Heading off for your university exchange programme and looking to explore Europe? Here’s how I conquered 14 European countries in just 4 months!
After digging a huge hole in my pocket for my overseas exchange programme to Europe, I was determined to maximise it and travel as much as possible. When else am I ever going to get a four month break to travel? With looming student debt, not any time soon.
My host university was in Hertfordshire, England, and these were the 14 countries I conquered.
- 🏴 England (Bath, Brighton, Hertfordshire, London, Stone Henge, Oxford)
- 🇦🇹 Austria (Melk, Salzburg, Seegrotte, Vienna)
- 🇭🇷 Croatia (Plitvice, Split, Zagreb)
- 🇨🇿 Czech Republic (Český Krumlov, Prague)
- 🇫🇷 France (Marseille, Paris)
- 🇩🇪 Germany (Berlin, Munich)
- 🇭🇺 Hungary (Budapest)
- 🇮🇪 Ireland (Dublin, Kilkenny, Glendalough, Wicklow Mountains)
- 🇮🇹 Italy (Rome, Venice)
- 🇳🇱 Netherlands (Amsterdam, Utrecht)
- 🇵🇱 Poland (Krakow, Warsaw)
- 🏴 Scotland (Edinburgh, Glasgow, Glencoe, Loch Ness)
- 🇸🇰 Slovakia (Bratislava)
- 🇸🇮 Slovenia (Lake Bled, Lake Bohinj, Ljubljana)
Honestly, all the planning, travelling and rushing of assignments was exhausting. On top of that, my internship was due to start in less than 24 hours upon landing in Singapore. All in the name of maximisation or perhaps just me being kiasu. Here’s how you can conquer 14 countries in 4 months too:
1. Strategise Your Class Attendance
The most important thing is knowing how many lessons I needed to attend to pass. Lucky for me, my module requirements were on a “pass or fail” basis. Of course, I didn’t want to fail any of them and then retake again in Singapore.
My classes required 75% attendance, which means I could only afford to miss 3 out of 12 weeks of class. Some of my friends from other courses had it easier – they only needed 50% attendance, so you could imagine how often they were out exploring compared to me 😩.
On the bright side, as a Communications major, my modules don’t usually have finals, so that gave me extra time for travelling.
2. Arrange Your Module Timetable
I chose a university which offered more communication courses, so I’d have more options in terms of interest and timetable flexibility.
Though I selected and matched my modules before departing, some modules were no longer offered upon my arrival at the host university, and I had to replan my module timetable.
For three consecutive days, I visited the course coordinator office to arrange my modules. I managed to squeeze all my five modules into three days, which freed up four uninterrupted days to travel. My timetable looked like this:
- Monday: Free
- Tuesday: 9am to 5pm
- Wednesday: 12pm to 4pm
- Thursday: 9am to 4pm
- Friday: Free
- Saturday: Free
- Sunday: Free
3. Plan Your Route
If you’re going for a long trip, plan the flow of your destinations well to save time and money. After my 12 weeks of term time, I travelled in this order: France, Germany, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary and then Slovakia – all in four weeks. While planning, I also ensure that I kept these solo travel safety tips in mind.
In short, the map will be your new best friend 🗺. If you’re unsure about how to start, here’s a simple 10-step guide to kickstart your solo trip planning.
4. Know Your Transport Options
And of course, I had to plan all the plane/train/bus rides in between. Always compare all your transport options before booking. Sometimes, a flight could cost just a little more than a bus ride, but overall it’d save you a lot of travelling time ⏰.
I took a 10.5-hour bus ride from London to Glasgow, which cost SGD $30.31. However, for my return trip, I took a 1.5-hour flight back to London from Edinburgh and it only cost SGD $18.25. The flight’s even cheaper in this case. When booking transportation, always double check your bookings to make sure you don’t end up with a ghost flight.
Keep a lookout for various transportation costs to different cities and be flexible with your routes! I often used Omio to compare the costs for the different transport options, and relied on National Express (United Kingdom) and FlixBus (Europe) for my go-to bus operators. Student discounts are always available, so always have your student pass on you.
5. Organise Your Finances
On my 13-hour flight and 1-hour bus ride to the host university, I held on to the cash envelope for dear life.
Upon arrival, I applied for a local bank account at the bank branch in the university. I was made to apply for a Bank Letter first, to prove that I was a student staying on campus (that took five working days to process). However, there were discrepancies with my ‘first’ and ‘last’ names, and I had to reapply multiple times to finally open my bank account 🙄.
I also (painfully) kept an expense tracker excel sheet, but till date I’m still not sure how much I had spent, partly due to the leftover currencies I collected from my Europe tour.
Unfortunately for me, YouTrip hadn’t launched back then. I could’ve avoided the trouble of monitoring exchange rates daily and dealing with leftover currencies (which I’ve since stashed away untouched).
Nonetheless, it was an amazing and eye-opening experience for me to be able to travel Europe while on overseas exchange. Looking back, though the excessive planning was tiring, I know I wouldn’t have done it any other way. Exchange maximised? Check! 💪
Enjoy a worldwide fees-less travel experience!