in front of you, instead of what’s on the other end of that Ryanair flight.
Then I launched into my crazy adventures with the Italian friends they were too nervous to get to know. It was full of translation dictionaries, Fiat’s doing doughnuts on top of a mountain (and learning the word for seat belt in Italian); dancing in a discotecca that had been transformed into the Avatar movie, discovering a rope swing by the emerald-green river right behind our apartment, and winning a soccer match against a local team who was incredulous when they saw a girl step onto the field.
My weekend was filled with thrills, knowledge, and culture; and as my friends lugged their backpacks onto another bus and sleepily struggled through the week, I was thriving -- just by simply staying put.
Sometimes, the travel bug pushes you too far -- and you need to take a step back and look what’s right in front of you, instead of what’s on the other end of that Ryanair flight. But just in case you’re still not convinced, we have a few considerations for you to think over before you fill every weekend of your study abroad with getaways:
You'll Save More Money
Flying off to hit up a six-story club in Prague or race sled dogs in Sweden sounds invigorating, but all of these things do have a price point (and so does the method of getting to the destination).
Traveling every weekend is what takes up most of a study abroad student’s budget -- and then they may not have the money for other adventures that could quite possibly be just as awesome.
Need an example? Instead of spending 100 Euros for that video of yourself skydiving (that no one really wants to see except for your mom anyway) you could spend that money on a new bike to get around your town, explore a larger area of your new home, and maybe even make a few new friends, find a cool new hangout, or just get a really great shot for your Instagram that no one else has. #awesome
Of course we aren’t bashing travel! But just try to maintain a balance between being away and being “home” in your new study abroad home, and you (and your bank) will truly thank us afterwards.
You'll Get Better at Your Second Language
If you're studying abroad in a country to better learn a foreign language and you travel every weekend, the chances of you becoming proficient or fluent in that language drops dramatically.
Instead of living your life surrounded by a language for a while and getting accustomed to it, every Thursday through Sunday your head will be muddled with different vernaculars and jargons that’ll put you out of practice.
You put a lot of thought into choosing your destination. So why leave this place every weekend?
Not that this isn’t awesome (for real, it’s probably one of my favorite parts of traveling) but if you’re really wanting to work on your second-language skills, then maybe traveling outside the country every weekend isn’t for you.
However, if you do take day or mini weekend trips inside your country or to a place where the same language is spoken, you can be a traveling guru, get some serious travel time in, and be able to babble in a different tongue when you get home.
You Will Miss Out on Festivals and Culture at “Home”
When you chose to study abroad, you put a lot of thought into choosing your destination. So why leave this place every weekend? The weekend is when fun things like concerts, festivals, and special events are happening.
It’s when the locals come out to play, enjoy the sunshine, food, and all the best parts of their country. Why would you want to skip this in the place that you loved so much that you picked it to study in?
And if you do attend these fests and fun, the likelihood that your language will develop (even just by listening in on other conversations) will increase. You may meet new people in your city who share your interests and perhaps even lead you to more fun!
Of course, you can meet people while traveling too, but they can’t meet up for a coffee after class next Wednesday.
You Won’t Really Mark Your Place in Your Abroad “Home”
As I have lived in Florence for over two years now and worked very closely with students who did travel every weekend, I have seen people lose connection with a city that they love.
After heading back to school and normal life, the feeling of wanting to come back to their study abroad town is overwhelming, and some do visit for vacation during the next summer or when they graduate. The thing is, when these students return to their study abroad city, it isn’t exactly like they remember -- especially if they were gone every weekend.
It’s the students that didn’t travel as much and made lasting relationships with locals that feel welcome upon their return and can jump back into their life abroad.
Their roommates will be gone; they won’t have their school schedule to give them a solid routine. Even if they haven’t made solid connections with people that live here, they come back expecting the local bartender to still be their best friend and that their old tour guides will want to hang out. Unfortunately, if they didn't make any true friendships, the likelihood of anyone remembering them are slim.
Many come back excited, only to be let down that they feel like nothing more than a tourist in their home-away-from-home. Conversely, it’s the students that didn’t travel as much and made lasting relationships with locals that feel welcome upon their return and can jump back into their life abroad for their short stay and leave feeling refreshed.
During my last week abroad, I wasn’t flying back from one more weekend vacation. Instead, I was at a going-away dinner with my friends, and then I traveled to Ireland to stay with a friend I had met one weekend that just so happened to live there. That was five years ago.
Just a few weeks ago I got a message from the driver of that car doing the doughnuts. “Lisa! I will be in Florence soon! Are you still there?!” he messaged me, and I got to see an old friend in the newest chapter of my life -- something made possible by sticking around on the weekends while studying abroad in Florence!
Have Meaningful Experiences Abroad
At Go Overseas, we want you to travel to your little heart’s content. But we also want you to get a lasting, meaningful experience while discovering the world. If you keep a balance of travel and staying “home” while studying abroad, you’ll eventually get to take those quotes off of that word and use it as it should truly be used.
Home doesn’t have to only represent one place. Try to create a home of your own while abroad -- and it could stay one of your homes for the rest of your life.
Ready to fall in love with your home away from home? Find study abroad programs.
Photo Credits: Kelly Wiggins and Emily Kellner.