My semester abroad was one of the best experiences of my life. As a result, this article and its pictures are in no way meant to disgrace or doubt the beauty of abroad. Instead, the article is simply a glimpse at some of the conditions and challenges students and travelers may face. Abroad is so much more than just the picture-perfect Instagrams. It’s a valuable, eye-opening, learning experience.
Crowds and Lines
Tourist attractions are packed with crowds, even during the off-season. Here, crowds in London push and shove to capture photos and videos of the Buckingham Palace.
Students wait at the university stop for the city bus. During peak transportation times, passengers are rejected from a full-capacity bus and have to wait 10-20 minutes for the next bus.
Tourists in Santorini wait in a small holding area for the ferry. The majority of the ferries this day were canceled or delayed, but fortunately, we made it!
Tourists wait in the extremely small Mykonos airport. Again, most flights were delayed or canceled this day. You can see the exhaustion, annoyance, and panic in people’s expressions.
Students wake up before dawn to get in line for the German beer festival, Oktoberfest. When the gates opened, we sprinted to get a table and a beer.
Homelessness present on the popular Ha’penny Bridge in Dublin.
Homelessness on the Charles Bridge in Prague. Notice the loyal dog who sits next to its owner.
Homelessness in Dublin.
Homelessness during Christmas time.
Hostel in Italy. Roommates? Bedbugs? Shower shoes?
Apartment in Dublin.
Money and Fees
It’s hard to be cautious with your money when the experiences are more valuable than any currency. Try to budget the best you can.
Foreign transaction fees, ATM withdrawal fees, and transportation costs add up.
Coins are valuable, but most exchange counters refuse to accept them. Use your coins while you can!
Protests are common in every city. We canceled our trip to Paris because of violent protests, riots, and closed tourist attractions. Here is a less violent student housing protest in Dublin. This picture was taken from a public bus, which waited 15 minutes for pedestrian protesters to cross the street.
Protesters outside the Canada Goose store in London object the company’s animal cruelty practices.
More protests in Dublin.
Every program is different, but school still exists abroad. Here is a lecture hall in Dublin.
Exams in Dublin are held in a large and somewhat intimidating convention hall.
Sometimes a five-hour train ride is relaxing, but when the guy next to you is snoring and the lady behind you is eating smelly tuna fish, it can be torture.
It’s a good idea to protect yourself from germs and take an Airborne or Emergen-C before boarding a crowded flight, bus or train! Being sick, especially while traveling and away from home, is never fun.
Low-cost airlines are known for their strict policies on baggage and liquid allowances.
Weather can affect everything from transportation to tours, to your mood. Here is a rainy view from the London Eye.
Floods in Venice, Italy. Pictures courtesy of my lovely friend, Emma.
Construction in the city. Construction affected our trip to London, where the popular attraction, Big Ben, was under major restoration.
Trash and cigarette butts on the street in Germany.
Exhausted and uncomfortable on a five-hour plane ride.
A bathroom in a local tourist spot.
No service, signal or Wi-Fi. SIM cards? International phone plans?
Alleys at night.
The good news is that these conditions and challenges are bearable. You can be aware of them, face them, and successfully conquer them! So if you have the opportunity to go abroad, I would highly recommend it.
If you do go abroad, post the Instagram of you in front of the Colosseum, drinking a Guinness in Ireland, or paragliding in Switzerland. You will want to record these moments, and cherish them with family and friends. But at the same time, I encourage you to remember the challenges you faced, the lessons you learned, and the person you became.