Hello all! I’ve officially been in Spain for 77 days and in those 77 days I’ve learned a thing or two. Here are six things I wish I knew before diving head first into Spanish culture 77 days ago. So, without further ado, I present to you: Six things I wish someone had told me about studying abroad:
- Bring comfy walking shoes… and be prepared to throw them away at the end of the semester. I’m not kidding. On a regular school day, I log at least 6 miles of walking. However, on days when I travel, I can walk up to 15 miles (easy). I so love it, though! Did you know that Spain is one of the healthiest countries in the world with the second highest life expectancy (second only to Japan)? With all the walking and a Mediterranean diet low in fat, no wonder Spaniards are so healthy!
- Set aside AT LEAST five Euros each week to eat some ice cream from María Limónes Heladería (the best ice cream in Sevilla…trust me, I’ve done my research).
- The only café with reliable Wi-Fi is Starbucks. Sad, and oh so American, I know. The beautiful thing, though, is that all the cafés in Spain are meant for conversation, not work. They’re designed for you to sit back, relax, and converse with your friends—all while sipping your café con leche and eating your delicious churros con chocolate. Spanish people value conversation and time spent with friends and family whether that’s in a café or around the sobremesa. That intentionality with relationships is something I’ve come to appreciate about Spanish culture (Pro Tip: if you really want to get some homework done, go to one of the many libraries in Seville).
- When traveling, bocadillos are your friend. I’ve saved so much money making my own sandwiches when traveling throughout Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, and Morocco. The more bocadillos your Señora can make you for your travels, the more money left in your budget for fancy dinners and dessert! I’d recommend staying away from foie (a.k.a. ground up fatty duck liver), though, unless you’re into that sort of thing. Also, beware of seagulls in Venice. They will swoop down and eat your sandwich right out of your hands.
- Celebrate the small, day-to-day improvements that come with full language emersion. When I first got to Spain, I remember feeling completely overwhelmed hearing and speaking Spanish 24/7. I thought it was hopeless. I thought I would never reach full fluency. And while I’m still far from it, it’s been encouraging to see just how far I’ve come in these past two and a half months. I can converse with my Señora with ease, order my meal in a restaurant, and I can even write essays in the subjunctive verb tense! My advice to the prospective study abroad student out there? Focus on your improvements, not the mountain of work that still lies ahead. Remember: you’re learning a new language, and that’s not an easy task. In fact, that’s pretty incredible!
- My last piece of advice is this: Jump out of your comfort zone. You won’t regret it. Throwing yourself into a new environment with a new family, new friends, a new culture, and even a new language is SCARY. But you won’t regret the chances you take. Make a new friend, play soccer with the random Spaniards at the park, go on that spontaneous weekend trip to France. Those will be some of your greatest memories.