I have officially hit the one month mark of leaving my home in Northern Virginia and moving to the beautiful city of Madrid for my semester abroad. It’s safe to say that the experience so far has been bittersweet. Given that I am a homebody, it has been a challenge adjusting to my new environment. To say the leas,t I’ve been emerging in a new culture and experiencing a once in a lifetime adventure. While this is just the beginning, I have learned so much not only about the Spanish culture, but most importantly about myself. Coming into this I was scared, nervous and unsure what these next five months would bring. Not only am I trying to adjust to my classes, but I also have to learn how to navigate around an area in which I am unfamiliar with the language.
Throughout my semester abroad, I am going to take you collegiettes on this adventure with me. I will give you my tips, advice, and a mini tour guide of all the cool places I went. Hopefully if you ever decide to study abroad, this series will help you throughout the process and allow you to make the most of your time abroad. I’m going to start with my top three tips for your first month abroad.
1. For starters, take advantage of every little thing your school offers
There are plenty of opportunities to make new friends and visit cool places with your school. Most international schools have a welcome month in place that gives students the opportunity to explore, meet new people and save some money. You will be surprised with how many student discounts exist in Europe. Just make yourself aware of all the opportunities your school offers and take advantage of every single one.
2. Begin planning your extra-curricular trips as soon as possible
Just like back in the US, the longer you wait to plan a trip or book a flight, the more expensive the trip becomes. Most students I have noticed plan out their weekend trips within the first month. By doing this, you can schedule out all the places you hope to visit and give yourself some type of motivation throughout the school week.
3. Most importantly, keep an open mind
It’s no secret that you will be unfamiliar with the culture and everyday lifestyles of the country you are studying in. That’s the beauty of this adventure; you get to experience first hand how a culture unlike your own lives. It can be overwhelming at times, but it’s an amazing experience. If you don’t speak the language of your host country, just remember to be patient. Nothing is impossible, you just may face more challenges than others in regards to navigating around and figuring out the little things.
Despite the homesickness my time abroad has been nothing short of amazing. I have met some awesome people, indulged in some amazing foods and experienced the European nightlife. My adventure is just beginning and I can’t wait to take you on my journey!