Study Abroad Tips

This past summer, I studied abroad in Barcelona for 7 weeks. I picked Barcelona because I’m a global management major and Spanish minor, and I’ve always wanted to travel to a Spanish-speaking country since I started taking Spanish in first grade. While it was an incredible experience and I made amazing memories with people who had been strangers before this trip, I have a few important tips for anyone planning on studying abroad.

  1. Don’t go abroad with friends. I know. It sounds crazy to suggest going to a foreign country alone. However, in most programs you are living and studying with other American students, and it is a great opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and make friends outside of your school! I went into my program knowing literally no one, and within 4 hours of landing in Barcelona I was at lunch with my roommates and girls from the apartment below us. Now, I’ll be visiting one of my roommates from abroad in West Virginia this fall!

  2. Travel if you can! Yes, going to class and keeping up with your studying are important while you’re abroad. However, so is exploring and discovering new things in the city and country you’re in. Some of the most incredible experiences I had abroad were booking dirt cheap flights and hostels with my roommates and friends and exploring other countries together. I now have fun memories of wandering around Venice, Paris, and London with my friends that I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t made traveling outside of Spain a goal for my trip!

  3. If you’re studying in a country that doesn’t speak English, try to use their language as much as possible. Since I’m a Spanish minor, studying in Spain was an incredible opportunity for real life practice- even if it was just using Spanish to order tapas from a restaurant down the street. While many of my roommates weren’t studying Spanish, I took advantage of being in a Spanish-speaking country and tried to speak Spanish with people I met as much as I could!

  4. Stay safe while drinking! Many of the countries you may be studying in have a lower drinking age than the US. And while it’s a fun experience to go out with friends, you have to be careful not to get too unaware of your surroundings. Barcelona specifically is known for having a huge problem with pickpockets. While abroad, I had two roommates get their phones stolen while they were out drinking, so it’s super important to bring as little as you can with you when you go out and to make sure you always have your hands on your belongings!

  5. Pack way less than you think you need. For a 7 week trip, I left for Barcelona with only a carry on and a backpack. While that is a bit of an extreme example, you should definitely pack about half of what you initially think you need to bring. No matter how long you’re abroad, you will likely end up buying clothes, souvenirs, and other random things. You’re going to want to have space to bring those things back with you. If you pack less and leave space for purchases, you’ll have a much easier time packing before your flight home!