Leaving behind your life on a vacation doesn’t mean you need to abandon opportunities to improve it while away!  I’ve been writing a lot about making the most of studying abroad and traveling abroad. If you can’t tell, I think that’s really important! But, I understand that not everyone has months at a time to pick up and move. There’s still plenty of ways that you can use your vacation to boost your career, expand your horizons, and learn more about the world and yourself! I understand that once and a while we all need vacations simply spent by the pool or on a beach, free of scheduling. But, for the most part, I encourage you to branch out! You’ll actually enjoy it more, I promise!

Even on vacation, you still have the power to learn more about other cultures, yourself and your career. Vacations don't have to be a break from reality (though sometimes that may be what you want)! They can also be chances for to network, learn more about your field in the context of a different country, and absorb other cultures. Click through to learn my pro tips on making this happen, as well as a guide to cold e-mails so you can network all on your own!

Attend a University Event

As you’re preparing for your trip, look up some of the colleges and universities in the city/country you’ll be visiting. Some countries have colleges divided up by the specific emphasis. If that’s the case, you can pick whichever college matches up with your personal and/or professional preferences. Next, check out the website for any future events they have coming up. You may find author talks, conventions, school-funded events, or who knows what else! These are ways for you to learn more about your field through the lens of a new culture. You’ll also have the chance to interact with more locals if that’s your cup of tea.

Meet A Professor

In the same vein as above, consider the noted academics of the location. Is there a professor there that does work in a field that interests you? There’s no harm at all in e-mailing them to see if they’ll meet up for coffee. Then, there’s no limit to where that could lead you! You could make a great connection in your field, have a local contact in case you ever want to return, and in the very least, spend an hour learning about something you care about, but in the context of a different culture. Opportunities like this may sound like they could have small return, but the importance is the rarity of opportunities like this! You really have nothing to lose and so much to gain. As a bonus, you could land some recommendations for killer local food. Who doesn’t love that?

Cold e-mails not your thing? I got you covered. I created a guide to cold e-mails with my most successful templates 

Attend a Rotary Meeting

The requirements to attend a rotary meeting will vary by district and club, so you’ll need to do a little research if you’re not already a member. I write this as someone who became a member of the Rotary independent of my parents (rare) at age 15. So, I have a bias. But, there’s a reason I sought out the Rotary. After attending several clubs over several years, I can confidently say it’s the best organization I know of and I am so proud to be apart of it. The members are so welcoming, accommodating, and heart-centered. Go to a meeting in a different country. You’ll likely meet locals ready with open arms to tell you about their culture. You may also get a delicious authentic meal out of it! If they’re working on a volunteering project at the time, you may be invited to join in while you’re on vacation, too.  Highly recommend!

Attend Church

Even if you’re not religious, I’ve found one of the safest and most authentic ways to learn about a new culture is attending a local service. It’s such a genuine way to observe a culture and learn about their history. The locals attending are also usually there to welcome you with smiles ear to ear. If you are religious, note the differences between your home service and theirs. Note the similarities. Be respectful, observant, and enjoy all they have to teach you! A big part of a vacation is absorbing what’s around you.

Find College Alumni

Use your alma mater’s website to locate alumni in the location that you’re visiting. If the school doesn’t have an easy function like this, e-mail the alumni relations department at your school and ask for some help. I can’t make promises, but it’s in school’s best interest for their alumni to maintain a strong connection. So, they’ll likely be able to point you in a direction that’ll help you find some alum. Once you do, meet up with them! Have a coffee, dinner, a beer, whatever floats your boat. You never know where those connections can lead you, and you deserve to find out! You probably invested a lot your education, so get the greatest return by continuing to connect with your fellow alumni. Just like I said above, I think that the worst case scenario would be you spend an hour chatting with someone and getting a killer local food recommendation for your vacation. Can we really call that a loss?

Need help reaching out?

Not to worry. It took me years of trial, error, rejection and embarrassment to become the *master* of cold e-mailing that I am now (puts on dark sunglasses). I’ve put together templates for e-mails to send to Rotary clubs, college alumni, professors, and the anatomy of a cold e-mail so you can send them to anyone! Sign up below. The guide is in my travel resource library along with so many other useful guides!

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