Inside Being a Public Policy Major

Inside Being a Public Policy Major

Public policy and law is one of the more popular majors on Trinity’s campus. But, what exactly is it and how is it different from political science?

Before coming to Trinity and becoming a public policy major, I asked myself all of these questions. I would soon learn that public policy and law is an interdisciplinary version of political science. This means that rather than only taking public policy courses, students take approved courses in various departments to complete their requirements in order to be successful in fields relating to policy, law, or non-profit organizations and advocacy.

The major starts off with core classes such as “Introduction to American Public Policy,” “Fundamentals of American Law,” “Research & Evaluation,” and “Law, Argument & Public Policy.” Beyond these core classes found in the Public Policy Department, students are given general requirements such as ethics, quantitative, or legal history, which allows them to take courses in departments such as political science; women, gender, and sexuality; and economics.

The benefit of the public policy and law major, much like that of liberal arts schools in general, is that students are learning a variety of skills, knowledge, and ways of thinking in various disciplines. The result: students graduate with a large toolkit of skills and abilities.

Another key component of the major is the internship requirement. This can be fulfilled through Trinity’s Legislative Internship Program, or through any other relevant internship in Hartford. This requirement puts students in in good standing to get summer internships or jobs after graduation.

Brooke in front of the Supreme Court building
Brooke LePage ’19 at The Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.

I had the opportunity to spend a semester in Washington, D.C., on the Washington Semester Program through American University. This study-away experience included an internship component. In addition to taking classes, exploring the city, meeting and hearing from supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I spent my semester interning in the Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs (OLCA) at the U.S. Department of Education. During my internship, my work was focused on higher education policy.

Public policy and law majors pick a concentration within the major in order to tailor their studies and show preference and expertise in an area of policy. These concentrations range from law and society, to education policy or urban policy. Ultimately, the concentration component acts as a built-in minor for the program.

Public policy and law students can be found burning the midnight oil reading and writing case briefs, policy memos, or preparing for an oral argument. They are a dedicated group of students who enjoy the library, the cookies Professor Fulco often brings to class, Mock Trial, and avoiding their science requirement for the college like the plague.

Ever since I attended the public policy and law open house before choosing to attend Trinity, the program has felt like a family. The students bond by taking the core classes together and working on projects such as the public policy blog, The Policy Voice, to showcase the program. The public policy professors are witty, insightful, experts in their fields, and care about their students.

I am grateful that I was able to find a program that allows me to take classes in various disciplines in order to learn many skills that are valuable in the policy, law, and non-profit job markets. I am also grateful for my fellow public policy majors and professors for becoming my family away from home.

My Experience Studying Abroad in Ireland

My Experience Studying Abroad in Ireland

Like many of my fellow juniors at Trinity, I have decided to study abroad this semester, so hello from Ireland! Since I’ve been in this new country for almost three months, I thought I’d reflect a bit on my time here so far. I’ve learned a lot about navigating a new country, a university environment, and how to make the most of my travel budget.

Life While Studying Abroad in Ireland

The School

The university I’m currently studying at is University College Dublin, or UCD. UCD is about 15 times the size of Trinity in terms of student population. So that’s something I have definitely been having to get used to. There’s people everywhere all the time! At Trinity I really only feel crowded on campus when classes end and people make their way to their next class or the library or Mather or wherever. Here, there’s 30,000 people who study here so there’s always a crowd of people around. UCD also isn’t directly in the city center like Trinity College Dublin (no affiliation) is, which is nice because it doesn’t feel like a tourist destination. We get a lot of the benefits of living in a city without a lot of the downsides.

The Classes

Irish classes are different than American, or at least Trinity, classes. First off we have to take 6 classes per semester. The normal class load at Trin is 4-5 classes. And there are different amounts of class time in each class (which are called modules) here. Usually most classes will have 1 lecture and 1 seminar/tutorial per week. Lectures can be huge, with up to 200 people. Seminars (also known as tutorials) are much smaller, usually around 15-25 people. But not all classes follow these rules. I have classes that have 2 lectures and 1 seminar, 3 seminars and no lectures, or just 1 seminar and no lectures per week. At Trinity, there are either seminars or lectures, and they meet 2-3 times a week, at the same time. The 3 seminars a week class meets at different times on different days; the two lectures and a seminar class has different meeting times and places for the lectures. This might sound really complicated, but trust me, you do get used to it. Nearly all classes here are 50 minutes and almost no one has class on Fridays, which leaves lots of time for weekend travel to different parts of Europe.

The City

Exploring Dublin
Exploring Dublin

I feel like Hartford has prepared me pretty well for living in Dublin and UCD is kind of like Trinity because it’s not located quite downtown but is still close enough to go into the city very easily. Dublin is obvious much larger than Hartford but it’s not as big as other cities like London or Paris. It’s very easy to get around with the bus and tram system (called the LUAS but pronounced like Lewis) and suburbs like the coastal town of Howth and Blackrock are just a short ride away. I didn’t know much about Irish history before coming here but taking classes on this subject and just living in Dublin has taught me a ton about medieval Ireland, colonized Ireland, and modern Ireland.

How to Study Abroad on a Budget: Travelling

Like many students studying abroad, I want to get the most of my time here and travel all over the country and across Europe. However, even on this continent, those things cost money (Euros specifically). I quickly realized this and, three months in, thought I’d share some things I find useful to get the most of your time here without spending the most.

Save save save!

I cannot emphasis enough how important it is to save up, even just for a semester abroad. I’d recommend saving as soon as you know you want to study away. For me, I have had quite a few jobs on campus and a paid internship this past semester, so I was able to save up a sizeable amount. I also cut a few things out while I was still on campus in the fall that would I know I would be grateful for in the long run. For example, I often told myself I could either get a coffee from Goldbergs in Vernon Social now or a coffee from a local vendor in Paris in a few months.

Make a list of your top places to visit

This semester is a once in a lifetime opportunity to go tons of places I probably won’t be able to see again, at least not for a long time. My friends and I wanted to go everywhere in Europe but quickly realized we only have a certain number of weekends. So we made a list of everyone’s top place to visit and narrowed in down to a few, plausible cities and started planning from there. It’s not possible to go everywhere you want to but make a point of going to your most dreamed about

Shop around

It’s good to have a general idea of when you want to go to certain cities but be open to change. Some weekends are much cheaper than others (for example, the last Sunday of each month, the Vatican Museum in Rome is free) so start planning early to get the cheapest flights possible. Also be aware than the more popular the season, the more expensive—and crowded—a city is going to be. Look on sites that compare multiple vendors, like Kayak or Sky Scanner for flights and Hostelworld for hostels.

Get creative

Maybe late Thursday evening is the cheapest flight you can find but also be aware the extra night you’d have to spend on a hostel. Sometimes the cheapest options turn out to cost you more money. You don’t have to fly home with the same airline you initially flew with. Different airlines have different prices! Also don’t rely on hostel to be the cheapest places to stay. Generally, they will be but you’d be surprised at the prices of some Airbnb rentals and even some hotels (although do your homework if you want to stay at an Airbnb!).

Postcards!

Postcards are a super, super cheap souvenir that are easy to carry and show where you’ve been. Most postcards are less than 80 cent and much smaller than a t-shirt or snowglobe and can be mailed home easily.

Travel within the country

Yeah, Amsterdam and London are cool but have you seen the Peace Wall in Belfast? Or the Cliffs of Moher and Galway? One of the first things my program here stressed was the beauty of Ireland and suggested we not spend every weekend on the continent. We haven’t and I’m glad we did. The Irish countryside is stunning and Dublin is a bustling city full of a vibrant culture. I love learning about Irish history through experience and it’s much cheaper to spend a day in Cork and kiss the Blarney Stone than flying for three days to Prague and spend money on a hostels and nice meals. There must be a reason you chose to study in a certain country so go explore it!

Of course, I’m writing from the point of view of a European study abroad experience. Different countries have different exchange rates and different prices, so I’d highly recommend researching as much as possible ways to save money in the country you’d like to study in but I hope these few tips have helped at least a bit.

Living in Barcelona

Living in Barcelona

Hola todos! (Hello everybody),

I am in Spain for the semester! Though the pre-studying abroad process can feel stressful and frustrating, especially since study abroad always feels so far away, it is by far one of the more worthwhile experiences I have had in my life. I am living in Barcelona, Spain for the semester and just wanted to share my first few experiences, impressions and struggles studying abroad.

I have been to Spain many times in my life, and I even have family that live in the capital, but coming to Barcelona has been a difficult and amazing adjustment. The first thing that hit me was the time difference. Since Spain is 6 hours ahead, adjusting was difficult because I was used to sleeping during the daytime here and doing things during the night. However after a few days of forcing myself to stay up during what felt like the night, it has become normal.

The Trinity team is full of nothing short of miracle workers. Agueda and Brian work to coordinate our schedules, our field trips, our money vouchers and so much more. Though we have been here a mere 3 weeks, we have had numerous outings, both optional and mandatory, which include museums, cooking classes, hikes, tapas eating, trips outside the city, flaminco dancing, self-defense and more. Gabriela, also on the Trinity team, often takes students on optional field trips.

We have been lucky enough, through Trinity, to access some amazing sites in Barcelona for free. The Trinity space itself is located on Pau Claris, which is an avenue in the center of Barcelona in walking distance from the Gaudi buildings and parallel to Passeo de Gracia. The advanced students are taking a history class which is located in the Ateneu, a historical building located right off the Ramblas, which has a renown library, a beautiful cafe in the courtyard, and classrooms on the top floor. The rest of our classes are at the UPF (Universitat Pompeu Fabra) and are in the middle of the city, in all different parts of the school.

As far as housing during study abroad here, there are 2 options. Students can choose to stay at the TSH (The Student Hotel), which is located in the Melon district, or students can choose to live in a homestay. There are upsides and downsides to both choices, as with many things, but the perks of both situations significantly outweigh the potential costs.

In a homestay, students have the chance to fully immerse themselves in the Spanish language. Students are placed with families, meticulously vetted by Trinity’s staff, who have expressed an exceptional interest in taking in an international student. Students fill out a survey explaining both what type of living situation they are looking for (for instance, do they want little kids, pets, etc) and a form explaining their living personality. The host families do the same and students are matched to the best of the programs ability with a compatible home. Though the families all speak Spanish in the household, they are very patient with students learning the language. This semester we have a student in a homestay who speaks very little english, and both he and his host family are very patient with each other learning to communicate in broken Spanish and broken english. But the advantage of living in a homestay is just that: the student picks up the language at an alarming rate. Learning to speak in a language is very different from learning the dissect the language into grammatical concepts. Students in homestays get the chance to practice their conversational Spanish everyday and everyday they become better Spanish speakers. Another advantage of living in a Spanish household, is the advice they can give you about the city. Nobody knows the ins and outs of the city better than they do because it is the city they live in, and for many, the city they grew up in. Host families can give the best advice as to places to eat and exhibits to visit, but also the places to avoid, the cautions about living in the city and much more. Many people in homestays eat at least dinner with their families which gives them time to bond and time to practice their Spanish!

The other option offered to students is TSH. The Student Hotel is located in the Melon district and is home to hundreds of students from all around the world. From the TSH dorms, it is about a 5 minute walk to the metro and it’s within walking distance of the beach and the university. Each student is issued a room key that allows access to the cafeteria, the building, the kitchen and the common areas. Each floor consists of about 10 rooms on either side of the hallway and at the end there is a shared kitchen. The cafeteria is on the ground floor and is connected to TSH but is a public restaurant in the area. The common space consists of a large study room, a large TV and viewing area, a pool table, ping pong table, fusbol table and more. The residents of the space are invited to regular events that are put on by TSH that engage students in activities with one another. Students at TSH also get to enjoy the rooftop area, which looks out on the city of Barcelona from 12 stories up, as well as a rooftop pool. There are also many advantages to living in the TSH. The rooms are small, but private with queen beds, and private bathrooms. There is a cleaning service that comes once a week, and a service that cleans the kitchen as well. There are shared fridges and cabinet space with allows students to cook during the week as well as store groceries for convenience. Living at TSH, students are entirely independent and entirely responsible for themselves and their needs, such as laundry and meals.

Either way, every student has amazing living accommodations while studying abroad in Barcelona and students from TSH and homestays have plenty of opportunities to spend time together during the week and on the weekends. Trinity does a great job with matching up families with students as well as placing students in the generous hands of The Student Hotel.

Overall, this trip has been amazing so far. We are so lucky to have so many amazing people on the Trinity in Barcelona staff who have helped us to get settled and encouraged us to explore on our own. So far, this has been an amazing semester and I cannot wait to share more of it with you as I go!

Washington Semester Program Guest Speakers

Washington Semester Program Guest Speakers

A key part of American University’s Washington Semester Program is the guest speakers. Sometimes my class travels downtown to the office of the speaker while other times they travel to American’s campus to speak to us in the classroom. Our speakers range from a partner of the media firm that produced all of Bernie Sander’s presidential campaign advertisements, to Republican and Democratic Congressmen, to people from lobbying and advocacy groups in various areas of policy.

The speaker’s organization is usually related to what we are learning about in class. They typically talk about their career and their organization and its mission. Usually the speaker will end by providing their contact information. People in Washington are always looking for the next generation that will be replacing them so they can ensure their goals and messages will persist. Students walk out of these class sessions with a new knowledge about the way Washington works, new career paths not previously known, and specific organizations they can contact to get involved.

I myself have gotten numerous business cards from speakers in organizations I found inspiring. I have also explored new parts of Washington. Such as the bookstore Politics & Prose owned by the class speaker and former speech writer for Hillary Clinton. I have also learned about different ways to get involved and influence policy.

The Washington Semester Program does an excellent job combining experiential learning through internships, traditional learning through seminars and lectures, and career development through guest speakers. I believe I will be leaving this program with growth in so many different areas that I may not have expected, which I am very grateful for!

Trin Alums are Everywhere!

Trin Alums are Everywhere!

Last Wednesday, I was attending an education policy event at the National Press Club. After taking the elevator up to the 13th floor, the doors opened up to a magnificent lobby. After checking in, grabbing my name tag, and picking up the event literature, I found my seat. I mingled with my table mates for a few minutes until the warm, inviting aroma of coffee wafted to my nose. I looked at the breakfast table and saw an array of coffee and pastries. Exhausted and hungry at 8 in the morning, I made my way over to the refreshments table. To my surprise, another woman at the refreshment table turned to me and asked, “Did I hear you say you attend Trinity College?”

After confirming that I do attend Trinity, the woman remarked that she was an alumna of Trinity. Turns out the alumna was Catherine Millett, Senior Research Scientist at Policy Evaluation & Research Center, and she was organizing the whole event. I was incredibly surprised to meet an alumna at such a random event. But, as I turned back to the room from the refreshment table I realized that I now knew one person and felt much more confident and comfortable. Catherine and I were able to connect over our love for both Trinity and education policy. After the event, I got a picture with Catherine and sent her an email congratulating her on such a wonderful event, and thanking her for mentioning that she also went to Trinity.

After my last blog was posted on the Trinity College Admissions Instagram, an alum in D.C. commented on the post. Kristin Duquette ’13 works at FEMA right behind the U.S. Department of Education building that I work in. She was interested in connecting and I followed her up on her offer. The next week, Kristin and I met for lunch at the cafeteria of the American Indian Museum near both of our offices. Kristin and I connected over our Trinity experiences and affinity for all things D.C. She emphasized how important it is to speak up for yourself, find things you are passionate about and know that it is okay to not have a plan. Kristin has an extensive resume, and I was honored to get words of wisdom from such an amazing woman.

It is no surprise to anyone that Trinity has such an incredible alumni network. This week, I got to experience it firsthand and meet two wonderful alumni that took time out of their day to speak to me. Trinity alums show up in the most random places and are always willing to create a connection with students and help them in any way they can. At the least, students and alums have the opportunity to bond over their great experiences ‘neath the elms.

“Washington is a city of southern efficiency and northern charm.” – John F. Kennedy

“Washington is a city of southern efficiency and northern charm.” – John F. Kennedy

Prior to starting my internship in D.C., I had to fill out a questionnaire about myself so the office could get to know me. One of the questions asked what was the coolest place I had traveled to. My answer was Washington D.C. I figured this would seem like I was somehow trying to suck up, but it was entirely the truth. For me, Washington has always been the hub of leadership, dreams, and inspiration, and there is no other place I would rather be.

While many of my friends are either abroad in Europe or at Trinity enjoying the perks of being upperclassmen, I am just down the coast in Washington D.C. For my ‘study abroad,’ I chose to do a Washington Semester Program through American University. When considering different study away options, I came to the conclusion that there was nowhere else I would rather spend a semester away from Trinity than Washington.

Through my program, I take classes two days a week (an American Politics seminar and Political Communication elective) and intern three days a week. When looking for an internship, I knew that I wanted to do something distinctly “D.C.” in order to make the most of my opportunity. I ended up deciding to intern in the Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs (OLCA) at the United States Department of Education.There are four interns in my office, and each of us has an area of education policy that is our specialty. I have the pleasure of focusing on higher education policy.

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I get to take the metro into the heart of D.C. Because my office is right behind the Air and Space Museum alongside The Mall, I always get a quick peek at the Capitol as I walk there. There is no view that could be more inspiring as I walk into my office.

So far during my internship, I have been able to attend an event at The Brookings Institute, both House and Senate hearings, a briefing, the Department’s Constitution Day celebration event that Secretary DeVos gave the opening remarks at, and met some pretty incredible people.

During my classes, I have gone to a live taping of Meet the Press and met Chuck Todd, walked past Joe Biden just close enough to get a smile, gone to the Newseum, and had guest speakers that range from Hillary Clinton’s speechwriter at one point to a partner at the media firm that created all of Bernie Sander’s presidential campaign advertisements.

I have only been in Washington for nearly four and a half weeks, and I’ve already gotten to do so many incredible things, and have the time to do much more. Washington is all about making connections, and I am thrilled to see who I will meet next.

Summer at Trinity

Summer at Trinity

It’s officially spring, even if the weather in Hartford is still adjusting to this fact. We’re nearing the final month of classes, and before we know it, summer will have come to Trinity. Many of my friends will be returning to their hometowns to work summer jobs or spend time with their family. During finals week, students begin to trickle out and campus becomes noticeably emptier. However, Trinity is by no means dead during the summers. Trinity and its students are active all year round! Here are just a few options for students who want to spend the summer at Trinity:

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  • Research: Because I’m a humanities student, people are often surprised to hear that I did summer research during my first summer at Trinity. There are lots of different opportunities for research across many different disciplines, with both on- and off-campus summer positions available. I chose to work on my research from home while also working at a part-time internship, but there are always student researchers living at Trinity for part or all of the summer.
  • On Campus Jobs: Because Trinity remains vibrant and active during the summer, there are several campus jobs that need to be filled in order to keep the college running smoothly. I have friends who stay on campus and work in IT, as tour guides, in the library, and as summer RAs.
  • Summer Classes: Need an additional credit to round out your major, or just want to pursue a subject you didn’t have room for in your schedule during the year? You can take a summer class at Trinity and live on campus while you do it!
  • Internships: The Career Development Center maintains an enormous list of internship and job opportunities for Trinity students, and many of these opportunities are based in Hartford. Take advantage of this and enjoy living in the city while you gain experience in your field.
  • Summer Study Abroad: Trinity has summer study abroad opportunities in Rome, Barcelona, Paris, Israel, and China. If that’s not enough, students choose their own study abroad programs and get them approved through the Office of Study Away. Through Trinity, you can spend your summer nearly anywhere in the world!

I hope this helps show just how many different ways students can be involved at Trinity even when regular classes aren’t in session.

The Home-Stretch (Literally)

As my time abroad is rapidly coming to an end, I’m having a hard time grasping how quickly it went by! Although I can’t deny that I’m so looking forward to being back on campus in the Spring…a part of me never wants to leave this place. In my opinion, one semester abroad is no enough to get a full grasp on anything. You travel to new cities and countries every weekend, but only get a small taste of what life is like there. It’s unfortunate that you can’t immerse yourself in every culture you visit – but that’s just another reason to return!

Being away from my family and from Trinity has given me some valuable perspective on life. I don’t want to claim myself to be incredibly cultured or an avid world traveler; I was only in Europe for four months and visited 8 countries. However, the small things that I picked up along the way – in my opinion – are priceless. The way other cultures welcomed you into theirs as an honored guest with warmth and kindness will stay with me forever. Also, traveling alone made me realize that I am (and am not) as direction impaired as I thought I was. Traveling with a group of friends can make the experience so much fun, and you will have a collection of memories that you will hold onto forever. However, after getting over my fear of traveling solo, I realized how much more I got to learn about myself and the place I was visiting!

If I had to offer some advice for future abroad-goers, some of my top sentiments would be:

  • Travel as much as you can. I’m not saying you have to have every single weekend booked solid for the entire semester, but travel as much as possible! Everyone’s budget is different, but passing up the opportunity to visit at least a couple different cities while abroad will be a regret you have for the rest of your college career. However, don’t forget to explore the city you’re studying in as well! Many times students spend so much time in other countries that they don’t know anything about the place they’ve been living in for an entire semester.
  • Bring a friend. If you are lucky enough to find someone in your program or in your classes that has similar interests or traveling goals as you, then make plans to travel with them! Large groups are fun but can be difficult to manage if you’re traveling a lot. Sometime when it’s just a pair of people, you can fit in more sites and things on your to-do list.
  • Take photos. Investing in a small camera before you go abroad might be the best investment you make all year. Your phone is definitely a great tool too – especially for keeping your snapchat fans updated on your adventures! Either way, you’re going to be so proud of the collection of photos you’ve accumulated by the end of your time abroad.

Like I said, I’m not a world traveler or anything, but I can definitely say I’ve conquered my fear of flying! As the idea of leaving next week looms over my head, I’m so sad that I don’t have more time here. More time to explore, to talk, to learn, to travel, and to discover.

If you have to opportunity to go abroad while at Trinity, I urge you to take it. It will change your life!

 

Why I Love My Liberal Arts College

When I was applying to schools during my senior year of high school, I submitted lots of applications to larger research universities. Trinity was one of the smallest schools on my list, but after studying for half a semester at St. Andrews, which has over 10,000 undergrad and postgrad students, I can confidently say that the small liberal arts college life is the one for me.

I love the breadth of interests I can pursue at Trinity because of its structure as a liberal arts college, or LAC. Although the universal distribution requirements can seem like a drag that you have to work your schedule around, I have thoroughly enjoyed my forays into symbolic logic and anthropology, two subjects that I would never have touched if not for Trinity’s requirements. LACs seek to produce well-rounded graduates, and I have been given opportunities for interdisciplinary study that I might not have received at a research university.

I love the small class sizes at Trinity. My largest lecture so far had about 50 students, but I am much more used to classes with eight or ten. At St. Andrews, intro-level lectures can easily hold hundreds of students. The smaller classes available at LACs lend themselves to discussion, and I have gained so much through my small seminars. This also allows professors to really get to know their students and vice versa, whereas my lecturers at St. Andrews do not know my name yet.

Although research universities offer incredible opportunities to their students, I have greatly appreciated the opportunities that Trinity has given me as an undergrad. I was invited to conduct research within the humanities after my first year—if I were at a larger university this position would likely go to a grad student long before it got to me. Because we don’t have many grad students, Trinity undergrads are granted many chances to shine.

I love being at St. Andrews, and I wouldn’t trade this semester abroad for anything, but being here has reminded me how much I love attending a liberal arts college back in the states.

Studying Abroad: Affordable European Travel

I’m currently looking at my computer screen and “45 euros” is staring back. That’s the cost of a roundtrip flight to Paris, France, a weekend trip that I am considering planning. How amazing, and also incredibly casual, that I can so easily fly from Rome to Paris as a spur-of-the-moment-decision. And even more amazing? The price.

One of my biggest concerns before deciding whether or not I should study abroad was not so much the “base price,” but more the options, or in other words, the cost of travel to other cities both in and outside of Italy. To experience as much of this once in a lifetime adventure as possible, I would literally need to go the extra mile. Naturally, I questioned whether or not I could afford to do this.

As an undergrad, money is always at a premium. But at the same time, life is a journey of learning, and how foolish to squander such an opportunity to gain new world views. Fortunately, after some research, I learned that travel both in and outside of Italy was not something that my bank account had to fear.

My next trip will be during my week-long October break. After I finish my midterm exams, my friend and I will leave for Berlin, Germany, and later, go to Barcelona, Spain.

Before arriving in Europe, if you had asked me how much this would cost, I would have answered “thousands.” And, flying from the United States, that would probably be true. But flying from Rome to Berlin, to Barcelona, and returning to Rome, even adding the expense of hotel accommodations, roughly cost me a mere 500 euros.

This isn’t to suggest that I buy whatever I want, whenever I want it. It’s about being smart with your money. There are certain sacrifices you can make to stretch your “travel dollar,” or euro. For example, the cost of travel by rail will be discounted if you opt for a slower train.

Another worthwhile strategy is to avoid eating in restaurants when possible. When I traveled for a weekend to Florence, instead of going out to dinner both nights, I purchased groceries and cooked in the kitchen of the apartment I had rented. And on that note, Airbnb’s are almost always the smartest choice! For roughly 40 euros a person, I was able to stay in a beautiful Florentine apartment for two nights with three of my friends. Had I stayed in a hotel, I likely would have spent double that amount and have been robbed of the experience of cooking with my friends.

Another useful and cost-effective tip is to avoid tourist traps. In Rome, you will quickly learn that near the touristy sites, restaurants are very over-priced; yet if you take the short walk to the bottom of the hill where I live, a cappuccino and croissant cost less than two euros.

Certainly, compromise will almost always factor into your travel decisions. I will not deny that an additional 500 euros in my back account could be spent on more expensive presents for my friends back home or even on airfare to more new and exciting places. In fact, I had to decline an invitation to join my friend in Sweden because I wanted to have extra spending money when I go to Berlin. Now, instead of going to Sweden that weekend, I will remain in Rome, where I will try a new restaurant and visit museums.

That’s the nature of compromise—you give some, you get some. I will not regret missing Sweden because I’ll be more thoroughly exploring Rome. Nor will I miss Rome when I’m in, say, Berlin or Barcelona, places I have not yet seen. Let’s face it: regardless of what’s in your bank account, living in Europe for four months is a magical, unbeatable experience, where there are no bad scenarios. Just a lot of amazing choices.