- Amsterdam– Amsterdam is a beautiful city with canals spread throughout the city in a spider web design. Bikes are plentiful, streets are bustling and the entire city seems alive. Things to do and see include the Ann Frank House (make an online reservation to skip the 2 hour long line!), the Van Gogh Museum, and simply exploring the streets of Amsterdam where you can take in the architecture, try traditional dutch food, and walk past the infamous red light district.
- Budapest– Budapest had a focus on its more recent history with its WWII Nazi/communist gestapo regime leaving its mark on the city in multiple ways. Notable things to do include the Turkish baths (they are amazing and a must to a visitor) and caving under the city (participants must be able to fit through very narrow openings and cannot be claustrophobic).
- Prague– Prague was simply a beautiful city. The building are gilded in gold, the street food was some of the best i have ever had, the deserts were outstanding, and the architecture miraculous with an enormous castle at its center.
- Krakow– To be honest i found Krakow to be very bleak. However the real reason we went was to see Auschwitz, which was one of the most sobering experiences i have ever had. It was and incredible and overwhelmingly sad sight to behold and I do not believe words will ever be able to grasp what had happened in that spot.
- Paris– I entered Paris not really expecting a lot and was honestly overwhelmed by how much there was to see. Hundreds of different landmarks and attractions were scattered throughout the city. Macaroons and wine overflowing and the Eiffel tower at night was something to behold. There were some things we did not get to see but a few of what we were able to go to included the love lock bridge, Notre Dame, the catacombs of Paris, The Louvre, the Mona Lisa, and a lot more!
- London– I found London to be somewhat underwhelming. We saw the notable attractions- Big Ben, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace, (Big Ben and the Palace were both much smaller than I had imagined them) etc.- but it seemed to simply be a large metropolitan city and was extremely expensive for the most basic of items. I will say my favorite part was visiting the set of Harry Potter in Warner Bros. Studio and seeing all the different props and how the movies were made.
- Dublin– Dublin was amazing. We hiked the cliffs of Howth, covered in green grass and golden flowers, learned of the history of the country and its recent occupation, and enjoyed late nights at some of the many pubs across the city listening to to a violin and an Irish serenade, and visited the Guiness Brewery.
- Rome– Last, but certainly not least, Rome. Rome was my favorite place to have visited. The culture was enticing, the food delicious, and the amount of history was incredible. I saw everything I possibly could including the Pantheon, Colosseum, Roman forum, Palantine Hill, Trevi Fountain, the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica, Castle Sant’ Anglo, and so much more. I took a day trip to both the ruins of Pompeii and the ancient Roman port city of Ostia Antica. I ate gelato everyday and had spaghetti and meatballs with wine for dinner.
Like all students studying abroad for the first time, the start of my trip was a whirlwind of new experiences, amazing sights, and unknown variables. The information that follows are tips and tricks to studying abroad in The Hague and making that transition as smooth and streamline as possible. One of the first things I noticed after my first few weeks here was that the majority of the UofL students that came here became sick. This could have been due to the new environment or just for the simple fact that they had caught a bug but I believe it is important to keep an eye out for the closest pharmacy (apotheek) indicated by a giant neon green ‘+’ sign located outside the shop. Knowing where to go for medical help can be a great relief and avoid a lot of confusion and misery down the road as well as knowing exactly what your medical insurance coverage is and which doctors you are covered by. The second challenge I faced in my first few weeks was one i never ever thought I would have a problem with- home sickness. I have never been the type of person to miss my home very much and have always considered myself an relatively independent person. However, especially when I was sick, I missed the familiar sounds, smells, and views of home and being able to relate to the culture. I found the best way to deal with this was to get out and go on different adventures and trips with the other students from my home university. The best solution was to distract my mind with the new opportunities waiting around every corner instead of sitting alone in your room belly-aching over what you miss. I also had a problem with jet lag. My first week I was tired all the time and wanted nothing more than to relax and unpack my things. The only problem was that this was when the rest of the students were out exploring and getting to know each other and started planning different things. My advice is to push through the exhaustion and take part in the international community. You will get the chance to sleep and unpack in time but there is only a limited time in which all the international students are very eager to meet new people and make new friends.
Another way to take advantage of your first few weeks is to take a day to yourself and walk around and explore the city while also noting where all of your basic amenities are in relation to where you live. Find your local grocery store, fast-food joints, basic housing supplies, restaurants you may want to try etc. Taking one day to do this will save you a lot of time and effort over waiting until you’re all out of supplies and trying to find everything last minute. It is also important to do things on your own from time to time. When you first arrive you will naturally want to do things in groups and stay close to what is familiar, but often you can succumb to the group mentality which can be somewhat limiting in regards to experiencing things on your own and by your own pace.
If it is your first time in Europe, you may be overflowing at the idea of traveling and seeing all there is to see. While i do recommend planning your trips as soon as you can, there are things you should be wary about. First and foremost is knowing your school schedule, when your classes are, and when your breaks are. Working around these things in planning your trips should be at the top of your list. You also must keep in mind planning your trips strategically. Have a list of the top places you want to visit and remember to be realistic taking into account the amount of time and money you have at your disposal. If you have a long break in which you can visit multiple places, make sure the places you visit are geographically close together so that you do not spend 4 of your 10 days free on a bus or plane. It is obvious that when planning a trip the two big things are booking the hostel and the major mode of transportation. Yet sometimes, the smaller costs get forgotten about. Things like transportation to and from the airport you arrive at to your hostel, day trips and large events your may attend while visiting a city, and knowing exactly what you want to see and how are all just as important as booking your plane ticket. Plan accordingly!