Exploring the Country You’re In

The French major who went to Caen, Normandy, France on an exchange with Sister Cities is back again, and I am here to give you some tips and further thought on how to explore the country you’re in!

Now, when you are eventually in your host country, one of your first thoughts could be, “Oh my gosh! I need to explore all the countries around mine! So many places to go!” Completely valid to think that. However, before you get to that point, think about all the places in the host country that will help you appreciate the culture. And first things first, if you are going to do research, studying, interning, teaching, or do a form of service, that is your purpose being there, traveling comes after those things. So keep your priorities in check.

When you have the appropriate free time, explore your host city. If this city isn’t the capital of the country, think about visiting the capital at some point during your time. If you are in a country that has regions or sections (like the United Kingdom), try and plan on exploring neighboring areas, or take time to go further out. If you happen to be abroad for a semester or full academic year, you might be able to travel even more.

Monet’s paintings of Notre Dame de Rouen

Finding the balance of what works for you is what is important. Balancing your main purpose for being there, your finances, your social life, and several other personal factors could affect your ability to travel. You also need to consider whether or not you would like to travel with a group or individually, mode of transportation, lodging, and duration of stay.

When debating between going alone or with friends, think about what would make you happy as well as your safety. Will you be lonely by yourself? Or, are you perfectly comfortable on your own? Can you handle discussing activities with your travel mates? For getting to your visiting hot spot, you can catch a train, bus, short flight, taxi, carpooling service, subway, or any combination of the options. Then, where will you stay exactly? Main choices include: hostel, airbnb, camping, or going in a hotel. I have never camped, but I have done the other three options. When searching online, check prices and ratings to see what suits you and possibly your friends. And lastly, think about how long you’ll be there for. Do you have an exam shortly after your holiday? Maybe give yourself some days to get back and recuperate from all the hustle and bustle. Reflect on these things before traveling in your free time and remember your main purpose for being abroad.

Lauren Bix is a 3rd year senior at the University of Kentucky. Her major is in French and francophone studies and her time abroad was in Caen, Normandy, France, spring semester 2016.