Traveling is the biggest aspect of a study abroad experience. Although academics should also be a focus, I feel that many people go study abroad to then travel to other places. Of course I encourage it but before you plan out your whole “study abroad semester travel extravaganza” here’s a couple of things to consider.
Now Europe is smaller than the U.S. in terms of getting around, but it’s still a sizeable continent. A lot of non-european students feel that it’s something you can cross in a matter of hours, that’s not the case. Thankfully Mannheim is very centrally located, but it still takes time to travel to major cities like London, Paris, Berlin, and Prague. A lot of people think they can easily make a weekend trip to these locations from Mannheim, it’s possible but not ideal. I would advise in leaving a whole day for traveling to and from those cities. What becomes a weekend visit could only end up in a day worth of sightseeing. If you only have the weekend to work with I would suggest to stay in the region. For example, from Mannheim weekend trips to Stuttgart, Frankfurt, and Cologne are easily doable. If instead you have three or more days off then cities further away can be visited.
Next thing is to make sure that you know your budget. Although being the most effective ways of traveling, trains are extremely expensive in Germany. You can easily spend over 200 euros to travel to Berlin or Paris from Mannheim. Flying is an alternative, especially with low cost companies such as Ryanair connecting a lot cities within Europe. Problem is that flights are only cheap if booked several weeks in advanced and reaching the low cost airport from Mannheim is another expense. Busses offer the cheapest alternative but are way too slow. Thankfully accommodation can be inexpensive if you sleep at hostels. Hostels are plentiful in Europe and I’ve spent no more than 20 euros a night for a bed. Try to spend as little as possible on transportation and lodging because that leaves you with money to spend on food and attractions. Often my friends opted out of doing stuff when we were visiting because they overspent on their transportation. It’s a shame to get there and not have enough money to do the things you want to do.
You want to visit everything, right? You have a map with countless red x’s marking cities you want to visit. Well unfortunately you can’t see everything. Make sure you prioritize the places you do want to see. Too many people try to overreach themselves. I can personally say that after traveling for three weekends in a row, a free weekend is needed. It’s okay if you don’t cover everything. It’s not the quantity but the quality of your travels that counts.
Lastly, don’t think that you have to travel somewhere because everyone else is going. Make your own plans. I’ve often found that the less traveled places are more enjoyable to visit. Don’t be afraid to go explore by yourself either. (picture of the Irish Sea from the cliffs near Howth, Ireland)