Sometimes studying abroad is about the mini adventures that are had between all the traditional sightseeing

Traveling to London and Paris had always been a dream of mine. I had thought about it, planned it and waited for the right opportunity to arise for me to go. That’s why when I finally made it to Europe, there was no way I was wasting any of the time I was there. For the trip of a lifetime, I was okay with losing some sleep.

The J-term of my junior year, I traveled abroad to England and France to study Tudor history. It was the perfect trip for me.

J-term trips are designed to provide students with educational experiences while studying abroad.  Because of this, the places students visit are usually the typical tourist attractions.

On my trip to London and Paris, we visited the Tower of London, the British Museum and the Louvre — all the places that are incredibly fascinating and beautiful and provide information about the history and location.

I loved those trips. And I am so grateful that I was able to see all of these famous places. But I found the most memorable things that I did were on the exploratory adventures that I took in my free time.

Throughout my J-term trip, there were two free weekends where students had the opportunity to travel outside of our location, and a number of my classmates took advantage of that, traveling to Italy, Dublin, Berlin and different parts of England. I, however, decided to stay in the city.

I really wanted to take advantage of the locations that I was in and view the city from a non-tourist perspective.

During the first open weekend in London, I spent a whole Saturday just riding the Tube, London’s transportation system, and walking around the city.  Of course, I was with people, and our collective knowledge of the public transportation allowed us a level of confidence while exploring.

This first free weekend really helped me establish a familiarity with London and helped me throughout the rest of my trip.  London was the city I knew the most about and was the most comfortable walking around in.

I continued this line of thought during my free weekend in Paris. Instead of leaving the city, I planned a thrift shop excursion for a group of friends. We were able to walk around Paris, with snow on the streets, and really experience something that a resident of the city would.

These unique, handcrafted trips were a way to connect with the locations I was in and really take advantage of my free time. Yes, I was exhausted, yes, I missed out on sleep, but in the end I knew I had really experienced as much as I could.

I urge every student who is studying away to really explore and experience everything his or her location has to offer. I loved visiting the museums and galleries, but I will never forget the mini adventures I made sure to go on every day.

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