Sitting on the plane on the return flight, looking out the window, I shed a tear. Studying abroad in Spain for a month was the experience of a lifetime. It gave me new friendships, more knowledge, new perspectives, and amazing memories. I have compiled a list of advice for students going to study abroad:
- Pack things that you know you need, or might need so that you do not have to struggle finding it abroad. For example, I packed zicam and began taking it when I started feeling unwell and was able to avoid getting truly sick. Having this packed allowed me to have easy access to medicine without having to search for if they had it in Spain.
- Along the lines of packing, leave plenty of open space in your suitcase for things you buy abroad. You almost always end up buying more than you think, so plan ahead to have space in your luggage to bring it all home.
- SAY YES! Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime experience so make the most of it! Go out to coffee with some friends after class, walk around your residence, go to a dance show, go try that taco restaurant, picnic in the park and watch that sunset. Wherever you go, there are going to be so many fun opportunities and you never know what they will become. One day after class, I wasn’t very hungry but agreed to go to a little sandwich place with some other students in the program. After eating, we decided to walk around a little bit. We ended up finding ourselves in a park we had gone to one day for class, saw an outdoor park gym, a beautiful garden, some statues, and then heard what sounded like a child yelling. We followed this sound and stumbled upon wild peacocks just chilling in the park, making that yelling noise. After spending some time watching the peacocks, we hopped on a bus then took a train to some cable cars. We took a cable car ride over Madrid and shopped in Zara for a little bit before heading back to the residence just in time to leave for our afternoon class. What began as a plan to go eat little sandwiches turned into a six hour adventure around Madrid, which is now one of my favorite memories.
- Do your work. Say yes to fun experiences, but also make sure that you are getting your work done.. You are there to study as well! I found it helpful to plan my work at times when I felt like I wouldn’t be missing out on much: when people were in class, around curfew, during siesta. But we also did some group homework sessions. We would all bring our work to a restaurant or place nearby, order something, sit together, but all be on our laptops getting work done.
- Be aware of your surroundings. As you should anywhere, be aware of your surroundings and keep yourself and your friends safe. Choose a bag/purse that is not easily grabbed. I wore my lululemon belt bag everyday and it was perfect. It was not easily grabbable, held my essentials, and kept my valuables close to me.
- Have fun and enjoy every second! Time spent abroad goes by so fast and you don’t want to look back on it with regrets. It is so normal to feel homesick or have a day where you aren’t feeling well. Address your feelings, keep in touch with friends and family members back home, and take care of your body and health. When you are feeling sad or tired, take a step back and remember what an amazing opportunity you have to be where you are and doing what you’re doing. Think about how you want to maximize your experience and do that! Make a list of everything you want to do and see while you are there and do them! It goes by fast, trust me. Before you know it you are going to be missing it and wishing you could hop back on a plane to go do it all over again! So have so much fun and enjoy every second!