A great deal of Champlain Abroad students go to Ireland because it is the so-called “gateway to Europe.” Dublin is a home-base, and now that you’ve already crossed the Atlantic, almost anywhere you’ve ever dreamed of visiting in Europe is a quick flight away. Cheap flights from airlines such as Ryanair make country-hopping affordable. One thing I believe many of us want to take away from study abroad is establishing ourselves as travel-savvy— able to breeze through the airport with a week’s worth of possessions tucked away neatly in a backpack, scoffing at the newbies frantically sorting through their luggage at security for a tube of toothpaste that exceeds the allotted volume.
This past weekend was my first step in becoming a travel savant. I booked a trip to Oslo, Norway with my sister because tickets were cheap. Here are just a few tips from my first weekend trip:
1- Research, research, research
This covers a number of different things. Know the airport you’re flying into, where it is in relation to where you are staying, and how you are going to get from point A to point B. Ryanair has a tendency to fly you into smaller airports outside of the city where you think you’re going. My ticket said I was flying to Oslo, but I wasn’t flying into the main airport. Instead I flew into Rygge, and airport located an hour south of the city. I looked it up beforehand and found a bus that went directly from this airport into the city center that offered a discount to students.
Read the fine print when it comes to your airline as well. While Ryanair offers super cheap tickets, they’ll hit you with all kinds of absurd charges, like 70 euro if you don’t check in online and print your own boarding pass before getting to the airport.
Understand the currency and conversion rate, especially if you’re on a tight budget. Lilly Johnson, Assistant Director of Champlain Abroad Dublin, referred me to the Big Mac Index, a humorous and comprehensive way of comparing currencies around the world based on the price of a Big Mac in each country. This was helpful so that once in Norway, I didn’t freak out when a bowl of soup cost me 75 kroner, because I knew it was actually only about 8.70 euro.
Know whether or not there’s a time difference between the two places you’re travelling. This seems obvious, but embarrassingly enough my sister and I made this rookie mistake. We went the entire weekend having no idea that Oslo is actually an hour ahead of Dublin. I didn’t realize there was a time difference until the day of our flight back, when I thought we were arriving at the bus station early for an 8:55am bus to the airport, and all the clocks read 9:20am. Through a stroke of dumb luck a bus was departing for the Rygge airport just as we got there, and arrived in barely enough time for us to make our flight.
2- Be open to meeting people
One of my favorite things about being in Dublin and travelling around is meeting people and hearing their stories. Don’t be afraid to start a conversation with the person next to you on the plane. Travelling is stressful and anyone unwilling to return a friendly smile is probably not worth talking to. Our first night in Oslo, my sister and I went out with our roommate from the hostel we stayed in and had a great time. Everyone has such different experiences and ideas to offer; you can’t live it all, so there’s a lot to be learned from others. Even if you don’t meet again, you still have that connection to another part of the world.
For some people, it may seem scary not to have an itinerary for every minute of every day (I know, because I am one of those people). There’s so much to see in so little time, that planning everything out makes it seem like you’ll get to everything, but in doing so you sort of lose the adventure. As a result of my being disorganized and my sister not being a plan-oriented person, we found ourselves with a few hours just walking around the city with a map. I actually enjoyed the feeling of not being pressed for time, able to stop and take photos of whatever I wanted and more happening upon the city’s landmarks than actually searching them out. We went from the Viking Museum to the roof of the Opera House. It may be worth leaving some time open, just to see what happens and where you end up.
Champlain Abroad Dublin, Spring 2015
Champlain College Communications major
Class of 2016
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