A big part of the reason I came to study abroad was to see Europe. Coming from Canada, I hadn’t actually been on a plane until January of this year, when I boarded at Pearson International Airport in Toronto Ontario to come to Limerick. As excited as I was to see all of the beauty Ireland had to offer, I was equally as excited for the weekends spent in other countries around the continent. So far, I have travelled to Copenhagen and Oslo, and I have trips planned for Amsterdam, London, Paris, and Edinburgh. The tricky part is to figure out how to make the most out of your weekends out of Ireland, because more likely than not, you will only be able to spend a couple days in the new city you are in before jetting back to Ireland to make it to your Monday morning class.
1. Make sure you are caught up on school.
Nothing can suck the fun out of a weekend away like the idea of that midterm that you haven’t studied for looming in the back of your mind, or knowing that the second you get back you have to write that eight page paper that’s due on Tuesday. Before leaving on your trip, make sure you have finished enough of your schoolwork so that you don’t have to worry about it while you are gone.
2. Do some research about the city or country you are visiting.
Know the major landmarks not to miss, the currency used in the country, and a couple key phrases in the native language before arriving. Order some currency from the bank a week or two before leaving in order to avoid paying 10 or 15% to the Currency Exchange kiosk in the airport. By knowing a couple landmarks you know you want to see, you can plan out your days to maximize the sightseeing experience. Knowing ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, ‘how much?’ and simple greetings can go a long way in attempts to communicate with locals.
Nyhavn in Copenhagen
3. Give yourself some time to just wander and explore.
Some of my favourite experiences on my weekend trips so far are the ones we just stumbled upon while walking around. My friends and I found a great market in Copenhagen and we ran into Joe Jonas (!!!), and ended up seeing the some of the biathlon in Oslo, both of which were unplanned and unscheduled in the trip. Planning definitely is good for some of the major things you want to see, but don’t plan out every second of every day. Some things work out best if you just let them happen on their own.
Market in Copenhagen
Biathlon in Oslo
4. Look for passes that can be bought to save some money.
In Oslo, my friends and I bought something called the “Oslo Pass” which you pay for once and can use for either 24, 48 or 72 hours, depending on which option you purchase. This gave us access to over thirty museums, allowed us to ride the bus for free, and gave us discounts on things like food and attractions. We actually got a really good discount and were able to go on a fjord cruise in Oslo. The lump sum at the beginning may seem like a lot of money to spend on one item, but it ends up saving a significant amount in the long run.
Oslo Fjord Cruise
Weekend trips with new friends can be an amazing way to see the world and get to know people really well. By following these simple tips, you can maximize your time, money and energy, making it an extremely well spent weekend.