Leeds travellers tell us what they learnt abroad

Sun, sex and lots of regrets

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The long summer break sees the mass exodus of students from the terraces of Hyde Park to the Full Moon parties of Koh Phangan. No longer such a unique experience, this well-trodden tourist track can seem very safe – but often students are underprepared and end up in sticky situations.

Hindsight, after all, is a wonderful thing. We spoke to some Leeds Uni students about what they wish they’d known before setting off on their travels.

Adam, 21, Economics and Politics

“I did the Mongol rally this summer, and it would have been great to have known more about the history of the countries and what shaped them. It would have helped put them into context so I could understand more of what I was seeing.

“For example, in Azerbaijan there is a culture of systemic corruption. The police officers, along with most officials, have to pay bribes just to keep their jobs and so in turn they try and take as much money as possible from travelers.”

Kelly, 21, Childhood Studies

“I really wish I had known about public transport in the Philippines. It’s so bad.

“If I had known I could have planned in advance, but we’d turn up to get a ferry and sometimes have to wait for hours. I was super surprised that everyone spoke English though.”

Tasha, 18, History

“My friend got some coral stuck in her foot and we had to hobble with her around town with no idea whether to go to a doctor or the pharmacy.

“Tourist information told us not to bother with the doctors as they would charge €50, but we also didn’t really know what to ask for in the pharmacy – especially since we didn’t speak Greek.”

Andrew, 22, International Development with Economics

“Australia is freezing in the winter. I thought it was always going to be warm. I really should have taken more jumpers.

“All the guidebooks said there were no ATMs in Burma and to take everything in cash and US dollars, but there were ATMs. Carrying all that cash just made me feel vulnerable.”

Georgie, 20, English

“People in Prague were really rude, I didn’t expect that. But in Spain everyone was really nice, which is not what I had heard at all.”

Emma, 21, Communication Studies

“I worked as an Au Pair in Italy over the summer and most of the wages I earnt went on trains around Italy on my weekends off. If I’d had known how expensive it was going to be, I could have budgeted a bit better.”

Hannah, 19, Zoology

“My biggest concern was meeting new people and travelling all the way to South Africa on my own. But I was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was.

“Most people are more than willing to help, so never suffer in silence. Take everything one step at a time and it won’t seem as daunting. I was also surprised at how cold it gets at night. I wish I took more fluffy socks!”

Jamie, 21, Politics and French

“I wish I’d known how to budget money better. I went to Dublin for three days in August and burnt my way through £350. It was £350 I didn’t have.

“When going to Hong Kong, I was surprised by how different it was to the UK. I landed in the worst thunderstorm of the year – normally I’m a good flyer, but I felt like I was in Lost or something.”

Anna, 19, Biological Sciences

“I wish I’d been more prepared for the weather changes, going from summer in Thailand to winter in New Zealand was a big shock and I definitely wasn’t prepared for the cold.

“I was also surprised at how hard it is to budget, cooking in a hostel wasn’t ideal and eating out all the time gets really expensive.”

Crissy, 20, Politics and Parliamentary Studies

“It was monsoon season when I was travelling around South East Asia – so I wish I had known more about the weather. New Zealand was freezing, then Australia was boiling, then it rained all the time in Asia.

“I was in Thailand during the military coup and all the protests were happening which definitely took me by surprise – I wasn’t quite sure what to do.”

Rachel, 20, International Development

“Dumso was the biggest shock of my study abroad (Dumso is a Ghanaian term meaning ‘off and on’). I expected the odd powercut on my study abroad, but I didn’t expect to have week made up of four days without electricity followed by three days with power.

“If you’re travelling to Ghana, don’t leave without your torch, a portable charger, and some good reads to get you through Dumso.”

Don’t let things go tits up when you go abroad to find yourself – check the FCO’s travel advice or follow @FCOTravel.