University of California student Rachel DeAngelis is no stranger to our ACCENT Study Centers in Europe. An adventurous traveler, Rachel has studied abroad with ACCENT three times in three separate cities. Each time, Rachel has taken full advantage of the services offered by our ACCENT staff and the opportunities that abound in some of the most beautiful cities on Earth. Rachel has opted to share some of her best memories of her time abroad and offers some tips for making the most of this one-of-a-kind experience!
I think it’s safe to admit that I have fallen in love with Europe. Maybe it’s the cobblestone streets, or the rich history, or maybe it’s the food, but there’s something about Europe that always seems to put a smile on my face. I have been fortunate enough to study at 3 out of the 5 ACCENT Study Centers in Europe: in Florence, London, and Paris. Out of the three cities, I couldn’t possibly choose a favorite. Each experience has been special in its own way, and has affected me differently. Thanks to the ACCENT Study Centers, I got to study Italian language, see award-winning shows in London’s West End, and explore lavish chateaux in the French countryside. I learned not to order a cappuccino after 10am, how important “queuing” is for Brits, and how to ask for real camembert cheese at the markets. Studying abroad completely opened my eyes to the rest of the world. The way in which I view the USA, as well as many other countries, is 100% different than before I left. Though each study abroad experience was unique, I will share with you some tips that helped me live my time abroad to the fullest, and will hopefully help you too.
LOOK OUT THE WINDOW
This seems silly, but it’s probably the best way to get to know a new place. Looking out the window of a train, bus, or airplane is a great way to see your surroundings and orient yourself in a new city. My fondest memories of Paris include parking myself at a local café for the afternoon, ordering a drink and watching the different types of people walk by. I learned so much about French culture by observing how the Parisians go about their daily routines. This goes for all the countries I’ve lived in. Next time you’re walking around, listen to the sounds: the languages, street musicians, even the tour guides. When I’m walking home from class, I like to look up, rather than down. There is a rich story being told, from Florence’s renaissance cathedrals to the little blue plaques ubiquitous around London detailing where important historic figures used to live or work. History is all around, if you just look for it.
ALLOW YOURSELF TO SPEND MONEY
It’s difficult to blow the big bucks when abroad, but sometimes, spending money can be a good thing. Remember, it costs money to live, wherever you are, and topping up your Oyster card is basically the same as going to the gas station, right? Knowing when to save and when to splurge is the key to balancing your budget. I tended to spend my money on activities I couldn’t do anywhere else, such as an English “football” match, or a Seine river cruise. Personally, I’d much rather spend my money on a new cultural experience than on pizza and beer back in the states. You don’t have to get a fancy cocktail at the Shard every night, you can always grab a £3 Tesco meal deal for lunch the next day to balance out your wallet. TimeOut Magazine has a great list of free things to do around London and Paris. Also, find out which places offer student discounts, and take advantage of these offers while they’re still available. The Palace of Versailles was so much more enjoyable, knowing I saved almost €18! Many clothing stores also have at least 10-20% off for students. Remember, you won’t be a student forever, so it surely doesn’t hurt to ask!
GET OUT OF THE CITY CENTER
While doing the touristy things can be fun, it’s nice to explore other parts of the city to get a richer understanding of the area. Maybe that means taking the DLR train to Canary Wharf or the TGV to the Paris banlieue, but getting out of the city center is a must. In Florence, the ACCENT staff found me a volunteer job at an after-school program for young Italian students. Each week, I would go and help the children with their homework, and teach them basic English. It’s one of the highlights from my time in Italy. To get there, I had to take the bus about 15 minutes outside the historical center of Florence, then walk through a residential area. I probably never would have seen this side of Florence had I not had this weekly volunteer position.
DEVELOP YOUR ROUTINE
As someone who is a creature of habit, it was extremely helpful for me to develop my own routine in each of my cities. Not only did this help me feel more culturally Italian, British, and French, but getting into a routine also helped me feel at home in my cities. For you, it might be your favorite Italian bar, London park bench, or preferred seat on the bus, but whatever it is, find it. It’s fun to re-visit places, too. Thankfully, all the museums are free in London, and the ACCENT Study Center is located right next to the British Museum, so I found myself there a couple times. In Florence, some friends and I befriended a couple that had just opened an artisan gelato shop, and they taught us how to make gelato. We still keep in touch to this day.
I loved my time abroad, and I wouldn’t change any of it. I’ll never forget seeing Pope Francis drive down my street in Florence, going to a British chat show taping, and going to the French Open in Paris. Hopefully, you find this post helpful when looking for ways to expand your abroad experience to its biggest potential!~Rachel DeAngelis, University of California Education Abroad Program
Did this post inspire you to study abroad? Use the ACCENT Program Finder to discover your next great adventure: http://accentintl.com/find-a-program/.