Travel

Why You Should Actually "Study" When You Study Abroad

In honor of just finishing up finals here in Barcelona (yes I know I'm leaving in a week, no you shouldn't bring it up), I wanted to do a little bit of a reflection post about why actually studying and learning while you're abroad are so important. 

The thing to understand if you decide to come abroad is to not expect to just be partying and living it up the entire time. Sure, it might be "the best semester of your life," but partying and going to the club every night are not the reason why.

The other thing to understand is that when I say "studying" and "learning," when you're abroad this doesn't just take place in the traditional classroom setting. Some of it does, but most of it actually happens on your own.

You control how much you learn and experience the world around you, which is something I want to convey in this post. So, without further ado, here's ten reasons why you should actually "study" when you study abroad.

 

1. You might actually learn a new language

 If Ben Stiller can do it, so can you!

If Ben Stiller can do it, so can you!

Nothing can quite compare to studying a foreign language in a foreign country that actually speaks that language. You can take as many Spanish classes in college as you want, but unless you go out and actually practice the language every day, you'll never fully understand it or be fluent in it.

When you study abroad (in a foreign language-speaking country), you have the opportunity to go out and practice a new language every day for a semester or longer. You also have the opportunity to take classes in that language. Even if you're in the lowest level speaking course, chances are that most of the class will be taught in that language. You can't get that kind of immersion anywhere else, so take advantage of it. 

 

2. You'll learn about the country you're staying in

  Photo courtesy of viajerosmadeinspain.com.

Photo courtesy of viajerosmadeinspain.com.

News flash, you're living in a foreign country for at least a few months. That country is different from your home country in about a trillion ways. A lot of the classes offered on study abroad programs are art, history, architecture or other subjects relating to that country. 

Why wouldn't you want to take advantage of learning about the country you're living in? Seems like a no brainer to me. Even if you don't like some of those subjects traditionally, give them a shot. You might find that you actually like them because of the way the class is taught (which is often the case in foreign countries) or because you get to see the subject up close every day when you walk around your city and can see what you're learning all around you.

Making those connections from what you learn in the classroom to the world around you is the best way to take more than a new drinking game away from your study abroad experience.

 

3. YOUR GRADES MIGHT ACTUALLY COUNT

  Gif courtesy of giphy.com.

Gif courtesy of giphy.com.

Might be a wake-up call to some people, but depending on the program you're on while you're abroad, those classes that you didn't ever go to might actually count toward your GPA back home. Pretty simple if you ask me. 

If you don't go to class, don't do any of your work and generally have an attitude of "I don't care, f– it," you might find that your GPA has taken a major hit when you get back. The bigger problem with that is that there's no one else you can blame beside yourself. So, suck it up, go to class regularly and you'll do just fine.


4. You'll meet new people

  Yeah, two Will Ferrell gifs back to back. So what? He's a funny dude. Gif courtesy of edgaralanfrog.tumblr.com.

Yeah, two Will Ferrell gifs back to back. So what? He's a funny dude. Gif courtesy of edgaralanfrog.tumblr.com.

One of the best parts about going abroad is that you're constantly meeting new people, almost every single day. They could be other people on your program, from your own school or different people from all over the world and that's pretty cool. You aren't going to meet all of those new people if you're holed in your apartment all day or hanging out/going out with the same people all the time. 

In actuality, a great place to meet a bunch of new people is in your classes. Hard to believe, I know, but if you go to class and make an effort to talk to different people each time, you'll end up making a bunch of new friends. 

 

5. traveling is learning, too

  Photo courtesy of uproxx.com

Photo courtesy of uproxx.com

It might not be the most traditional way to learn, but trust me that when you're taking one of your weekend trips somewhere, you're immersing yourself into a whole other culture. Even if you don't experience every museum or cultural activity a city or country has to offer, you still pick up on cultural cues and differences without even realizing it.

Then, your brain does this amazing thing where it actually compares and contrasts those cultural differences and cues with other ones you've experienced in your travels and with the ones from your home country. So, even if you decide to blow off a class to catch a flight you booked (sometimes while sitting in that same class), you're actually still studying another culture and constantly learning.

6. EMPLOYERS LIKE IT

  Gif courtesy of pinterest.com.

Gif courtesy of pinterest.com.

Believe it or not, a ton of employers place great value on potential employees who have studied abroad and actually have something to show for it. It's one thing to put on your resume that you studied abroad in Spain for four months, but it's another thing entirely to be able to articulate and explain your experience.

It gives you more anecdotes for interviews. You can explain how living in a foreign country actually helped you learn independence, how to overcome various obstacles, how to break out of your shell and how all the things you learned make you the best candidate for the job. 

If you can relate your experiences abroad to prospective employers in an effective way, they'll think really highly of you and your application.

 

7. you'll be more organized

  Ok, maybe not. Gif courtesy of Reddit.

Ok, maybe not. Gif courtesy of Reddit.

Even if you think classes aren't as difficult when you're studying abroad*, you're actually juggling a bunch of different things at once. You have to go to class and make sure you keep up with your work, but you also want to hang out with friends, explore your host city and country and travel as much as you can. It's a demanding schedule that really requires you to budget your time effectively.  

Also, all that traveling helps you to figure out important life skills along the way such as how to actually pack for a weekend away without your mom's help and how to budget your time when you're taking a trip somewhere and want to see all the sights but only have a certain amount of time.

Again, not learning that occurs in the classroom, but still important.

*Important side note: This is absolutely not the case. If you're studying abroad just to take easy classes, you're going to find yourself out of luck. Just like any other school, there are some classes that are easier than others, but there are still plenty of challenging classes that you might find yourself in.

 

8. you'll understand the value of time

  No time for BS here. Gif courtesy of giphy.com.

No time for BS here. Gif courtesy of giphy.com.

Going along with the organization and time management I just talked about (see number five right above if you already forgot), studying abroad helps you make the most of the time you have. A lot of classes abroad have hours that you may not be used to. For example, I had classes twice a week at the ungodly hour of 9am. I also had a four-hour Spanish class twice a week.

These might not be things that you're used to at your home college or university, but they do exist abroad. But, you learn to live with them. You actually might come to find that you like getting your day started earlier because it helps you be more productive the rest of the day. Or you might learn not to drink as much the night before you have a four-hour Spanish class. Things I couldn't seem to get a hang of, but you might!

As I touched on in the organization point also, you'll learn how to plan trips. So, you've only got 72 hours in Rome? No problem. Besides reading my weekend guide to Rome, you'll learn to plan the trip hour-by-hour just so you can see everything. That's an important skill to have that you can only learn if you travel a lot when you go abroad.

 

9. you'll understand the value of a dollar, euro or whatever

  Gif courtesy of inc42.com.

Gif courtesy of inc42.com.

One thing that becomes extremely apparent very early when you're studying abroad is that you're spending a butt-ton of money. If you haven't learned to budget your money in college, you sure as hell better learn when you study abroad.

Studying abroad also gives you familiarity with the values of other currencies and their relations to each other. You'll find yourself looking at exchange rates and analyzing economies more than you usually do just because you want to know the best time to go to the ATM so that you have enough money to eat, travel, shop, buy alcohol and go out at night.

Of course it helps when your parents are helping to finance your study abroad experience, but you should still work out a system with them, beginning before you go. You should talk about and agree on a weekly/monthly budget and you should do your best to stick to that budget. If you do, minus a splurge here and there, you'll be fine.

Again though, this is an experience that occurs outside of the classroom and often without you even realizing it's happening. However, it ends up being another extremely important life skill that you can learn really easily by studying abroad and paying attention.

And, most importantly...

10. you'll learn about yourself

  And he's 3/3 on the Will Ferrell gifs. Nailed it. Gif courtesy of confessions-of-a-barbie.tumblr.com. (Also, no, I did not actually visit that tumblr page.)

And he's 3/3 on the Will Ferrell gifs. Nailed it. Gif courtesy of confessions-of-a-barbie.tumblr.com. (Also, no, I did not actually visit that tumblr page.)

That's right, time to get #deep. When you study abroad, you're placing yourself into a situation that you've most likely never found yourself in before. You're living in a foreign country, you might not know anyone, there could be a language barrier and there will be a bunch of problems and obstacles along the way that you never thought you would have to face.

It forces you to do a lot of growing up and finding yourself in a very short period of time. By the end though, you'll emerge a completely different person than when you started. Not in a bad way, you're just more mature because you've faced all of these new challenges. Sure, they might have seemed scary or daunting at the time, but now little things like doing your own laundry don't even phase you. 

I guarantee you will end up meeting some incredible people along the way and some of those people are right by your side, experiencing all these new things with you. That means you'll almost never have to face things alone.

You'll look back on your study abroad experience as some of the best times of your life, and that's because you took the time to study, learn and to get to know yourself and the amazing world in which we get to live each and every day. 

 

 

My First Experience with the Spanish Laundry Process

I'm writing this post because one of the goals of this blog is to help you guys learn from my mistakes. I'm your "guinea pig" so to speak. Thinking of going abroad but not sure? Just arrived in a new destination and don't know where to start? I've got you covered.

But that doesn't mean that I'm not going to make a few mistakes along the way. So please, learn from me. It's the only way you're going to survive the crazy lifestyle associated with going abroad.

First thing you need to know now though is that I'm a procrastinator. We're talking big time here guys. That's probably the reason I'm a little behind in my posts and that this story happened about a week and a half ago. My bad. Sorry to keep you on the edge of your (toilet) seats.

But I'm a proud member of #ProcrastiNATION. An ambassador if you will. I work well under pressure. I like the thrill of finishing an assignment right before it's due or getting to the liquor store (supermarket in Spain and Europe) the minute before it closes.

Just kidding. It sucks. But it's the life I've chosen to lead, and if I can get past that, so should you.

The point of all this is that my procrastination pertains to many (if not all) walks of life. Including laundry. Oh, how I despise laundry. Especially when I have to do it myself.

*TO MY MOTHER AND FATHER PLEASE SCROLL PAST THE PHOTO BELOW AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE*

  My current pile. It's actually not that bad, kind of. I even pre-separated the whites and colors! If you have a problem looking at my dirty underwear, kindly leave. Photo by Max Siskind

My current pile. It's actually not that bad, kind of. I even pre-separated the whites and colors! If you have a problem looking at my dirty underwear, kindly leave. Photo by Max Siskind

I'm not trying to sound stuck up or snobby here, but doing your own laundry sucks. If given the opportunity, I know each and every one of you would let someone else do it. That's why, when I'm home, I have people for that. I like to call them Mom and Dad (love you guys!). 

Seriously though, I haven't done my own laundry since freshman year of college. Since that time, I've realized that I could strategically plan my visits home around my laundry schedule, oh the perks of the in-state student. I could pack enough clothes from the get-go or run out and buy a last second pack of underwear to get me through the home stretch.

My system was foolproof. That is, until I went abroad. You should know though that this isn't 100% my lack of laundry prowess. I've done laundry before, it's really not that difficult. I'm just dealing with a combination of laziness, wanting to do other things while I'm here to take advantage of this new and exciting environment and a stupid, f-ed up Spanish/European laundry process that takes countless casualties.

Let me quickly run you through how the process is supposed to go, if it had gone smoothly. Normally, you throw your clothes in the washing machine, with your detergent, press a couple buttons and you're good to go. You take your clothes out, move them to the dryer, throw in a dryer sheet, press another button or two and voila, fresh clean and dry clothes in a couple hours.

Not in Spain though. Oh no. You see, Spain (along with a bunch of other countries around the world) pokes a couple holes in that American-style process that I've become so accustomed to.

For starters, washing machines here can probably fit about one of my sweatshirts. Also, forget the dryer. That's right, just completely erase from your mind half of what you thought you knew about the laundry process. It doesn't exist here.

  See what I'm dealing with? Photo by Max Siskind.

See what I'm dealing with? Photo by Max Siskind.

I thought I could do this, I really did. And in reality, looking back it wasn't that bad. I'm just overreacting as usual, but still. Anyway, I actually had schemed to send out another guinea pig before myself, because I knew I wouldn't be able to figure out the washing machine. Shouts to my roommate Alec for being that guinea pig.

Alec figured out the machine and I set out to do my laundry a couple days after him. Now here's where the problems started rolling in. It was at this point that I came to the cold hard reality that I would have to wash more than what I originally thought would be about two loads. That basically got doubled to 4. But the cycles were only 25 minutes, so no worries, right? If only I could turn the damn thing on. 

Now, it was very nice of my apartment building, who commonly rents to American study abroad students, to include English instructions on the machine. Seriously, I applaud them for this. It would have been better, though if those directions:

a) applied to the laundry machine we actually had and

b) could actually be read by human eyes.

I took the following photo of those directions and no, the photo isn't blurry, but the photos of the washing machine and its various buttons sure as hell are.

  Now this is just getting ridiculous...Photo by Max Siskind.

Now this is just getting ridiculous...Photo by Max Siskind.

This was all solved pretty easily though. A quick Facebook message to my roommate and I was well on my way to desperately needed clean clothes.

Then another harsh reality hit once all the wash cycles were done. It was time to conquer the dreaded clothesline. Even more tragic, I was sitting on 4 loads of clothes with clothesline space for about two t-shirts and only a handful of plastic clothespins. So, it was time to get creative. Look below at the two treacherous clotheslines I was working with. Also, enjoy the beautiful, scenic views from my Barcelona apartment.

I doubled up with some clothespins, squeezed some extra t-shirts on there, experimented with different angles of hangitude (TM), utilized the second, even scarier clothesline off of another window in our apartment and didn't even think about putting my socks out there on either one.

Still, even with all of my hard work and determination, it deeply saddens me to share with you all the loss of four great pairs of underwear. If only I got to say goodbye. Their elastic wasn't even worn out yet! But I'm strong, so I know I'll get through this.

  The black abyss where my underwear probably lies. Photo by Max Siskind.

The black abyss where my underwear probably lies. Photo by Max Siskind.

So, as I said at the beginning of this post, please learn from me. Try some of these tips:

1. Avoid the clothesline at all costs. Invest in a rack you can leave inside. Your underwear will thank you. But beware of the longer time it's going to take to dry your clothes inside vs. outside.

2. Get to know your neighbors below you. They might end up having said underwear and you might get it back if you weren't terrified of human contact.

3. Try not to wait until the last minute to do your laundry. Even if you're a procrastinator like me, try to do it once a week. Otherwise, your clothes will never dry by the time you actually need them, so be prepared.

4. Get some nice clothespins. These are your best defense if you absolutely have to use the clothesline.

5. Just say screw it, ball out and get a dryer. 

  Even after all was said and done, a sock was still left unmatched. I guess some things about doing laundry never change, regardless of what country you're in. Photo by Max Siskind.

Even after all was said and done, a sock was still left unmatched. I guess some things about doing laundry never change, regardless of what country you're in. Photo by Max Siskind.

My Wild Day at La Sagrada Familia (The Church of the Holy Family)

If you're not familiar with La Sagrada Familia, then you're wrong. Just kidding, but you're seriously missing out. La Sagrada Familia is widely regarded as one of the largest (when it's finished) and most beautiful churches in the world. That's right, the world.

Unfortunately, as I just pointed out, it's not finished yet. However, a 60-minute documentary informed me it will be in about 13 years or so, give or take a few more architectural issues in interpreting brilliant architect Antoni Gaudí's designs.

While I'm not trying to give you a complete history lesson here, even though I could because I love history but realize that a lot of my readers give zero shits, allow me to give you some background. You see, Antoni Gaudí was a/the most brilliant architect in Barcelona (also debatably in Spain and the entire world) and was a genius whose style was at least a century before his time.

He was obsessed with nature and had a deep Biblical connection to the world around him. La Sagrada Familia, the famous church you've probably seen in photos when googling Barcelona, is his masterpiece, even though he knew there was no chance it would be finished in his lifetime.

Still more tragic, his life was cut short when he was hit while crossing the street. He was dressed simply because he only cared about the church in the final years of his life. Thus, he was mistaken for a homeless man and the driver that hit him left him on the side of the road to die. He was later found and recognized as the brilliant architect, taken to a hospital for the poor and died there a few days later.

There's a shit-ton more I could tell you about the church and Gaudí but you guys aren't here for that. You're here to find out what inevitably went down when I was visiting said church. Of course something had to happen, it's just my luck that I happened to be in the right place at the right time in this instance. But, let's break things up with our first photo of the iconic outside of the church for those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about:

  This is called the "Birthing Facade" and depicts the birth of Jesus. The facade on the other side, which you might think looks similar because of the towers, actually depicts Jesus' crucifixion and death. Gaudí only lived to see part of this facade completed. The other facade is much newer. Photo by Max Siskind.

This is called the "Birthing Facade" and depicts the birth of Jesus. The facade on the other side, which you might think looks similar because of the towers, actually depicts Jesus' crucifixion and death. Gaudí only lived to see part of this facade completed. The other facade is much newer. Photo by Max Siskind.

I had my audio tour headset in and dangling around my neck along with my Nikon D3200 to snap every single angle I could see. I was basically strangling myself because all the straps and cords were completely tangled. But remember, I did this all for you guys, so it's basically your fault. By association, you almost strangled me. Thanks. 

Also, I looked like the biggest dork/tourist ever. None of my newly acquired abroad friends wanted to be seen with me. And that's ok guys, I forgive you. I'm just kidding, they all looked exactly like I did, minus the bulky camera.

As it turns out though, I still took some dope-ass photos that I would love to share with you. The problem is, I took over 300. Sorry, I'm not sorry. Lucky for you, I was able to narrow it down a little bit to give you guys an accurate impression of one of, if not the, most beautiful things I've ever seen in my life so far. Let's break this up with one more photo before I tell you the crazy story of my day:

  One of the first photos I took of the inside of the church. Gaud í wanted the main columns to resemble trees to make worshipers feel like they were praying in a forest. That's where he believed man was closest to God. Photo by Max Siskind.

One of the first photos I took of the inside of the church. Gaudí wanted the main columns to resemble trees to make worshipers feel like they were praying in a forest. That's where he believed man was closest to God. Photo by Max Siskind.

Ok, so now that you've got a little taste of what I saw, let me tell you what really happened that awakened the journalist within me. You see, as I was walking around the interior of the church, completely awestruck and in a daze, something nuts went down.

A man, shirtless, jumped the velvet ropes surrounding the main seating area of the church, where people sit to pray and reflect. The man proceeded to sprint up the aisle and he jumped onto the main alter of the church.

That's right, the same place where Pope Benedict XVI consecrated and declared the church a basilica back in 2010. The man then got into his best "paint-me-like-one-of-your-french-models" pose on top of the alter.

The man was then immediately tackled by security and police, covered up and escorted out. I snapped a few photos of the aftermath that I'll share with you, but they're blurry because they were yelling at people with cameras and I didn't want to end up in a Spanish prison, so enjoy:

  The man being tackled and apprehended. Photo by Max Siskind.

The man being tackled and apprehended. Photo by Max Siskind.

  The man being carried out by police and security. Photo by Max Siskind.

The man being carried out by police and security. Photo by Max Siskind.

  They took the man to this area by the "Death Facade" entrance to the church and roped off the area like so. Photo by Max Siskind.

They took the man to this area by the "Death Facade" entrance to the church and roped off the area like so. Photo by Max Siskind.

  They told everyone to leave that area, so I went back inside the church, went around the side and there was a door with some windows. I looked through and snapped this shot. Shortly after, they placed a bunch of black tarps around that area and added more security around that area and the whole building. Photo by Max Siskind.

They told everyone to leave that area, so I went back inside the church, went around the side and there was a door with some windows. I looked through and snapped this shot. Shortly after, they placed a bunch of black tarps around that area and added more security around that area and the whole building. Photo by Max Siskind.

Shortly after that incident, life in the church returned to normal. I slipped back into my awestruck mode, snapped about 100 more photos and then we proceeded onto our tower tour. If you're coming to Barcelona and want to see La Sagrada Familia, I extremely recommend you go into one of the towers, it is one of the best parts.

 Proof that going up the towers is the bomb.com. You can see all the way to the mountains...

Proof that going up the towers is the bomb.com. You can see all the way to the mountains...

 ...and all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. Photos by Max Siskind.

...and all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. Photos by Max Siskind.

While the spiral staircase down is a bitch and a half, the elevator up is nice, you get to see those awesome views I just showed you and it only adds about 2 euros or so to your visit. Which, by the way, is very reasonably priced.

If you say you're a student on the La Sagarada Familia website, it should run you about 20 euros for the audio tour, entrance to the main church and a visit up one of the towers. Not too shabby if you ask me.

I'm glad I could share this with all of you and I hope it inspires you to see this incredible work of art/architecture. While I'm not Christian, I still apprecited how the church tells the story of the Bible in each and every ornamental detail.

Even though a lot of Gaudí's original molds that he left as a guide to future generations were destroyed in the Spanish Civil War, I like to think that the current architects and designers are fulfilling his legacy in the way that he wanted most.

Let's finish things up with a slideshow of more of the good photos that I have from my visit a little over a week ago. If you want to see more, make sure you click the "Contact" tab, send me a shout on Twitter or Instagram, or email me at studyabeard@gmail.com. I'll be sure to get back to you as soon as I can.

Making It Through A Long Flight Like A Boss

I remember when I was a little kid, I was always fascinated by airplanes. Mostly because I had never been on one, not yet anyway. That little kid had no idea the traveler I was to become in the near future.

After my first few times flying and my first few 5+ hour flights though, I realized that airplanes aren't really all they're cracked up to be. In fact, I kind of hate them and flying in general. It's cramped, the food sucks, there's too many movies to sort through, there's always (ALWAYS) kids and babies that coincidentally are seated right next to you and did I mention it's cramped?

Don't worry though. With these 10 tips, you'll be flying like a pro in no time.

1. SCHEME FOR AN AISLE OR WINDOW SEAT

For some airlines, there actually isn't a lot of scheming involved in this. You can pick your seat when you get on the flight, or pony up some dough for the seat you really want. But trust me when I say that you DO NOT want to be sitting in the middle of a row on a 3-4-3 plane with a screaming, crying baby on your right and an overweight guy on your left.

For a lot of airlines, you have to get your boarding pass 24 hours in advance, so make sure you're ready to go at your computer or phone the minute that time window opens. That will help you get the best seat possible.

Other airlines only give you a boarding "zone." Looking at you, Southwest. There's pros and cons to this, but the reality is the same, be ready to go when your ticket is available. Make sure you don't dawdle at the gate either. When they make the first announcement for boarding, get your ass in line so you can make the mad dash onto the plane and claim that highly coveted window or aisle seat.

  The aisle seat on my flight to London. Proximity to bathroom and leg room are the two major pros here. Ok, so maybe the proximity to the bathroom is a con, your call.

The aisle seat on my flight to London. Proximity to bathroom and leg room are the two major pros here. Ok, so maybe the proximity to the bathroom is a con, your call.

I also want to touch on the highly-debated window vs. aisle seat dilemma. I'm personally on #TeamWindow just because I like to look out and get the aerial view of my destination. It also helps to have the window and wall of the plane for sleeping purposes. I also like looking at clouds. Sue me. 

Are you #TeamWindow like me or #TeamAisle? Let me know in the comments here, tweet @StudyAbeard, or let me know on Facebook!

  The window seat on my flight to Barcelona. Can't beat that view of the Mediterranean Sea in my book. And the clouds! Which team are you? #TeamWindow

The window seat on my flight to Barcelona. Can't beat that view of the Mediterranean Sea in my book. And the clouds! Which team are you? #TeamWindow

I will say that I still appreciate the aisle seat, though. I'm a big guy and I like the extra leg room. Plus, there's the added bonus of "accidentally" tripping a flight attendant on the way down the aisle while you were "asleep" in your seat. No, I haven't done that...we should move on.

2. GO VEGETARIAN

We all know that airline food sucks. It's just a simple fact of life. However, there are a few ways to make it better. Pretty much every flight ever offers a vegetarian meal as an option. My flight to London offered a vegetarian pasta for example. 

I've found in my travels that, most of the time, the vegetarian meal is better than whatever else they're serving aboard the aircraft. The other option offered when I got the veggie pasta was some British delicacy called "cottage pie." I had no idea what that was, so that definitely factored into my decision to get the pasta, but it also looked gross. Let's just say that the guy sitting next to me who ordered it did not seem happy with his decision.

  Best photo I could find that looked similar to what the passenger next to me was eating. Seriously, what the hell is this? No thanks, I'll pass. Photo courtesy of simple.wikipedia.org

Best photo I could find that looked similar to what the passenger next to me was eating. Seriously, what the hell is this? No thanks, I'll pass. Photo courtesy of simple.wikipedia.org

Just go with the vegetarian option. I'm never the first one to suggest eating vegetables, but you and the airplane's restroom will be a lot happier if you do.

There's only one other way to make airline food taste better, and that leads me to my next tip...

3. DON'T SKIMP ON THE ALC

I'm serious. As someone who isn't the biggest fan of flying, this definitely comes in handy. This also obviously applies to international flights, where drinks are usually included and the drinking age is 18. While you're usually limited to two drinks, having some beer or wine on your flight can ease your nerves while you're in the air and can make that sixth movie you're watching all the more enjoyable.

Also, if you didn't know, you can actually take those little bottles of your favorite alcohol on the plane with you! They meet TSA requirements and you can put as many as you can fit into those clear, TSA-regulated-specific-size bags. You're welcome very much.

  Photo courtesy of imatravelninja.com

Photo courtesy of imatravelninja.com

4. HAVE GOOD TUNES

While I'm personally more of a fan of running through all the movies I can on a long flight, having good music is still really important. Remember that unless you want to pay for Wi-Fi on the plane, you're not going to be able to use streaming services like Pandora, Spotify or Soundcloud. This sucks because in today's world, most people stream their music when they want to instead of paying for it.

So, just a friendly reminder to download music before you go, especially if you're on a long flight. Those tunes will definitely come in handy in between movies or when you're trying to catch some Z's, but more on that later.

I personally go for Tropical House mixes and other relaxing music that you can download directly off SoundCloud. It helps me relax and fall asleep, but get whatever music floats your boat. Want to listen to what I'm listening to on a long flight? Check it out and see if you like it:

Also, please invest in some nice headphones. Watching you have Apple earbuds on for an eight-hour flight hurts MY ears, so please don't do it. I recently received the Beyerdynamic DT-770-PRO 32's as a gift, and they're the best headphones I have ever owned so far.

They're not gonna break the bank too badly either, so if you travel a lot some good cans are definitely a good investment. I'll make another post about headphones though in the near future, so I can help you out if you don't know where to start.

5. MOVIES, MOVIES, MOVIES

I talked about this a little bit already, but I'm a huge fan of movies and TV shows. Oh, you've seen something I haven't? Sorry, that's just not true. Anyway, long flights have basically they're own Netflix where you can search through different movies and TV shows to watch while you're soaring through the clouds.

The selection isn't always the greatest, but you should be able to find something you haven't seen before pretty easily. While I did spend some time watching about five episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm on my most recent flight, I usually opt for movies just for the simple fact that they take up more time.

  Stupid as hell, but the perfect example of a good airplane flick. Photo courtesy of wegotthiscovered.com

Stupid as hell, but the perfect example of a good airplane flick. Photo courtesy of wegotthiscovered.com

It's great because you'll most likely end up watching something you wouldn't see otherwise and you might be pretty pleasantly surprised to find that you actually like one of the stupid comedies you decide to watch.

My decision to watch Let's Be Cops turned out extremely well for me.

6. PILLS, PILLS, PILLS

Let me make myself extremely clear here. I am in no way at all condoning drug use and/or abuse. Additionally, I have never actually used any of the products I mention in this section. I'm simply going off of sources. All of that being said, if you really have a ton of flying anxiety or a hard time falling asleep, this may be a path you want to look into discussing with your doctor. 

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Over-the-counter sleep aids like ZzzQuil, or a Melatonin supplement can be really helpful for this. Alternatively, if you are prescribed by a doctor something stronger for anxiety or a sleep disorder, feel free to use that but please, please, please do not then take my advice from number three and drink alcohol with it!

Talk to your doctor before you go to see what the best options are for you.

7. TRACK YOUR FLIGHT

If you're sick of watching movies and TV shows (IMPOSSIBLE), consider checking out the other elements of your in-flight entertainment. I personally really like the flight tracker map option, where you can see the plane's path and other stats like how high up you are, the current temperature at your altitude, how far away you are from your destination (in miles and time) and how far away you are from where you started.

  British Airways in-flight entertainment system has a ton of stuff to do, including tracking your flight. Photo courtesy of ournewplanes.ba.com

British Airways in-flight entertainment system has a ton of stuff to do, including tracking your flight. Photo courtesy of ournewplanes.ba.com

It might not be the most interesting thing in the world, but it's something else to check out to help waste some time.

8. WALK AROUND

This one is great for when you're flying with a group of people you know, like my high school senior class trip to Denmark. If your friends are on your flight and the seatbelt sign is off, feel free to walk around the plane and go talk to your friends for a little bit. I guarantee they're just as bored as you are. Just make sure you don't bother everyone else on the plane too much by talking too loudly or moving around too much.

If you don't have friends on the flight, sorry you don't have friends but walking around the plane is still a good way to stretch your legs. Just try not to bother other people in your row by getting up too much if you are in a middle seat. Walking around the plane on a long flight can even prevent blood clots, so it's definitely worth a shot.

9. MAKE SOME FRIENDS

Don't have friends on your flight? No problem! I'm not personally one to chat it up with strangers, but if talking is your game, then go for it! You also should be aware though that other people in this world like to talk too. You may unfortunately be seated next to or near one of those people. If that's the case, be nice.

  Sure, go ahead and meet people. But don't rush into anything ya weirdo.

Sure, go ahead and meet people. But don't rush into anything ya weirdo.

They're probably just nervous about the flight and they probably don't have any friends on board either. If they're really bothering you, say something. But be polite, ease your way out of the conversation, put on your headphones that I demanded you buy earlier in this post and at least pretend to be watching or listening to something.

It's the least you can do.

10. GET SOME SLEEP

This is most important. I can't sleep on airplanes. It just doesn't work. I can't find the right position, I'm all cramped, I get hot and then I get cold and then I get hot again, I can't seem to figure out those stupid neck pillows, it's just not a good situation or a pretty sight.

  How I sleep on airplanes. (Also sorry about the poor quality of this gif, but you get the idea.)

How I sleep on airplanes. (Also sorry about the poor quality of this gif, but you get the idea.)

You still need to try, though. Otherwise, it's going to make adjusting to the time difference when you get to your destination much more difficult, I guarantee.

Next time you have a long flight, remember these tips to take it to the next level. No pun intended. Ok, it was kind of intended.

The Only App You Need When You're Abroad

I want to preface this post by saying that this is in no way, shape or form of an advertisement for or endorsement of TripAdvisor. If they were paying me to write this, you would be the first to know. Unfortunately, they're not paying me a damn cent.

But, this app is something you need to know about. If you're studying abroad, or just traveling to a new city in general, you need to download the TripAdvisor City Guides app A$AP ROCKY. Whether you're looking for some place to eat, a good club or bar or just want to see some sights, this app has it all.

  Don't waste your time with all those other travel apps, trust me. Photo courtesy of itunes.apple.com

Don't waste your time with all those other travel apps, trust me. Photo courtesy of itunes.apple.com

The best part though–it works offline. That's right, you don't need an Internet connection for this baby. I have no idea what sorcery TripAdvisor is using to do this, but it works great. You simply download the city you're going to on the app, and boom, everything's there. Right at your fingertips. 

It even has a "point me there" feature that gives you directions to where you want to go. Easy as pie.

So, if you have no sense of direction like myself, this app is going to save your ass more than a few times. Also, we prefer the term "directionally challenged."

Edit: Another fun fact, you can also save all the places you go into the app under the "My TripJournal" feature. This comes in handy to remember where all your favorite spots are and also lets you take notes on each spot if you're a hip blogger like myself. Or if you just like taking notes, don't worry your secret's safe with me.

Edit #2: Shout out to my friend Ben for the recommendation.