Studying Abroad and WSA’s Beginnings
Posted by Andy Steves in on September 11, 2010.
My to-be Rome friends and I were accepted into the Spring ’08 Rome program in March or April of ’07. From that point, we really just sat on our hands for the following 9 months. There was something on the horizon, an exciting something, but it was too far off, and it was too surreal to give it any serious thoughts. It wasn’t until I found myself on the plane going into Prague the week before my semester was to start that I realized what an unbelievable opportunity awaited me. Students studying abroad across Europe generally have three-day weekends, and a relatively un-rigorous academic curriculum. That, in addition to the amazing infrastructure of the continent allows for affordable, exciting adventures to far off destinations nearly every single weekend.
I intended to make the most of my time overseas, so quickly checked out the calendar of festivals happening across Europe, and Carnivale in Venice was the first that came to my attention. Before I knew it, I was helping fellow Domers make hostel reservations and buy Eurail passes. It was a crowd of about 10 students that weekend that made our way to the frigid floating city in late Venice. The next weekend, we booked a trip up to Gimmelwald high up in the Swiss Alps. It was an unforgettable weekend of fondue and some of the best skiing I’d ever done in my life. Again, I brought about a dozen students with me half way up the mountain to our hostel in the clouds. Throughout the rest of the semester students would come to me for help in arranging trips to Paris or Milan or London or Dublin or Sicily. By the end of the semester, I organized a trip for 32 students to the Cinque Terre including transportation and accommodations. It was then that I realized even when the US Dollar was at it’s lowest ever ($1.64 to the Euro) students were still going to the fashion outlets, and still make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The companies out there had weekend tours that included little more than an overnight bus trip and hostel arrangements to the main drags of a handful of cities. I went on a day trip or two, but left feeling as if I just underwent a cookie cutter experience. There was simply nothing unique about it.
So, when I returned home, I began a website for the college student studying abroad in Europe where he or she could find traveling tips, suggestions, photo albums and blogs and recommended weekend itineraries. Guidebooks didn’t even have information for the college student in that they would suggest 6 days in Paris, or 4 in London and a week in Ireland. Fact of the matter is, students have 2.5 days, are tight on budget, want to see the most that each destination has to offer, lacks on the travel experience side, and just wants to have a good time. Now, if I could get students off on the right foot with a free 1 page PDF download for each of the 25 most popular cities across Europe, I thought it would be a value to the users. As time went on, these itineraries evolved with the use of and input by real students really using them. Over the last two years, they’ve went through numerous revisions thanks to American students from across the States and studying across Europe.
All we're doing now is transforming these still-free itineraries into templates for our weekend adventures!
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Pick a city and go! All new budget guidebook from Andy Steves, Founder and Chief Backpacker of WSA.