Author: Angelys Torres
Location: Barcelona, Spain
If you are reading this I hope it is because you are considering a study abroad experience. I’ll start by saying, DO IT. Of course it is scary but it is also really exciting. And if you are one of those people who think you can’t do it, explore your options because you can. I knew that I don’t like being away from home for long periods of time and that I was going to need substantial financial assistance, but I didn’t let those things stop me from having my experience. And neither should you.
I am writing this final message because unfortunately, my experience has come to an end, but this could be just the beginning for you. So here is some “study abroad” advice that I picked up over the last month.
- Be prepared. From the moment that airline ticket is confirmed, the countdown begins. Preparations and orientations are well underway. In this time, it becomes easy to panic. Barcelona is the number one city in the world for pick-pocketing. I had learned this during orientation and immediately thought the worst. Rather than letting myself drown in worry, I packed bags with single zippers that would be easier to watch. I am happy to report that I made it through the month without being pick-pocketed. So don’t panic, be prepared.
- Don’t expect too much. Students often find themselves waiting for some grand life-changing moment the minute they step off the airplane and become disappointed when that doesn’t happen. Personally, that was me. I walked down onto the tarmac with a huge smile on my face ready to soak in the Barcelona sun. I found myself disappointed for the first few days because my reality did not match my expectation. Fewer expectations equals fewer possibilities for disappointment.
- Embrace change. This shouldn’t be a surprise, but studying abroad means being in a new place and a new culture. When we vacation, we only see little parts of that new culture. We often stick to tourist areas, stay in hotels, and only visit for a short time. Study abroad is not a vacation, and this distinction is actually incredibly important to make. In my short time, I changed from tourist to “local.” I explored residential areas, made friends with locals, and even began to feel annoyed by other tourists.
- Be open to new experiences. New culture means new lifestyles. Since study abroad is more of a “living away” experience rather than visiting, a lifestyle change is often necessary. Be open to those differences. You may be surprised and find something you really like. Barcelona, although a very populated city, is very laid back and slower paced. At first, this drove me insane but, over time I found that I loved taking my time and enjoying the small things.
- Remember who you are but find someone new. Being in a new place can be exciting and all encompassing. At times, it is easy to get lost in the daily motions. The secret is: there is no right or wrong way to have your experience. You know your likes, dislikes, limits and desires more than anyone else. Only you can bring those to life. So don’t be afraid to express yourself, take risks, go out on your own, or stand your ground. During my time in Barcelona, I was faced with more challenges than I could have ever anticipated. Each and every one taught me something new about myself. I was always me, but I was always growing, and that’s the real grand life-changing moment I was waiting for all along.