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Learning while Traveling & Trip Planning

Hej Hej! How is everyone doing? Here at DIS, we have opportunities to learn through field studies, site visits, and short/long study tours. These experiential learning opportunities have allowed me to explore and learn how classroom discussions apply in real life. Other than DIS-directed opportunities, we can also explore Sweden and beyond, and combine learning and traveling. Summarizing my experience thus far, exploring Sweden and elsewhere, I would like to share some thoughts about traveling, especially on trip planning and connecting your experiences to what you have been learning.

#1: Planning (Ahead) and with Input from Others

If you have seen my last post on my trip to Oslo with friends, you may wonder – how did you all fit in THAT many sights in just a weekend? First, to be clear, I believe there is no right way of traveling! It was my first trip outside Sweden, so I went all out. And I got way too excited looking at all that was available to us. On some days/trips, my friends and I would intentionally take it easy and plan fewer things, judging by how we feel/how much energy we have.

To plan for our trips, I start by looking up what other people recommend and ask my friends if they have places they want to visit. And in the case of planning for the Oslo trip, I started the “elaborate” process 4 hours before our fligh –, on the Pendaltåg to Märsta (what can I say, it was a busy week, just like every other week).

#2: Being Flexible and Make Use of Helpful Tools

Not only would you encounter unexpected external circumstances on your trips, e.g., bad weather or closure of museums, but you and your friends may also feel tired or not up to what you all had planned on certain day. I also make use of Notion, which is one of my favorite platforms, to collect and organize all the places we want to visit. I used a Notion-created template for trip planning and tailored it to my preferences. Here is the setup I used for planning a trip to Germany:

I would look through Google Maps and locate the different sights and strategize a route that would be most sensible and cost-efficient (especially if we have to buy tickets for transportation). Then I would sort the sights into the days I think it would make the most sense to visit.

And here is the charm of planning with Notion, I can move around the ideas across days easily, perfect for trip planning which requires lots of flexibility and brainstorming. For example, we were going to visit the Oslo Opera House on the first day of our trip, but in anticipation of rain on that day, we rescheduled the visit to the next day, which was super easy to do on Notion, just dragging the item to the next column.

#3: Gaining Perspectives from the Locals

Another thing I recommend is booking free walking tours. One of my good friends loves free walking tours and introduced it to me. You have to book the walking tours ahead of time. You do not have to pay ahead of time (sometimes a small booking fee/tax is required). You would tip the tour guide at the end according to how much you value the tour. It is a great way to get a more local perspective of the city and talk to someone who has been living there for quite some time. I had a lot of fun on the walking tours I did in Stockholm and Venice. The tour guides would give us food recommendations and remind us of tourist traps in the area.

Learning about the place you visit – its history, challenges, and opportunities it faces – allows you to make connections to your courses even when traveling.

On the walking tours in Venice, I had the chance to learn about the history and architecture of Venice, as well as the challenges and opportunities it faces, for example, how tourism affects the daily living of people in Venice or the MOSE project that protects Venice from flooding. The tour guides also shared with us common tourist traps to watch out for and local food recommendations. I was excited to find out that the guide for one of our tours studied migration and human rights, which is related to my core course. We did not get a lot of time to talk about her academic experience, but through her, I found out about European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation, located on Lido in Venice. Although I did not have time to visit the site, I was prompted to think about how migration affects every society, whether it is visible or not from a tourist perspective.

#4: Seek Out Exhibitions and Sites that Interest you

When my friends and I were in Oslo, we stumbled upon the Holocaust Center when we were looking at the list of museums offering free admission to Visit Oslo cardholders. We saw an exhibition on everyday racism in Norway, which I shared in the last post. I recommend doing some research ahead of time and checking out if there is any exhibition and site that are of interest to you. Maybe something that is related to your courses or your personal interests.

#5: Be Spontaneous~

Reading about my intensive planning, you may wonder, wouldn’t that be tiring? Would it be too intense? Will I be missing out on the unexpected spots?

Knowing that I would reserve buffer time for most of the spots we visit. When my friends and I were in Oslo, on our way from the Royal Palace to the Akershus Fortress, we came across the Bible Museum. We were going from site to site but were luckily running slightly ahead of schedule. The Nordic Bible Museum is a small and cozy museum that houses some of the most notable, historical, and beautiful Bibles in history. With only 20 minutes to spare, our lovely tour guide at the museum gave us an essential overview of the collection. It was an amazing experience and I am glad we let spontaneity take over and take a little detour.

Those were some thoughts I had while exploring Sweden and the countries around it. Hope you get to enjoy learning outside of the classroom too!


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