1. Embrace your inner tourist You just have to get it out of your system before you can snark at the other tourists later on in your degree. Grab a camera and a good guidebook and see all of the sights that made you want to come to this country in the first place. Plus we’ve compiled a very helpful guide to being a tourist in any city, so you’ve really got no excuse!
2. Get lost Once you’ve done all of the major sights, just wander around for a while without real direction. Follow a system like the ‘right, then left’ of the 19th Century flâneurs or just head in one direction. You’re guaranteed to find interesting sights missed even by natives, plus you will have a guaranteed head start when you end up drunk and lost in the city centre.
3. Find where the locals eat and drink Speaking of drinking, finding the local haunts early will save you both money and the disappointment that only expensive, watered-down drinks can bring. Avoid anywhere with an international look or with English signs if you’re in a non-Anglophone country. When you get drunker for far less money, you’ll thank me.
4. See the work of the country’s major artists All major student cities have at least one decent art gallery that will become a major friend to you on wet Wednesdays and days when your housemate’s significant other is visiting and your walls are very thin. Visit them early and discover the great works produced in your new home.
5. Find a good market We’ve written before about how knowing your market trader can save you money , but also know that nothing can give you a real taste of a country’s culture than its markets. From the farmer’s markets of Europe with their killed-while-you-wait livestock to the bizarre kitschy pleasures of the British car boot sale, the best markets will offer amazing food or products, but even the very worst offer you unique cultural insights.
6. Eat something you’ve never heard of They’re called acquired tastes for a reason: you have to acquire them! To really get a taste of a city’s cuisine, try ordering something unfamiliar from a menu, or something that features ingredients you didn’t know existed. Admittedly, this will sometimes lead to you as it led me to eating an unidentified meat in a Beijing backstreet, but it can also lead to some seriously delicious food.
7. Reach the highest point of the city I’ve always believed that you can never say you’ve lived in a city until you’ve seen it from above in its entirety. As such, find the highest point of the city, be it skyscraper, spire or mountain, and head to the top of it for the best view. Shouting ‘I’m top of the world!’ like James Cagney in the film ‘White Heat’ is optional but sincerely recommended.
8. Attend a cultural event Whether its a film, a festival, a theatrical production or even something that doesn’t begin with an ‘f’ sound, it’s a must to do something cultural. If you’re visiting a country that speaks a different language to your own, make sure that it is in that language, even if you have no clue what is going on.
9. Offer someone directions Although this may been following around lost-looking people until they eventually come to you map-in-hand, nothing will make you feel more at home someone than giving someone else directions around it. Even if you have no idea where it is they’re going, just make sure you give them directions that take them far away enough for you to get away…
10. Take advantage of every opportunity You’re young, you’re in a new city, and (hopefully) alcohol is cheaper than in your home town. Every opportunity where you don’t make the most of this is an opportunity wasted, and you’ll regret it when you have to leave.
Useful links Picking up the local language
Reasons to study abroad
Does studying abroad affect your professional future?