Thursday, January 26, 2017

Traveling throughout Europe

                I’ve been back home in Hawaii for a few weeks now and I must say, it really does feel good to be back. I missed the Pacific Ocean, the warm air and, of course, the food. However, a large part of me really misses being able to travel around Europe and living in France. The longer I lived in France, the more it felt like home. Every time I would return to Nice after a trip to a different country, it always felt like I was coming home, not like I was just going back to France. The scenery is definitely different from Hawaii, but just as beautiful. But the thing about living in the South of France and in Europe in general is the ease of travel to different countries and cities.
Cote d'Azur, France
                The school I attended in France was much different than a typical university you would find in the United States. For one, although I am in my final year of my undergraduate studies, I was put in the Grand Ecole program in France, which is a five year program to attain a Masters degree. My host university also had other campuses throughout France, the United States, China and Brazil, so the professors would actually travel between the six campuses. This meant that our course schedule had to coincide with our professors’ travel schedules. So a typical schedule for a student would be to have the same class from 8-5 everyday for three days and then not have that class for another three weeks. I decided to put my free time (which I had a lot of) to good use by traveling to other countries and throughout France as well.

              In the four months I studied abroad in France, I was able to travel to 17 different countries. There were three main reasons as to why traveling was so easy in Europe. First, probably the most obvious, is the fact that European countries are so close to each other. Second, are the price of airline and train tickets and the availability of low-cost airlines. And third, is the Schengen zone, which I will explain later.
Disneyland Paris, France
                It takes about 40 minutes to fly from O’ahu to the Big Island. It also takes around the same amount of time to fly from Nice, France to Milan, Italy. I’ve also taken the train from Nice, France to Monte Carlo, Monaco that only took about 30 minutes. It’s so amazing that you can take a short nap on the train or the plane and end up in a totally different country. The longest flight I took in Europe was from Dublin, Ireland to Nice, France, which took about two and a half hours. And when you think about it, that’s not very long at all considering that it takes over five hours to fly from Hawaii to the nearest state in the United States. Shorter flights means there’s more time to explore and no time for any sort of jet-lag to set in. This makes day and weekend trips super worthwhile because you aren’t wasting so much time sitting on a plane or a train and instead are able to explore as much as you’d like. During the month of November, my boyfriend, who was also studying abroad in France, and I were traveling so much that we joked that we only came back to France to do our laundry.
                With all the traveling my boyfriend and I did throughout Europe, you’d think we were millionaires or something. However, that is definitely not the case. We once had a flight from Athens to Rome that cost a whopping 8 euros, roughly $8.50. Crazy, right?! Yeah, we thought so too. That is the beauty of the low-cost airline market in Europe. Airlines like Ryanair and Easyjet offer super-low fares throughout all of Europe. However, these low fares do come with a catch. These airlines have very strict baggage guidelines and may even charge for things like printing your boarding pass for you. Their planes are also not the most comfy or
Danube River, Budapest, Hungary
luxurious, but they’ll get you from Point A to Point B. I was on a 25 euro Wizz Air flight to Budapest where you were only allowed to bring a small backpack for free, anything else would be an extra fee. As we were boarding, I saw a man who got stopped because his backpack was just a little bigger than the dimensions that were allowed. The ticket agents demanded he pay a 50 euro fee or else he would not be allowed on the plane. So ridiculous. But that’s the price you have to pay for a cheap ticket. So no, you don’t have to be rich to travel through Europe, it can definitely be done on a college budget as long as you’re willing to give up a little comfort.
London, England, United Kingdom
                So, onto the Schengen Zone. The Schengen Zone is made up of several EU and Non-EU countries throughout Europe that have no border control at their mutual borders. This means that once your flight lands, you are free to proceed to baggage claim without having to stand through the torturous line that is passport control, as long as you are flying between two member countries. There are several EU countries that are not part of the Schengen Zone, such as Bulgaria, Croatia and United Kingdom (pre-Brexit). I swear when we flew into London we had to wait in the passport control line for at least an hour and a half, and once you get to the border patrol officer, they grill you with questions about where you’re going, where you came from, how long you will be visiting even to personal things like how much money you have in your bank account. It did make me feel safe to know they really were being thorough, but it was a pain to sit through a line that was longer than my flight.
                All in all, I believe all the traveling, exploring and experiences were totally worth it. Every country brought new experiences and a new place to grow fond of. I’m so glad studying abroad gave me the opportunity to travel throughout such a beautiful continent, I don’t think I can ever mimic the experience I had otherwise. Lastly, here are some photos from some of my favorite places I visited throughout this semester. Enjoy!
Santorini, Greece

Cliffs of Moher, Clare, Ireland

Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino, Monte Carlo, Monaco

No comments:

Post a Comment