When traveling the world, there are some things you have just have to experience. Check out our tips for travelers and don't miss out on these awesome experiences.
International Language Programs sends volunteers around the globe to live and make a difference in local communities abroad. If you talk to any of our past volunteers they will all tell you to do as much as you possibly can during your semester abroad. Four months goes by quickly, and the more you take advantage of your free time, the greater your experience living abroad will be.
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Here are just some ideas of things to do to make sure your semester abroad is complete:
Try new food
Get to know a new culture by eating your way through it! Skip out on familiar meals from McDonalds and really dive right into life in a foreign country. Here are some tips to adjusting to a new culture's food to help you make the jump from Pop Tarts to Pad Thai. I can't tell you how many times something I didn't think I would like ended up being my favorite dish ... even if I didn't quite know what I was eating when I first put it in my mouth.
Order something random
It may turn into a laughable experience, but it is so much fun. Instead of trying to read the menu or just pointing at pictures, pick something random on a menu and order it. Who knows, you could order something like a platter of chicken feet on accident, but you also might order something surprisingly delicious, like these foods in Mexico.
Make your own meal
One of the coolest things about traveling to new countries is going to the grocery store. I can't tell you how many times I've killed time waiting for a bus or a train by wandering around a new market or little convenience store. I've stumbled on the best kinds of snacks and new ingredients ... which makes for a killer souvenir, by the way.
I also love pulling together a quick meal at a hostel. So many have communal kitchens where you can cook up a dinner for yourself or your ILP group. I've grown to love ready made dumplings you can buy at the store, or making simple dishes (like eggs and tomatoes over rice) when I was living in Asia and traveling around.
Visit a farm
If you are going to be spending an extended amount of time there (like you would as an ILP volunteer living abroad for a semester), check out a nearby farm. Many past ILP volunteers have been able to go strawberry picking while abroad — how fun!
Ask a local where to eat
Heading to a new city? Try chatting with some locals and ask them where a good place to eat is located. This may involve some charades if you don't speak the same language but can end with you eating in a super cute restaurant that only the locals know about.
See the top sites
When you're deciding where you want to travel, generally you pick a country based on a specific, and usually famous, place you want to see. For example, I want to travel to Paris so I can see the Eiffel Tower ... but don't miss out on some other hidden gems. Be sure to do you research so you visit a place and really see it all.
Especially since technology makes it so much easier to plan your trips, you really have no excuses. These top travel apps have you covered when it comes to booking trains, buses, and places to stay. Oh and you can always peek on the ILP blog which has so many ideas and travel guides for places our volunteers love to go.
Go off the beaten path
We love the top sites, but there is so much more to see on those less wandered pathways. Wander around the city near your hotel or even get off at a random metro stop and explore the nearby area. See if these are nearby cities that are going to be less crowded and more affordable than the big names you've already heard of. So many of my fav cities were spots I had never heard about.
Need some inspiration? Skip these too popular cities, and go here instead.
Take the public transportation
Before traveling abroad, I wasn't so sure about public transportation — I only ever used a car growing up. But, soon, I was in Kiev, Ukraine, facing my fear and using public transportation multiple times a day and guess what? It was awesome! Everywhere our volunteers are living/vacationing has some sort of bus, minibus, shuttle, metro, or train experience that they can take full advantage of. Be sure to embrace public transportation before coming home!
Get out of your comfort zone
This is a must! Don't be afraid to experience new things and do fun activities. Whenever an opportunity arises, get out of your comfort zone and take it. Hop in the tuk-tuk, eat the bug, and have the time of your life exploring new places. Some chances you only get once.
Say hello in the native language
Learning a few phrases in the language of the places you are traveling to is a huge bonus. Avoid being that "rude American" and try to speak in another language. Even if you aren't pronouncing it perfectly, many times the natives appreciate the small effort. Start by learning how to say hello!
Document It All
Keep a journal
One of my biggest regrets is that I didn't keep a journal while I was living in Ukraine. Thankfully, I learned my lesson and now every time I travel, I make sure I bring a journal. You don't even have to write much — make it more into a scrapbook where you tape in tickets and pictures and jot down a few thoughts and memories. Easy.
Buy something meaningful
Sure you can go to any souvenir shop and by the same key chain as anyone else. or you can buy something a little more meaningful like artwork or these souvenirs you won't regret bringing home.
Don't forget to document your adventures with a few pictures (Here are our favorite cameras to pack). Just make sure you don't spend all your time taking pictures and miss out on truly seeing and experiencing a new place, but a year later when you want to reminisce, you'll be really glad you have them.
This goes hand in hand with taking pictures. While you're seeing an incredible mariachi band playing in Mexico or zip-lining through the jungle in the Dominican Republic, take a video and remember those moments forever — this app makes taking videos of your whole semester so easy!
Send post cards home
Another great way to document your trip is with post cards. When I was traveling in Europe, I sent my parents a few postcards about what I was up to — when I got home, they had collected them all and put them in a postcard journal for me.
This cafe in China goes one step further — you can send yourself a postcard and they will mail it to you in the future. Imagine coming home from living in China and getting a postcard from yourself a year later.
Ready to travel abroad and have the time of your life?
ILP can help! International Language Programs has schools in several countries all over the world where you can make a difference by spending time helping in an orphanage or teaching English ... and getting some vacation time to see even more. Come learn more!