Location Considerations

So now we are really going to get into location. But instead of focusing on a certain country or a certain city that you do or don’t want to live in, we’re going to narrow this by qualities of the location that are important to you.

Slide 1: On Your Mark

Lesson 3: Location Considerations

So now we are really going to get into location. But instead of focusing on a certain country or a certain city that you do or don't want to live in, we're going to narrow this by qualities of the location that are important to you. 

So the first thing you're going to do is just sort of brainstorm. If there's a city you've been to, and you loved it, what exactly was it that you loved about it? If there was a city you went to and you didn't like it, why didn't you like it? So start first just by making a brainstorm list of what's off the top of your head about those locations, and determine which of them are dealbreakers, and which of them are just sort of preferences. 

So let's go through some categories of location-related qualities you might want to consider. 

Slide 2: Dealbreakers

  • Weather – hours of winter daylight, extreme winters, rain
  • City Size – what is it about this city that appeals to you?
  • Public transportation/walkability
  • Student population
  • Working on student visa
  • How long can you stay after graduating
  • English proficiency
  • Activities (winter sports, water sports, certain clubs, workout facilities, etc.)
  • Ease of getting to other parts of Europe
  • Ease of getting home
  • Weather

So weather is certainly one to think about. Think about winter weather, or rain, or days of sunshine, or hours of daylight. You know, hours of daylight in the winter can really affect mood, for instance. And all of the students I've talked to in Scandinavia take Vitamin D supplements and have sun lamps and other things to help with that. But one thing to know what the weather is don't assume anything. For instance, winters in Copenhagen aren't as cold and snowy as most of Denmark. And then you might think of Spain as this really sunny place, which Barcelona is, but Bilbao is like a really rainy city. 

  • City Size

The other thing we'll look at is city size, and it's something that we really have to adjust our frame of reference for. When I think of town versus city with my US frame of reference, I think that the towns would lack, you know, infrastructures and amenities, and I don’t know, sort of the excitement that a city has. I might assume that a town would lack walkability, or public transportation, or that there wouldn't be a whole lot of shopping, or restaurants, or pubs and such. 

But towns and smaller cities are much different in lots of Europe. I'm totally a city person. I was raised in Chicago, and I miss living in a large urban area almost every day. However, I would be as happy in many of the European towns I visited, as I would be in Chicago. Probably happier, because the compact size of these smaller cities, of these towns, make the offerings more accessible than in a larger city where it's more sprawled out. So instead of determining the size of the city, this is another one you might want to break down into what exactly it is about a city size that’s important to you. 

  • Working on student visa

So if working while you're a student is important, you'll want to look at what the limits are when you're on a student visa. Like for instance, in the Netherlands, you can either work full time in the summer, or 10 hours a week during the school year. In Germany, you can work 120 full days or 240 half days. So each country varies by what they'll allow. Now note that this does not count if you're doing online work, sort of if you're doing virtual work. So if you're teaching English online, this doesn't count. If you're doing data entry online, this doesn't count for you. 

  • How long can you stay after graduating

Another thing, as we're talking about jobs, another thing that varies by country is how long you can stay after graduating to look for a job. It's usually six months, but there are some countries that are less, and some that are more. The Czech Republic is cool because they give you lifetime access to the job market. The Netherlands, you have a full year. Not only that, you can use that year any time within three years of graduating. So let's say you graduate, and then you go get your master's degree. You can come back after your master's degree and spend that year then. And that's if your master's degree is out of the Netherlands, of course. Germany, you have 18 months, but I've heard that might change though. So it really varies country to country. Something to look at, if that's important to you. 

  • Activities

Activities are another one. We have one student who was going to play league soccer or football. So his location needed to be tied to where the certain leagues were. I am not a sports person, so I can't explain it well, but his was very tied to the activity of these soccer leagues. Maybe it's that, you know, you really want to be near someplace where you can ski, or water sports, or workout facilities, or certain clubs, or you know, musical theater. Whatever it is, you know, activities that would be really important to you, that's what you would list here.

  • English proficiency

English proficiency might be something that's important to you. You know, when I was in Denmark, I felt like I was in the UK with the amount of English being spoken around me. And then, you know, in France, that's one place where I have more difficulty. So maybe you prefer  high English proficiency, maybe you prefer low English proficiency. Why would you prefer that if you want to become fluent in a language? I've talked to students who were trying to learn Swedish, for instance, and they had a really hard time, because their Swedish friends would all speak English to them because the English proficiency was so high. So it’s just a consideration. 

  • Ease of getting around locally

Another thing that's often important is getting around the city, the ease of getting around the particular city or town that you're living in. Is there good public transportation? Is it walkable? How expensive is public transportation? Remember, there are often student discounts for this as well. 

  • Ease of getting to other parts of Europe

How easy is it not only to get around your town, but how easy is it to get to other parts of Europe? This is one of the benefits, is that you're going to be able to explore Europe, and you want to be in a place, potentially, where that is pretty easy. 

  • Ease of getting home

And also, the ease of getting home might be something that you want to look at. And that would require being close to an international airport, usually. Safeties and other things, sometimes students have on the list. You really want to talk about what that means though. Are we talking about pickpockets? Are we talking about school shootings? Because guess what, there aren't school shootings in Europe. 

So generally, I have not spoken to one student in Europe, but I have not been to one place in Europe — and I go by myself as a woman — where I haven't felt safe. I'm trying to think if that's totally true. And yeah, that's totally true. So anyway, really define what safety means to you. Perhaps it's that you definitely want to be in a place that's known for being LGBT friendly, or more progressive in terms of political views, or whatever. These are things you want to know. And you want to note whether they're dealbreakers or preferences. 

Now we're going to be looking at the dealbreakers now. We're going to be eliminating based on that. But still note the preferences because as we get down into narrowing our list more, those preferences are going to be something that might weigh into your decision. So definitely, we want to know about any dealbreakers. I just cut myself off, how'd you like that? Dealbreakers are those things that even if everything else was great about the city, about the school, about the program, about all of it, you would not go if this weren't there. So really think about what the dealbreakers are versus the preferences. 

Slide 3: Resources

  • Rome2Rio
  • Nomadlist
  • Google Flights
  • BTS Database

So what are we going to do with this information? Well, first of all, let's talk about where you can get this information. There are a lot of great resources out there. Nomad List, I don't know if you guys have heard of digital nomads, but there are a lot of people who just don't have a home base now and travel around every few months, you know, based on their tourist visas. I have some friends who are doing this and it's pretty incredible. But because there's so many people doing this, they're able to crowdsource a lot of information. And that's why Nomad List started, people put in stuff about the weather, about the expenses, about — I mean, anything you can think of, there are all sorts of reference points. Air quality, specifics about the neighborhood. It’s a really great resource and kind of fun to look into. 

We have a lot of information about some of these things we talked about in the database under country information. And then Google Flights and Rome2Rio are really good for telling you about how it is to, you know, get from place to place in Europe or from Europe, or whatever. So let's jump into what we're going to do now that you have your dealbreakers. 


All right, I have a confession to make. I don't really like spreadsheets. But this is a great use for them. So what we're going to do is you're going to go to your Favorites list, and you're going to write down all of the cities that are on your list, you know, after you had eliminated from the last lesson. So we have the cities there. And then, we're going to put your dealbreakers up here. So the dealbreakers I'm working with are the ease of getting around locally, the ease of getting around Europe, having a major international airport nearby — we're going to say within an hour-and-a-half. And then, if it's not a large city, the student population. So these are all things, again, that even if everything else were perfect, a place would be eliminated based on these. 

And you know, no judgment. If you hate rain and want to put rain up there, put it up there. These are the things that are really going to affect your experience. So don't worry about if you think it sounds like a silly dealbreaker, or not. It’s your dealbreaker, and that's what matters. 

So let's start with the easiest one first; major international airport within an hour. Well, I know that Amsterdam has a major international airport. I know Barcelona does. I know Geneva does. I know Budapest does. Okay. So then for the other ones, we're just going to go to — so let's go through the Netherlands first. We know that we know that Amsterdam is the major international airport. So we'll do Groningen to Amsterdam. And there’s the airport. So the shortest time away, if we did like a taxi, which would be super expensive, would be two hours. 

So guys, this is one of those things. It's a dealbreaker. So that one — where’s Groningen? We know that that's going off the list now. I don't even need to know what program it was, I don't need to know anything about it, because these are my dealbreakers. So that is off the list now. 

So let's go to Breda, or Breda. I have no idea. Let's see. Okay. We are under an hour, so that stays there. What's next? I'm not even going to try to pronounce that one. I'll just copy and paste it. It's not looking like that's going to meet the criteria. Because again, we'd be talking about a drive, so we'd be talking about a taxi. It's still just over an hour-and-a-half. So I'm going to say no. This would be one where, you know, it's sort of on the fence, this one hour and 32 minute drive. It's over two hours by train. So it's kind of on the fence, and you could use your own discretion there, but I'm going to say no. 

Maastricht. Now, this one is over two hours away, but here's what I'd be interested in. Brussels also has a major airport. And so, I wonder if that meets our criteria. So as we see that on the map, we would enter that. On train, an hour and 45 minutes. Drive, an hour and 15. So it still doesn't meet the criteria we had there. And again, I said this was a dealbreaker, so I'm sticking with it. 

I just also want to say that this would not be one of my dealbreakers. These are just sort of example dealbreakers. Cyprus. So I know that they have a major international airport. And guess what, I didn't define on my list about the ease of getting home. So this meets the criteria I have right there. But I also happen to know, because I've wanted to go to Cyprus, that it is really hard and really long to get there. Maybe I should have put that on my criteria. I didn't. It meets this. So for now, it's staying. 

Rotterdam, I actually know. Let's just check to be sure. I think that's like an hour. Yep. Oh, and there’s all the way to Brussels. So if I put in Amsterdam here again, 25 minutes, done. So that one’s staying there. I know The Hague off the top of my head is Tilburg. I'm not sure. So let's check. Yep, so Tilburg is under the hour-and-a-half, so that stays there. It’d be nice if I could keep remembering my tab there. So we have Utrecht. Yep, we're good there too. And then, we have Vilnius, Lithuania. Now, I know that there's — well let's just do a quick Google search and say “major airport in Lithuania.” Vilnius Airport is the international airport. And where is that school? Vilnius. So we know yes. So already, just this row alone, we're taking three off the list. Again, it's making the list a lot more manageable. 

So getting around Europe, getting around locally, so that's going to be a little bit more subjective. So what you might want to do is identify a couple of cities. So if you're looking at the Netherlands, you might want to choose a few cities in a few different parts of Europe and check Rome2Rio, and kind of have your own definition of ease. For me, it would be train travel. I think that train travel is so much easier and less stressful than plane travel. So for me, for this, what I would use is I would want to know that I'm near a major train line. 

So this is where it's, you know, really important to be clear with yourself about what it is you're looking for, and to use that. So student population if not a large city, why might this be important? Well, if it's not a large city, you want to make sure that there are those amenities that are focused on students. So generally, if there's a large university in that city, you're going to be fine, because there's a large population of students. So gathering this is not completely objective information, but it could be fun. So again, here's Cyprus. Getting around Europe, no. I know that that's not easy. It’s an island, you know? So that's going off the list.

So there are some you're going to know just by kind of looking at it. Do they have a major international airport? Is it easy to get around Europe? Student population, if not a large city? I know that Amsterdam is a large city, I know that Barcelona is, I know that Geneva is, I know that Budapest is. 

So there are some you can go through without doing the internet research. And then there's some that you'll just need to dig around online a little bit to get to. 

So go through that. See what goes off your list. And then in the next lesson, we are going to work on the cost of living budget and which schools fit your cost of living budget.