As my trip to Madrid, Spain for the UA in Spain: Language and Culture study abroad program approaches, I’ve learned that the time leading up to an experience abroad can be filled with excitement…and lots of to-do’s! But I’ve also learned that with the right game plan, preparing for departure can be easy and relatively stress-free. I’d like to tell you a little bit more about some of the things I’ve been doing to get ready to leave, and the strategies I’ve employed to ensure that I don’t get overwhelmed throughout the process.
Money, Money, Money
It’s no secret that any student planning to study or intern abroad will need money for their trip—meals, souvenirs, and toiletries won’t pay for themselves! There are various approaches to carrying money during a trip abroad, but I personally opted to exchange some U.S. dollars for euros before I left the States. In fact, I plan on making all of my purchases with these euros while in Spain, but I will have my debit card as a backup if I run out of euros (though I will be charged an international transaction fee any time I use my card). The currency exchange was not complicated at all; I simply went to my bank, put in an order for my desired quantity of euros, and the euros were shipped to my bank within a couple days.
Documents and More Documents
There is a set of documents that all students should bring on their trip abroad, including their passport, driver’s license, International SOS insurance card, and more. But these items can get lost easily, especially in the whirlwind of flying to and traveling around a new country. That’s why I’ve taken special care to make copies—both physical and digital—of these important docs, just in case.
Dressing for the Occasion
Shopping for clothes for my trip has definitely been one of my favorite steps in the preparation process. Students studying or interning abroad are advised to blend in as best they can while abroad, mainly for their safety, and that involves dressing like the locals. My summer wardrobe consists mainly of big t-shirts, leggings, and bike shorts—but those are not as commonly worn in Spain as they are in the United States. So I decided I needed to amp up my style a little bit, mainly with dresses, skirts, nicer shorts and tops that will keep me comfortable in the heat of the summer. I’m operating on a budget, but luckily the thrift store has plenty of what I’m looking for, and for a low price.
Advice for Stress-Free Prep
Getting ready to leave for Spain has been exciting, but I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t a lot to take care of before departure. Exchanging currency, making copies of important documents, and clothes shopping have only been part of the puzzle. It can be easy to get stressed out by all of the to-do’s—so here are some of my tips for staying calm, cool, and collected while preparing for a trip abroad.
- Make a to-do list! The power of the to-do list is undeniable, especially when we’re talking about pre-departure preparation. There’s a lot to do, and it helps to write it all out and check off items as you complete them. That way, you’re less likely to forget something and you can celebrate your progress!
- Chip away at it, little by little. In the weeks leading up to your experience abroad, cross an item or two of your to-do list every day or every other day. I’ve had about a month since the end of the spring semester and the start of my trip, and that’s been the perfect amount of time to chip away at all of the things I need to do. This has helped me not to become overwhelmed.
- Use your resources. As you prepare for your trip, several questions will likely pop up. What should I do about money? Do I need an international phone plan so I can communicate with friends and family? What do I need to bring with me and how light or heavy should I pack? In answering such questions, be sure to use your resources! Those resources include your study abroad advisor or program director, the study abroad office at UA, your study abroad student handbook, other students participating in the same program as you, and even the internet, all of which have been quite helpful for me.
I am getting more and more excited with each passing day about leaving for Spain in about a week and a half! I look forward to posting more blog updates about my trip soon.
Adios for now,