Must See European Destinations in 2019

luggage

We've officially decided that 2019 will be the year of visiting the less frequented destinations in Europe. So after you've visited Paris, London, and Venice and the other amazing and more popular cities in Europe, take a look at our recommendations for your must see European destinations for 2019.

Krakow, Poland

Krakow, Poland

Recently, the word has gotten out about how incredible Krakow is and why it should be on everyone's travel bucket list. Visit the Rynek Glowny Square in the center of town that is one of the biggest squares in the world and the Wawel Royal Castle complex. For those interested in World War II and its history, there is the Auschwitz-Birkenau nazi concentration camp 45 minutes outside the city.

Interlaken, Switzerland

Interlaken, Switzerland

This picture perfect small Swiss town in the middle of the Alps is the ultimate destination in both summer and winter months. The adrenaline and adventure capital of Europe has something for everyone and you won't want to spend a moment of your time indoors. This destination is situated between the bright blue Lake Thun and Lake Brienz and from Interlaken you can take a train to Jungfraujoch, which is the highest railway station in Europe.

Bruges, Belgium

Bruges, Belgium

Often called the "Venice of the North," Bruges is a short train ride away from Brussels and is a fairytale city with miles of canals running throughout. Climb the Belfry Tower to get sweeping views of the city, and a good workout as you'll have to hike up 366 to get to the top! We recommend visiting the Church of Our Lady, which contains Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child statue.

Porto, Portugal

Overall, we think beautiful Portugal needs more love and there are plenty of incredible places to visit. For 2019, we suggest heading to Porto, which is Portugal's second largest city. This colorful city has a plethora of gardens, palaces, and cathedrals such as the Church of São Francisco. Don't leave before sampling some local port wine and tour the cellars.

Why You Should Already be Planning For 2020 Study Abroad Programs

calendar, 2020 planning

As 2018 comes to a rapid close, it's natural to starting looking ahead to the new year and what 2019 may bring. For those of us that work in the study abroad and international education industry, the end of 2018 means that we should already be looking to 2020 and beyond.

If you haven't started already, now is the time to begin the planning of your 2020 study abroad programs. You should be in the process of organizing any included program field trip logistics, as well as any optional travel you will be offering to your students. If you're not yet convinced, we've compiled our list of three irrefutable reasons why starting to finalize your plans for your 2020 programs right now will be the best decision you make this year.

1) More Availability and Flexibility

Accommodations

If you don't find yourself often organizing group travel, you may not know that many accommodations sell out for the high season a full year or more in advance. So while it you may think you're being overzealous to plan your June 2020 program's travel a full year and a half in advance, you are actually right on schedule.

By planning your program and organized travel further in advance you will have a greater variety of options with more availability to choose from and therefore, you will afford yourself more flexibility before your plans are finalized. As the saying goes, early bird gets the worm or in this case, the best accommodation options!

Itineraries

Like any complex project, designing a study abroad program and the included or optional travel for students will likely go through many iterations before you finalize your plan and itinerary. The later you start the planning process the fewer options you will have and thus, less flexibility. Don't lose the chance to create the ideal program by waiting around, and instead you can start planning today.

2) Additional Time For Recruitment

A common request we receive from our partners is assistance in recruitment for their programs, so we're familiar with the process and the work that goes into student recruitment. Although program recruitment shouldn't be a daunting task, many study abroad professionals are constantly juggling a variety of responsibilities simultaneously and there can be a sense of urgency in recruiting a minimum number of student participants in order to run the study abroad program.

If a study abroad program is finalized far enough in advance, this allows staff to their begin recruitment a sufficient amount of time in advance of the program deadline, which leads us to our next point.

3) Less Stress

Although we can't guarantee this one, we can say with a high level of confidence that starting to plan for your 2020 programs now, will help you be less stressed in the future. If you allot more time into your timeline for planning, decision making and final approvals you will likely be less stressed and can relax knowing that all the details have been handled far enough in advance.

If you're ready to glide into the new year feeling confident about your programs in 2020 and beyond, we would love to chat about how we provide assistance to your and your program. Enter your information below and we can set up a time to talk about your needs.

3 Best Cultural Weekend Trips From Rome

Tiber River, Rome,

Studying abroad in Rome is an incredible experience for students and affords them the opportunity to explore the Eternal City and everything is has to offer. Rome is a well-connected city with trains, buses and planes taking you wherever you would like to go. The central location of Rome allows students to travel with ease to all of the unique locations within Italy during their time abroad.

Based on our 15 years of experience in the student travel industry, we've compiled our list of the top three cultural weekend excursions to take with your students from Rome.

The Amalfi Coast

Located nearby the port city of Naples, the Amalfi Coast is overflowing with stunning views, amazing seafood and a storied history. There are many beautiful towns to choose from along the gorgeous coast, but we have narrowed down our four cities that you can't miss when planning your trip.

Must See Cities

Sorrento

Sorrento is the last stop at the end of circumvesuviana train which takes you along the coast from Naples, passing by Pompeii on the way. The history of this city dates back more than 2000 years and previous inhabitants include the Greeks and Romans. The city boasts a quaint downtown area full of shops and restaurants and when visiting Sorrento you can't miss the gorgeous sunset.

Positano

When you think about the Amalfi Coast, a picture of colorful buildings stacked into the cliffside are most likely what comes to mind. This famous city is none other than the captivating town of Positano. Visit the 300 meter long Spiaggia Grande, which is one of the longest beaches in the entire Amalfi Coast or climb the 2,000 steps to the top of the town to see the gorgeous view from above.

Capri

The stunning island of Capri was originally a Greek colony before becoming a resort (Capreae) destination of Roman emperors in the early years of the Roman Empire. The island is home to the world-famous Grotto Azzurro, the Blue Grotto. Be sure to pick up a bottle of their delicious limoncello made from lemons grown on the island.

Pompeii

This UNESCO World Heritage site is well-known for being destroyed by a volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., which resulted in the entire city being covered in volcanic ash. Tour guides paint a picture of daily life of the city before its demise as the city was discovered to be well preserved underneath the ash with many of the buildings and artifacts still intact.

Florence

Known as the Cradle of the Renaissance, Florence is a beautiful city located in the center of the region of Tuscany and is home to beautiful architecture, art and history. Florence was first founded around the 1st century BC as a Roman military colony and grew to be a thriving hub of commerce and learning during the Renaissance.

Top Sites

Cathedral of Florence, Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

Towering over the cityscape, the Cathedral is an incredible architectural achievement built in Italian Gothic style. The large dome was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi and is a testament to his mastery of technical knowledge in 1436.

Piazzale Michelangelo

This spot affords visitors a sweeping view of Florence and is a perfect location to catch a sunset. If you don't believe us just check out the amazing views in our photo above.

Michelangelo's David

A trip to Florence would not be complete if you don't visit the world famous Michelangelo's David. Housed in Accademia Gallery, the David is a commanding 5.16 meters tall and carved out of a single block of Carrera marble by Michelangelo in 1504.

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is located in the Northern Italian region of Liguria and is comprised of five small villages along the coast. The hiking trails that connect each town are a protected National Park and UNESCO World Heritage site. We highly recommend visiting all five towns and eating delicious seafood while taking in the sweeping views.

Our Favorite Towns

Manarola

The second town from the La Spezia train station is a picture perfect village with colorful stacked houses and crystal blue waters. Here you can capture gorgeous photos along the walkway (like our photo above) before swimming in the waters below.

Vernazza

Vernazza is the fourth town in Cinque Terre and is also home to colorful stacked buildings. We recommend grabbing a slice of pesto pizza as pesto originates from Liguria!

Monterosso al Mare

The last and largest of the five towns is Monterosso al Mare. Here you can visit the Church of San Giovanni Battista which was built in the 1200s and is located in the main square of the old town.

What is your favorite Rome weekend trip? Share your experiences in the comments below.

5 Must-See World War II Sites in Europe

Auschwitz II - Birkenau
Auschwitz II-Birkenau

The second great war left a permanent mark on the world, and particularly Europe where a majority of the conflict took place. The impacts of World War II can be seen across Europe and serve as a reminder of the gravity of the war and tragedy that ensued. Today, these sites can be visited to gain a greater understanding of what happened over seventy years ago and provide the context of what students learn about in their textbooks and classroom lessons. Discover our list of the five most impactful and must-see World War II sites in Europe.

1. Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp – near Krakow, Poland

Auschwitz Concentration Camp - outside of Krakow, Poland
Auschwitz I Concentration Camp

Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp is located 45 minutes outside of Krakow, Poland and was one of the deadliest Nazi death camps. Entrance to the grounds are free, but we highly recommend booking a tour to learn more about the people who perished here and how the camp operated during the war. The concentration camp was in operation from May 20, 1940 until it was liberated by Soviet troops on January 27, 1945. Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau is incredibly chilling and elicits a emotional response that can’t be explained until you experience it for yourself.

2. Normandy Landings, D-Day – Normandy, France

Omaha Beach, France
Les Braves Omaha Beach Memorial

The beaches of Normandy, France are the site of historic D-day which took place on June 6th, 1944. D-day marks the beginning of the Battle of Normandy which lasted from June 1944 until August 1944. An estimated 2,000 American troops lost their lives storming the beaches and thousands more were wounded or missing in action. Today, you can visit the Les Braves Omaha Beach Memorial, the sculpture was created by Anilore Banon and consists of three specific elements explained by the sculptor.

The Wings of Hope

So that the spirit which carried these men on June 6th, 1944 continues to inspire us, reminding us that together it is always possible to changing the future.

Rise of Freedom

So that the example of those who rose against barbarity, helps us remain standing strong against all forms of inhumanity.

The Wings of Fraternity

So that this surge of brotherhood always reminds us of our responsibility towards others as well as ourselves. On June 6th, 1944 these men were more than soldiers, they were our brothers.

3. Site of Battle of the Bulge – Bastogne, Belgium

Mardasson Memorial

In one of Hitler’s final offensive attempts, the Battle of the Bulge was the deadliest and most desperate battle of the war in the west in the heavily forested Ardennes in the Nazi’s attempt to reach Antwerp. The battle took place from December 16, 1944 until January 25, 1945. The line defining the Allied front took on the appearance of a large bulge, which is the reason for the name of this historic battle.

The Mardasson Memorial, pictured above, is a monument honoring the memory of American soldiers wounded or killed during the Battle of the Bulge. There is also the Bastogne War Museum, which provides a picture of how the civilians lived during the occupation, during the battle, and afterwards. The consequences of what was one of the most impactful and deadly battles bring this part of history to life.

4. Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe – Berlin, Germany

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

The memorial was designed by New York architect Peter Eisenman and opened in 2005 in the center of Berlin as a place of remembrance and warning of the atrocities of the mass murder of Jewish peoples across Europe throughout World War II. The exhibition at the Information Centre documents the persecution and extermination of European Jews as well as note the historic sites where the crimes took place.

5. Normandy American Cemetery – Colleville-sur-Mer, France

Normandy American Cemetery

The Normandy American Cemetery covers 172.5 acres and contains the graves of 9,385 American military, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and subsequent battles. There is also the Walls of the Missing, on the east side of the memorial which contains the names of 1,557 soldiers who remain missing in action. This site is the first American cemetery on European soil in WWII. The perfectly aligned white crosses allow visitors to take in the tremendous impact the war had and reflect on these events that took place.

7 Electronic Gadgets to Bring on Your Study Abroad

Studying abroad and traveling are made easier and stress-free thanks to the many advance in technology and the useful gadgets we have available to us. Review our list of seven electronic gadgets to add to your packing list for your travels abroad.

Unlocked Smartphone

If you want to be able to use your phone abroad, we would not recommend paying for an international plan with your American provider. These plans are often times costly and provide questionable service in Europe. Instead, have your phone carrier unlock your phone so you can pop in a European sim card. European phone plans are typically less expensive than American plans and you can pay on a monthly basis for as low at €10 or €15 a month for internet data and calling. Using an European sim card abroad is even easier now that most plans allow your phone to work in all countries within the European Union.

Portable Charger

A portable charger is the the electronic gadget you didn’t realize you need, and once you have it you won’t know how you lived without it before. Portable chargers allow you to charge all your electronics on the go so you can travel stress-free and not have to worry about finding an open outlet to charge your phone or camera.

Universal Adaptor

A universal adaptor allows you to bring one useful adaptor abroad that will work in all the destinations you travel to. Be sure to purchase a converter if your electronic chargers are not dual voltage, as this will convert the voltage without frying your device.

E-Reader

If you’re planning on reading while you’re abroad, paper books will take up too much precious luggage space that you can’t afford to lose. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read during your time abroad, so an e-reader is a perfect solution. Amazon Kindle has several different e-readers at various affordable prices, and typically the e-books are cheaper than their paper counterparts for those on a budget.

Luggage Scale

There are few things more stressful when traveling than being worried that your luggage is overweight. You don’t want to be surprised by an overweight luggage fee at the airport, so do yourself a favor and purchase a luggage scale in advance of heading abroad.

Noise-Canceling Headphones

Noise-canceling headphones are an absolute lifesaver for studying and traveling abroad. Whether you want to block out noise and distractions while studying or be able to fall asleep easily while on the train or bus to your next destination, invest in quality noise-canceling headphones and thank us later.

Action Camera

The reality is that there are certain places and activities we would not recommend bringing your phone, such as swimming the ocean or hiking up a mountain. Get yourself an action camera that is built to withstand the elements so your memories aren’t limited to where you’re able to take your phone.

3 Risk Management Procedures Your Study Abroad Program Needs

risk management meeting

While there are a number of benefits and valuable experiences to be gained from studying abroad, there are also inherent risks that students and programs are exposed to. In order to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for your students, learn about the three must-have risk management procedures.

 

Require Travel and Medical Insurance

Many study abroad programs include a certain level of travel and/or medical insurance, but it’s important to ensure that your students are fully covered when they head overseas. To guarantee that your students are adequately equipped with travel and medical insurance, your program or university can offer full-coverage options or require that students provide proof of insurance before they depart.

Options students can consider:

  • Speak with your current insurance provider to see if they include international coverage, or if it is possible to add this on for an additional cost during the duration of the program.
  • The International Student Identity Card offers Basic, Premium and Explorer level cards with varying coverage. This card also offers the benefit of student discounts in over 130 countries.
  • Research supplemental insurance plans for your time abroad. There are many insurance providers who specifically provide additional insurance for traveling abroad.

Include Safety Training in Program Orientation

For a large percentage of study abroad students, their time abroad will be their first experience living in a foreign country. It is an essential responsibility of the study abroad program staff or professors to provide the necessary information in regard to safety and legalities students should be aware of during their stay.

Recommended included trainings:

  • Provide an introduction to the local laws and customs. Study abroad students should not be in situations where they are in hot water simply because they were uninformed of the laws within their host country and city. Educate your students on the major legal differences that need to be aware of most.
  • Present an overview on tips and relevant information for traveling safely within the country and throughout Europe. Many students will be traveling during their time abroad, which is a different experience than traveling throughout the U.S., so including helpful information on how to travel safely is crucial.

Have Staff Available 24/7

Having program staff available via a 24/7 emergency phone line, for both students and parents, ensures that your program is accessible to handle any problem that may arise. The staff member on call can address the issue immediately or escalate through the organization’s emergency protocol when necessary.

 

Have questions about risk management for your specific program? Contact us.

How to Travel Europe With Your Study Abroad Students (Travel Industry Secrets Revealed)

London students

Among the many reasons why students choose to study abroad, we can confidently guess that a desire to travel and see the world is at the top of the list for a majority of study abroad students. As a study abroad professional or professor working with students studying in Europe, it is valuable to leverage your unique position to incorporate supplemental travel into your program or coursework. If you’re wondering how you can travel Europe with a group of students, we’re sharing our top tips and industry secrets on organizing group travel within your study abroad country or to other countries within Europe or North Africa.

Plan Ahead

This one may seem obvious, but we felt obligated to include it on our list. Planning ahead is the best way to secure your ideal itinerary for group travel. You may have been told that you are unable to book certain aspects of your travel prior to a specified date, but that should not stop you from obtaining quotes and estimated costs before you are able to confirm all the details. The further in advance that you can plan your travel, the better the likelihood that there will be availability for your group for accommodation, transportation, tours and sight visits, and anything else you want to include.

Planning ahead also allows time for any necessary internal reviews and approvals by your program or university. Typically, in order to receive approval for your group travel your organization is going to want to see an itinerary and the associated costs that are as finalized as possible before giving you the greenlight.

Take Advantage of Student or Group Discounts

Fortunately, many sights and museums that you will want to visit with your students will offer a student or group discount. This can help offset any cost or budget restrictions you are facing when planning your travel. Often times student discounts will apply if all students have their student ID when traveling, otherwise you can look into international student discount cards such as the International Student Identity Card, which they can then use during their independent travels as well to save some valuable euros.

Consider Alternative Transportation and Accommodation Options

Although we all appreciate a 4-star hotel, for student group travel you may be able to find better options that have all the necessary amenities for your students and yourself. A great option for group travel is hostels, which can provide private or shared dormitory options in top knotch locations and very comfortable amenities. Considering that you will likely only be in your accommodation to sleep and have breakfast in the morning, hostel pricing can be a huge budget-saver for your travels. Another option to consider is accommodations that may not be directly in the city-center, but are close to fast and easy public transportation.

When it comes to alternative modes of transportation, private buses and trains can provide immense cost savings for your group. Additionally, with the prevalence of low-cost airlines in Europe, if you are able to book for your group far in advance you may be able to secure your tickets at unbeatable pricing. In sum, when it comes to transportation and accommodation for your group travel, don’t limit your options and seek all possible alternatives that will fit your schedule and budget without compromising on experience and quality.

Don’t Be Afraid To Negotiate

This tip may make you feel uncomfortable having to barter over price for your group travels, but the potential cost savings are worth it, we promise. When it comes to accommodation, transportation, group meals and tours, there is often times some wiggle room for negotiating a group rate with the provider. Whether you’re able to have breakfast be included with the nightly room rate, or having unlimited beverages included with your group dinners, these seemingly small costs can add up so speaking with the provider about throwing in some added-value is a big help.

Smart business owners know that if they’re willing to work with you on these small concessions that you will be more likely to come back to them for future trips and build a lasting partnership. Building relationships with partners in Europe is a great way to make planning your group travel simpler and more comfortable in the future.

Partner With a Tour Operator

If you don’t have experience planning student group travel in the past, the process can seem like an endless list of to-dos on top of your existing responsibilities for your position. Even the most seasoned independent traveler may not be familiar with the process of organizing travel for a group, big or small. There are many details to consider to ensure a smooth travel experience that provides the best trip possible for you and your students.

You can find an operator or provider who can provide as much or as little support as you desire. Whether you want them to organize just transportation and accommodation, or would like for them to plan the entire travel experience, tour operators are a great option for those who want to ensure the details of the travel are handled. Additionally, many operators are able to secure better rates for your group due to their experience in the industry. If you’re interested in learning more on how to select the right tour operator for your group travel, we’ve mapped out the 4 steps to selecting the partner that is right for you on our blog.

If you’re interested in speaking with us about planning your group travel, contact us today for a complimentary consultation.

5 Overlooked Destinations in Europe (and What To Do There)

If you’re planning your program in Europe and want to visit destinations that are overlooked or less ‘touristy’, we understand and we’ve got you covered. We’ve compiled a list of 5 destinations in Europe that you may not have considered before, but are just as incredible as the more frequented cities.

1. Budapest, Hungary

Hungarian Parliament Building
Hungarian Parliament Building

Although Budapest is becoming a more popular destination amongst Europeans, it is still a less common destination in Europe for American tourists. With a storied history, Budapest has connections dating back to the Roman Empire. The city as seen today was formed through the joining of Buda, Pest and Old Buda, in 1873. The story of the city does not end there, as Hungary was involved in World War II during which time Budapest was severely damaged.

Can’t Miss Sights

  • Hungarian Parliament Building – The world’s third largest parliament building and an example of stunning Neo-Gothic architecture.
  • Heroes’ Square The monument features the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars, who are thought to have led the Hungarian people from central Asia to the Carpathian basin.
  • Memento Park – Established in 1993, the park is home to many of the cities Communist era statues.
  • Citadella – Built by the Hapsburgs and sitting atop Gellert Hill, the former fort is now home to a museum.

2. Split, Croatia

St. Domnius Tower and Split
St. Domnius Tower and Split

If you’re looking to go to Croatia, check out Split instead of Dubrovnik. The city, situated on the Dalmatian coast, is home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Diocletian’s Palace. A tumultuous history led Split to once be held during various periods by the Roman Empire, Venice, Austria, and France. Part of the former Yugoslavia, Split became an official city of Croatia in 1992.

Can’t Miss Sights

  • Diocletian’s Palace – The 1700 year old palace is one of the most important architectural heritage of the Roman Empire.
  • St. Domnius Tower – Climb the tower 13th century tower for unbeatable city views.
  • Day Trip to Trogir – Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Trogir shares a storied history that is intertwined with that of Split.
  • Temple of Jupiter Originally, this was an ancient Roman temple dedicated to the king of the gods, Jupiter.

3. Bologna, Italy

Bologna, Italy
Bologna skyline

The capital of the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, Bologna, is often passed up for the more famous cities of Florence or Venice. Not to discredit how amazing Florence or Venice are, but Bologna is a must. This incredible region is home to parmigiano-reggiano and prosciutto. The history of this city dates back 3,000 years and has been touched by the Greeks, Phoencians, Etruscans, Gauls, Romans, Byzantines, Visigoths, and Lombards, so you could say there is a bit of a history to modern-day Bologna.

Can’t Miss Sights

  • Asinelli Tower – Standing taller than the Leaning Tower of Pisa, this 11th century tower is worth the 498 steps to the top.
  • ArchiginnasioThis famous site is home to the first seat of the University of Bologna, which is the oldest university of the Western world, founded in 1088.
  • Basilica Santuario della Madonna di San Luca – Perched atop San Luca, this sanctuary was built in the 18th century. It is connected to the city walls by the world’s longest portico, held up by 666 arches, beginning at Piazza di Porta Saragozza.

4. Valencia, Spain

Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe
Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe

The capital of both the province and autonomous community of Valencia, this less-popular Spanish city is located on the Mediterranean coast. Once a flourishing Roman colony, this city saw many rulers throughout its history and many of these influences can still be seen today.

Can’t Miss Sights

  • City of the Arts and SciencesPictured above, the ultra-modern structure was completed in 2005 and designed by Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava. It is the largest complex of its kind in Europe.
  • El Miguelete – Climb the tower to visit Miguel at the top, the famous 10-ton bell.
  • La Lonja de la Seda – A UNESCO World Heritage Site and beautiful example of Valencian gothic architecture.
  • Valencia Cathedral – Inside the cathedral you will find the Chapel of the Holy Chalice. The altar has a chalices that allegedly was used by Jesus to institute the Holy Eucharist at the last supper.

5. Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg, Austria
Salzburg skyline

Smaller and less popular than Vienna, Salzburg is just as incredible and you should know about it. The city is home to world-famous composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, born there in 1756. Like many European cities, Salzburg was not exempt from the impacts WWII and was heavily damaged during the conflicts, with over 50 percent of residences destroyed. You might recognize the city from its fame brought on by The Sound of Music, which was filmed here in the 1960s.

Can’t Miss Sights

  • Hohensalzburg Castle – Otherwise known as the Salzburg Fortress, the castle was originally built in 1077 and sits atop the city.
  • Mirabell Palace and Gardens – The beautiful gardens are open to visit and admire the Baroque masterpiece.
  • Mozart’s Birthplace – Now a museum, take a tour lasting about an hour through original rooms documenting Mozart’s life.
  • Salzburg Old Town – A UNESCO World Heritage Site, also called Altstadt, contains a large number of the city’s sights.