How to Survive Your First Week in Europe

Andrea Bomkamp is a student at the University of Kentucky and a current ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Prague, Czech Reublic. 

Just over a week ago, I said a tearful goodbye to my family and friends at the Cincinnati airport before jetting off to Prague, Czech Republic. As I hugged my family, kissed my boyfriend, and gave my dog one last pat on her adorable, fluffy head, I couldn’t have imagined what the first week in this new place might bring. I’ve written down the following tips and guidelines to help you, dear reader, learn from my failures and successes.

1. Prepare, starting with your flight.

When it comes to your luggage and your flight, it never hurts to be careful. Below are a couple of suggestions for starting a great trip from the moment you take off:

  • Keep a list of everything in your suitcase as you pack. If the airline loses your luggage, you’ll know exactly what’s missing.
  • Recognize what you will and won’t need. I might never wear that extra t-shirt, but a scarf would have been really useful in the sub-freezing temperatures I encountered in Prague.
  • Weigh your bags. Nothing is worse than rooting through your underwear in the middle of the airport trying to remove just enough to hit the 50 pound mark.
  • Make sure your phone, wallet, passport, and boarding pass are easily accessible, but still safely zipped up.

2. Know what your body can handle.

If you never stay up until the wee hours of the morning dancing the night away at home, now is perhaps not the best time to start. You’ll exhaust yourself and wind up stuck in bed with a nasty cold. I learned this one the hard way. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t go out and have a great time, but you must also realize that you just hurled your body over the ocean in a glorified tin can full of other people’s germs. And you probably didn’t sleep well in the process. Adjust your plans accordingly.

3. Take ALL of the most indulgent selfies.

This is your trip abroad, and nobody can tell you that your picture in front of the John Lennon wall is “basic” or “extra.” You’re in Europe, for crying out loud! Europe knows no “extra.”

So what if it’s touristy? I love my photo in front of the John Lennon Wall!

4. Focus on making friends and knowing your city.

This one can be tough, especially the first week. Everyone wants to start planning trips elsewhere before they’ve even dropped their bags in their brand new apartment. For now, focus on getting acquainted with your new city and your new friends.

This is the gorgeous façade of the St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague. Take every opportunity to go on free tours in your city and meet new people!

5. Stand still and be in awe.

This week has been a crazy whirlwind of socializing, planning, touring, and squeezing in the occasional nap. However, my favorite moments haven’t been spent rushing from place to place, but standing quietly and appreciating the beauty of my new home. Of all the things you might forget to pack, make sure you take your sense of awe with you when you embark on this new adventure.

Take your time. Take a deep breath. Take it in.

The world awaits…discover it.

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