In today’s world, students usually spent some time abroad, either on an international exchange program studying, or working in another country for a period of time. There does remain another option, which is to go on your own and just backpack around. The most popular place to go backpacking, of course, is Europe. There are pros and cons to both these adventures, as I have been lucky enough to have done both.
When you go backpacking in Europe, you will need a large sum of money to get you through until you get home again, as a lot of people go for up to four months. During this time, you need to take in to consideration paying for food, accommodation, and really consider the fact that you will be sleeping in hostels while sharing rooms with strangers. There would always be the option if you were going to be staying in one place, you could see about sharing a flat, but that is often not the case.
Assuming that you’re just backpacking around, the key thing is to have enough funds and to make the most economic choices. There is clearly a lot of going from place to place, which can get tiring after a while. While you’re traveling around, you to really need to keep close tabs on your valuables. Especially when you’re on your own, it is up to you to arrange accommodation transportation, food, and so on, so you have no other choice but be really careful.
However, if you were to study abroad and take part in a program like the one I’m in at Harlow, you would have a home base, your own room, and somewhere to keep your valuables. You could travel freely on the weekend and come back to a bed waiting for you without having five to twelve people in the same room. You get one meal a day at Harlow; access to a kitchen, while the residence is secure with locks and security working at night. While most hostels do have security, having your own room is a major bonus. Having worked abroad and lived in hostels, I would take an organized exchange program over backpacking any day.
While both adventures would roughly require the same amount of money, I would choose the set program with field trips built in, and option for weekend travel. The program has structure and organization, and allows you to study in another country while getting credit towards graduation. Most of all, generally most programs allow time for travel so you still able to do what you want to do. Thus, for me it is a no brainer. If you can take a semester abroad, don’t hesitate.