Study Abroad: Spring vs. Fall Semester

Study Abroad: Spring vs. Fall Semester

If there’s one thing I wish I knew prior to coming abroad, it’s that spring in Europe is not anything like spring in California. This shit is cold. As my study abroad experience is coming to an end, I thought I would give some suggestions for those of you who are deciding between coming in the spring vs the fall.

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When I started planning to go abroad, it seemed as though it was decided for me which semester I would attend. Majority of people studying abroad decide to go during second semester of junior year. This being said, if your school holds big events, that is also a factor to consider. Michigan kids don’t want to miss football games. Tulane kids don’t want to miss mardi gras. Every school has something. But as I’m here I have started to wonder if I came for the right semester. Lets break it down.

Fall Semester

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Fall Pros

  • Easier to find a subletter – I would say the majority of kids study abroad second-semester junior year. This makes it super difficult, if not impossible, to find someone to sublease your apartment. And trust me when I say, it sucks going abroad and paying for two rents. Going in the fall gives you a ton of leeway to find someone, or to sublease someone else’s apartment while they are abroad in the spring. This is a HUGE thing to consider.
  • Internships – Because the internship process takes place in the spring, this gives you an advantage over other kids. You are home and have more time to spend focusing on getting the job. Trust me, this is a pretty major.
  • Airline Tickets are cheaper – This is one thing that most people don’t realize, but flying within Europe during the fall is much cheaper than during the spring.
  • Oktoberfest – One of the wildest weekends of your life. Endless beer, schnitzel and Dirndl.
  • Warm Weather – I feel like fall in Europe is the perfect temperature. It’s not unbearably hot but you can also get away with wearing shorts and a tank top. It’s easy to pack light when traveling, which means you don’t have to pay for extra luggage.

Fall Cons 

  • Missing Thanksgiving – I don’t know about you, but going home for Thanksgiving is one of my favorite parts of the year. All your friends are home for break, so much good food and moms cooking. It would definitely be a bummer missing out on this.
  • The semester is shorter – Studying abroad is truly a once in a lifetime experience so even losing out on a few extra weeks is a huge bummer.
  • Limited time to travel after – After the fall program comes to an end, the weather has dropped and it’s not as convenient to spend time traveling. At this point, it is also getting close to the holidays which people generally want to spend at home.

Spring Semester

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Spring Pros

  • Time to travel after – One of the biggest pros of studying abroad in the spring is that you have the chance to stay and travel after your program ends. At this point, you have made so many new friends and you will get the chance to roam around Europe for a bit before getting back home. Most programs end in April so you have time before internships really start.
  • The people – Because spring is the more common semester to study abroad, you will be surrounded by so many students/ friends from home. Having good company is one of the best things about studying abroad, so this is definitely a plus.
  • Getting to attend Football Season – Obviously, fall is football season, so if you attend a school that has a good football team you will still be able to attend game days.
  • St. Patricks day in Dublin – I don’t know how to describe this weekend other than pubs, pubs and more pubs.

Spring Cons 

Depending on where you decide to study abroad, the weather at the beginning is pretty cold. This not only means some days will be miserable, but your skin almost forgets what sunlight feels like. Also, packing for winter takes up way more space than dresses and sandals.

  • Packing for the cold – Try to squeeze 6 pairs of jeans, and 8 jackets into a suitcase (plus all the other shit you need.) Packing for a semester in the spring is much harder than the fall. Most places you will visit are in the peak of their winter, so it is essential to bring warm clothes.
  • Most places are freezing – You don’t think much about this before, but try exploring all these new cities wearing leggings under your jeans and three jackets. It gets really cold and can really affect your experience in most places.
  • Internships – For internships, the job applications don’t start opening up until around January. This means that you will not only be spending significant time applying to jobs, but you will also have to find the time & good internet service for interviews. The time difference doesn’t help either. It can be a huge pain in the ass so try and plan early or just get ready for some stress.
  • Seniors are gone when you return – One of the downsides of studying abroad in the spring is that when you return to school in the fall, all of the seniors are gone and the overall atmosphere is much different.
  • Weight gain before Summer –  Trust me, “Abroad10” is a thing. It’s no surprise that you will gain a little weight in the four months you travel across Europe, so it’s a bit of a bummer when you return home for summer and your pants don’t fit.

No matter when you go, your study abroad experience will be amazing. However before you let your emotions dictate your decision, make sure you consider all of the factors. If you don’t like the cold, I don’t suggest the spring. If you want to be surrounded with 91873819828 other study abroad students, then Spring is for you!

Guide to Mallorca, Spain

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Now that the weather has started to warm up, I packed up some bathing suits and made my way to the islands of Spain. My first stop: Mallorca. I flew out of Barcelona, so it was a quick 40-minute flight and cost me about 40 euro… roundtrip. Yes, you read that right. Because I decided to travel here in March, a lot of the island was still closed for winter. This also meant not a lot of tourists. We were still able to find amazing restaurants, great beaches and a ton of good outdoor terraces for cocktails. What I didn’t know before my trip was that the island is pretty spread out, so I recommend renting a car! We spent way too much money on taxis.

This being said, do not consolidate yourself to one city. Here is a list of places in Mallorca that are worth seeing.

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Towns 

1. Palma – The heart of Mallorca and the biggest city on the island. Here you will find a bunch of hotels, shopping spots and places to eat. From experience, this area does not have the most beautiful beaches but it is a convenient area to be close to.

2. Port de Sóller – Hands down, my favorite part of Mallorca. Talk about a cute little town filled with amazing stores, great vibes and really yummy food. It is picturesque and totally worth the trip. Make sure you give yourself a few hours in this little town because it is definitely worth it.

3. Soller – This area is about 40 minutes outside of Palma, but they offer cheap trains that will take you across the island for really cheap.

4. Cala Figuera – Tiny little town with the most amazing beaches. Not much to do other than explore and layout but it’s so beautiful.

Restaurants

We spent most of the trip laying out and eating snacks, so we did not attend that many sit down meals. Two of these restaurants we went to and were awesome, and the rest I was highly recommended.

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  • Max Garden
  • Il Paradiso
  • Ola Del Mar
  • Sakana Sushi
  • Nola
  •  Temple Natura

Beaches

All across the island, there are beautiful beaches. Some offer crystal clear water, while others are better for tanning and relaxing. Although I obviously could not get to them all, these are a few that you should definitely see.

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  1. Playa de Cala Pi
  2. Illetas
  3. Cala d’Or Cala Llamp
  4. Port de Pollença
  5. Cala Mondragó

Activities

To be totally honest, we came into the weekend strictly wanting to relax. It was still a bit cold so many of these things weren’t available yet. But here is a list of activities that are offered on the island, for those of you seeking adventure.

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  1. Hiking
  2. Rock Climbing
  3. Stand-up paddleboarding
  4. Exploring Cuevas del Drach ( caves )
  5. ATV
  6. Boat Tour

Shopping

I was honestly a bit unimpressed with the shopping in Mallorca. If you want big chain stores they have a strip of them in downtown Palma, but there were not as many cute boutiques as I had imagined. However, if you do make it down to Port Soller, then are a ton of great stores with woven bags, hats, and other beach necessities. Here is a list of the few stores I was able to find that have really cute stuff!

 

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Beach Boutiques 

  • Kidama, Puerto Portals
  • Vell Marí
  • Pink Flamingo Urban Spa & Boutique, Palma
  • KOS Beach Boutique, Illetas
  • Mimbreria Vidal* – really cute bag store!

 

If there is one thing I can emphasize it is to really try to see as much of the island as you can. Rent a car and go explore because each town is so different.

Hope you enjoy!

European Budget Airline Review

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As a college student, I find myself frequently using cheap, budget airlines while traveling abroad in Europe. Studying abroad is filled with constant weekend getaways, exploring new cities and really embracing the culture you are immersed in. However, these cheap flights do tend to cause a lot of stress. Now that I have studied abroad twice, I have spent a good amount of time and energy dealing with these companies. Here is a breakdown of the positive and negatives that come with Budget airlines.

 

Ryanair

This is one of the most popular airlines to use while in Europe. It generally has the cheapest flights, but it comes with a lot of traps. If you book in advance, you can get a flight for as low as 14 euros. This airline, although it is not the best, does have a wide range of flights for a very good cost. However, they are very strict on bag policy and will frequently stop you at the gate and charge you a 25-40 euro fee. Flights are almost always delayed, and I have had multiple flights canceled. Be prepared for some issues.

Bag Policy 

Free: One Personal Item: 40cm x 20cm x 25cm – 10kg  (strict)

Available for Purchase:

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Vueling

Hands down my favorite budget airline. Their hub is located in Barcelona, so they have a wide variety of flights offered in and out of Spain. An airline ticket comes with a free personal bag, as well as one carry on. The planes are generally in good, clean condition and they are not typically delayed as much as other airlines. If you are flying in Europe, I would recommend this airline over others.

Bag Policy

Free:

  • One Personal Item: 35x20x20 cm
  • One Carry-on: 10 kg and no larger than 55x40x20 cm

Available for Purchase:

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Norwegian

Norwegian offers very cheap airline tickets to and from the US. They also offer cheapish flights between the EU, but they are generally a bit more expensive than other airlines. Norwegian provides the option for one free carry on bag and one small personal item. If you are traveling a bit further, with multiple checked bags, I would recommend buying their economy plus ticket. It comes with two free checked bags, super comfortable seats and two meals (depending on the flight time).

Bag Policy

Free:

  • One Personal Item: 25 x 33 x 20 cm
  • One Carry-on: 55 x 40 x 23 cm

Available for Purchase:

  • Checked bags: 1st bag from $12 – $47, 2nd bag from $20 – $86
Norwegian airlines bag policy differs from other airlines regarding the weight of bags, so make sure you check before your trip!

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EasyJet

Easyjet is another very inexpensive airline that is popular for study abroad students and backpackers. This airline flys to over 30 countries and offers trips all over Europe. It is very convenient if you want to get somewhere for cheap. This airline, much like Ryanair, does come with a lot of extra hidden charges. Bag policy is taken very seriously and will cost you. Expect frequent delays and bad customer service. I have had multiple flights canceled, and have had to deal with the inconvenience of airport/airline employee strikes. Not my favorite airline, but for the cost, it is okay.

Bag Policy

Free:

  • One Personal Item: 56 x 45 x 25 cm (including handles and wheels)

Available for Purchase:

  • 15kg bag
  • 23kg bag
  • 32kg bag

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Wizz Air

This Hungarian airline is quite possibly the worst budget airline you could fly. I tried this airline while studying in Prague, since most of the flights are within eastern Europe, and it was a disaster. The bag policy is insanely strict, so be prepared to pay up to 40 euro for a cabin bag. The airline is low budget, so the seats are not very comfortable. Flights are frequently delayed and the customer service is poor. I wouldn’t recommend.

Bag Policy

Free:

  • One Personal Item: 40 x 30 x 20 cm

Available for Purchase:

  • Checked bags: 20 kg bag from €14-€60, 32 kg from €19 – €120

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There are pros and cons with every airline you chose to fly. Make sure you give yourself enough time and try to pay close attention to their guidelines, to avoid getting charged extra fees.

One day in Bruges, Belgium

 

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Bruges, Belgium… this place is unlike any other city in Europe. It’s like walking through an ancient fairytale. The small town is filled with endless chocolate shops, cobbled streets, horse carriages, and cute canals. As one of the biggest tourist locations in Europe, it can get a bit crowded at times, so going in off months is suggested. Either way, the experience is worth it.

How to get there

Every 20 minutes or so a train runs from Brussels city center to Bruges. It only takes about an hour to get there and is a beautiful ride. The train station in Bruges is an easy 20-minute walk from the city center.

  • They also offer direct buses and trains from the Brussels South Charleroi airport. This takes about two hours.
  • Many other cities in Europe have transportation services that can be taken into Bruges.
Processed with VSCO with aga2 presetMy 6th waffle of the weekend.

Where to stay

Because I was only in Brussels for three shorts days, I decided I only had enough time to take a day trip to Bruges. At first, I was a little bummed but with the right planning, it was totally possible to see everything in one day.

If you have decided to stay overnight, here is a list of recommended hotels and Airbnbs that will not break the bank.

  • Hotel Academie
  • Hotel Aragon
  • Flanders Hotel
  • Hotel De Goezeput
  • St Christopher’s Inn at the Bauhaus (Hostel)

 

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What to Do in Bruges

  • Attend local chocolatiers
    • It seems like every other shop is Bruges is a local chocolate shop. Each shop offers different variations of amazing chocolate. The shops smell delicious and the chocolates taste even better.

 

  • Take a canal tour
    • All through the city, beautiful canals stream through the streets. Depending on what time of year you go, they offer 30-minute canals tours. I didn’t get the chance to take one, but in the summertime, it is highly recommended.

 

  • Explore Museums, Art Galleries, and Cathedrals
    • Although this is a small town, it is filled with things to see. They offer specialty Museums which are very fun to walk through, as well as beautiful cathedrals filled with breathtaking artwork.

Some of these include:

  • Bruges Beer Experience
  • Choco-Story (Chocolate Museum)
  • Bierpaleis
  • Frietmuseum (Fry Museum)
  • Onze-Lieve-Vrouw ter Potterie
  • Anne’s Church

 

  • Drink Beer at a local Pub
    • Bruges really has a different feel than most cities I have traveled to. The bars are very authentic and offer unreal beer. Make sure you visit Delaney’s Irish Pub.

 

  • Walk through the beautiful Grote Markt
    • This is the main square in Bruges and is filled with colorful stores, restaurants and beautiful churches.

 

  • Belfry Tower
    • The Belfry Tower offers one of the most beautiful views in the city (maybe even in all of Europe.)

 

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Food in Bruges

  • Old Chocolate House*
    • This place is a must. Hands down the best hot chocolate I have ever had in my life. The tiny little chocolate shop sells chocolate and other goods on the first floor and has a sit-down restaurant on top. The place offers 27 types of hot chocolate you can choose from, but the best is the simple classic hot chocolate. They bring over a tray of chocolate and cookies, as well as a soup bowl mug of steaming milk. You then stir in as much chocolate as you want until it is melted and ready to drink.

 

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  • Delaney’s Irish Pub
    • Not only is this place a fun pub, but they also have a huge variety of really good food. The portions are huge and not as expensive as most restaurants in Bruges.

 

  • Bones
    • If you love ribs as much as I do, this is the place for you. They offer great ribs as well as traditional Belgium food. This place is a bit pricier but has really good food.

 

  • Chez Albert
    • This is one of the most popular Belgium waffle shops in Bruges. You can get waffles for as low as 2 euros and they are super gooey and delicious. They weren’t the best waffles I had all weekend, but definitely tasty.

 

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How to Stay Healthy while Studying Abroad

1.)       Walk- One of the best things while studying abroad is the amount of walking you do. The first time I was abroad I walked everywhere I went. I had a metro pass but it was much easier to get around on foot. I gave myself extra time in the mornings and it became normal to walk at least 7-8 miles a day. Even if you have an unlimited metro card, make sure you make time in your day to walk around the city. It is a good source of exercise and keeps your body healthy. Incorporate this into your daily schedule and you will see results.

 

2.)       Join a gym– Over the summer I studied abroad for 5 weeks in the Czech Republic. The weather was amazing and since I wasn’t there for long, I decided not to join a gym. At first, I was constantly going on runs through the city, but this began to fade over time. This time around I made it one of my priorities to join a gym. I did some research and found an amazing gym a few blocks from my house. I went ahead and bought a 4-month plan, for the entire time I am here. In my opinion, when you are paying for a membership, you are more inclined to go. I highly suggest joining a gym if you are studying abroad for more than a month. Many offer student discounts and come with a lot of perks, including spas and saunas.

 

3.)       Stock your kitchen with healthy snacks – One thing that I started to notice in college is that if there are snacks around, I will eat them. So the best thing to do is either do not buy them or stock up on healthy snacks. Since I have been in Europe I find myself eating WAY more chocolate than I ever would at home. If you’re strolling down the unhealthy isle at the grocery store, restrain yourself. You might get midnight cravings or a sweet tooth but if you don’t have anything to cure it, you won’t eat it.

 

4.)       Cook your own meals– I cannot emphasize this enough. Learn to cook before you travel across the world by yourself. This will not only save you money, but it will make you feel way better about what you are putting into your body. Although it is fun to go out to eat, this can get tiring after a while. You are aware of exactly what you are putting into your food and you won’t be as tempted to order something unhealthy off the menu.

 

5.)       Save the “splurge” for the weekend– Most weekends during studying abroad are typically spent visiting other cities. This means you will be eating out way more and trying all the best local foods. During the week try to eat as healthy as you can and restrain from empty calorie meals that really aren’t worth it. Each city offers something totally new and the food is definitely worth trying. At home during the week, stick to salads and low-calorie meals so that you can splurge all you want on the weekends.

 

6.)       Drink water- When people say, “wine is cheaper than water” they are not joking. Don’t get me wrong, for the first week in Europe this was amazing. But soon this started to hit me hard. I was constantly dehydrated and my body was feeling it. Make sure to always bring a water bottle around with you no matter what. It is a lot cheaper to buy disposable water bottles than it is to buy water at meals so I suggest stocking up on those at the grocery store. You NEED to be drinking water especially since you are drinking alcohol and doing a lot more walking than usual. It will get annoying constantly paying for water, but the money is worth it.

 

7.)       Bring vitamins- Unfortunately, I figured this out the hard way during my first study abroad experience. After my first couple of weeks exploring Prague, I started to feel very depleted all the time. Although the food wasn’t totally doing it for me, my body was reacting to something else. I soon started to realize I hadn’t been taking my iron pills. The second time around I made sure I had enough vitamins for the full time I was here. Although vitamins are small, it does have a strong effect on your body. Trust me on this one, just bring some.

 

8.)       Take advantage of good weather- Studying abroad in the spring can be a bit difficult when it comes to weather. Every day is honestly a mystery and it is never clear what the weather will be like. Every once in a while you are blessed with a random warm day, so take advantage of this. Walk to school instead of taking the metro, find a park and bring your computer to do some work. It will surprise you how much your body appreciates some fresh air every once in a while.