Abroad in the Orient

Hello everyone,

My name is Josh and I am a marketing major finishing up my Chinese minor in Beijing China.  It is a whole different world over here.  It is very interesting just walking down the streets here, due to the fact that everybody looks at you because they have never seen a foreigner before.  I have also had my photo taken several times.  Chinese people are some of the nicest people I have met traveling the world.  I have been here for two weeks so far and everyday has been eventful.  I have visited several historical sites, from the Great Wall to the Forbidden City.  They were breath taking to say the least.   I have made friends with a lot of international students from all around the world at my university.  We all go out just about everyday to explore the city and everything it has to offer.  If you are thinking about studying abroad, I would suggest to you, consider China for it’s ancient beauty and timeless traditions.  I am having the time of my life!

The night before.

It’s almost 2 a.m. the night before my 7 a.m. flight. Yeah, I should probably be sleeping, but what good college student hasn’t gone at least 2 or 3 days on the same number of sleep hours? Maybe my rigorous sleep deprivation routine will offset the jet leg, who knows.

But what I do know is this,  seeing The Hangover 2 just a few hours ago was not a good idea. I am moments away from boarding an international flight to an Asian country, let the hilarity ensue? If the stars align maybe I too can find a small monkey companion of my own.



I’m finally starting to build my repertoire of travel resources, so I’ll list them below. This is definitely not a comprehensive list, you should check other students’ blogs to find out what they know, too.

Skyscanner.com- My favorite, it searches multiple sites for the cheapest fares to and from your selected airport, including most of the budget airlines, I think. You can even pick “to: everywhere” as your destination and let your wallet decide where you go.

Easyjet, Ryanair, Transavia, Meridiana, Vueling- Individual budget airlines that fly from the Netherlands. Sometimes offer flights from/to out-of-the-way airports, and travel budget goes up to allow transport to/from airports. It can take a lot of time to coordinate the right dates/ combination of airlines to use for a trip.

Euroflights.info- Database of budget airlines listed by where you’re flying from or to. You can spend hours on here trying to coordinate the best deal.

Seat61.com- Great database of train information. Best feature- it connects you to the train site of the country you’re going to, which is where most of the best prices are. I found out about a much faster train from Rome to Venice than many of the other students, some of whom flew.

Ns.nl- Dutch train site. I’ve never bought tickets from here, but the timetable can be useful.

In country- When traveling, I find that many train station employees speak English and can help you with more complex train things such as transfers.

I would like to help you guys understand hostels for those of you who have no experience about them- I know I didn’t and I still don’t have much. Most hostels are really professional and a great place to meet travelers like you. Most of them I’ve stayed in are similar to a hotel, with a common area, check in desk, and your own key to a room. The rooms often have bunks and lockers to put your things in, and not much else. Yes, other people sleep in the same room as you and you share a shower, but the ones I’ve stayed in are perfect for sleeping and cleaning up-what else do you need?

Hostelbookers.com- Claims to be cheaper than HostelWorld, no booking fee, offers maps, reviews, and pictures for a wide selection of hostels. I think this one will include hotels, as well.

HosteWorld.com- I think this one has a few more hostel and city options that hostelbookers, so it is a good second choice. Also includes the maps, reviews, pictures, ratings. Booking fee is something like 2 euros.

You can also go with the classic Google search- sometimes it is cheaper to book directly with a hostel, or a hostel may pop up that isn’t a member with any of the database sites.

As much as I dislike feeling like a money-in-the-shoe, guide-book-carrying, single-lingual tourist, I am one. There are tourist information offices at or near most airports and train stations that will help you get a map or at least get oriented. These also make nice wallpaper for your flat after your trip is over. Hostels and hotels also have these many times- take care of them, you don’t realize their value until they are lost!

When you make it


Before you leave, you will ask yourself and everybody else will ask, too- where are you going to travel? For me, that was a very broad question. I had no idea what was realistic or affordable, much less really awesome. I knew that I wanted to go to Italy, so that was a start. Otherwise, I made a list of maybe 20 cities that I thought might be interesting, knowing that I won’t make it to all of them. For me, that has been a good starting point from which to narrow down. Of course, when you are here you will add cities to that list and random trips may come up- I was invited to Denmark in a few weeks and, frankly, I’ve never once considered going to Denmark up until now.
My recommendation is to search for destinations that fit your interests. If you dislike art, then I think you can bet you’ll dislike the Louvre. If you don’t like fashion, Milan is probably not for you. My interests lie more in what I can do at a destination, not just what I can see. Accordingly, I am not going out of my way to look at the tower of Pisa. I did, though, spend St.Patrick’s Day in Dublin, have booked my tickets to ski in the Swiss Alps, and hope to see a bullfight in Spain this summer. Searching for adventures makes it easier for me to find destinations to suit me. Europe has it all, it’s up to you to choose.