Spain is amazing. Traveling is such an adventure. Studying abroad is a gift. I truly cherish the months that I have had the privilege of living in this beautiful country and all that it has taught me. As the semester comes to an end, a handful of consejos (advice) come to mind that I think are important for anyone about to embark on their own journey abroad. These are some things I have learned (in no particular order) during my time in Granada, Spain. Everyone is unique and has their own story, struggles, and journey abroad, so they may not apply to every person out there. But, I do think what I have observed and learned is very useful and I hope you find it to be as well.
1. Make every effort to get out of the American bubble. You are going to make new friends in your program and in your classes, and that is wonderful! But odds are most, if not all, of those people will be from the United States, which means you will mostly be speaking English and it will be more difficult to meet locals. This happened to me, and while I love the friends I’ve made, I didn’t meet many locals. It was a lot more challenging than I expected. I spoke English more than I imagined I would when at the start of the semester I really believed the majority of the language I used would be Spanish. All I’m saying is to find a balance and be intentional about meeting the locals in your city.
2. Don’t wait until you have the perfect friend(s)/group to do something you are interested in… Similarly, don’t be afraid to do things alone. The biggest example of this for me was when I took a solo trip to Manchester, England. I went for the sole purpose of visiting the Chatsworth House, which is Mr. Darcy’s home in the newest movie adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. I really hadn’t found anyone that was interested in going there, so I went alone. It was a very challenging experience but one I really cherish. I’m the type of person that loves to share experiences with others, so at times during the trip, I felt very alone. However, this also meant I got to learn even more about myself: what I like, what I don’t like, how I travel without outside influence, and so much more. It’s okay to do things alone and you’ll even grow from it!
3. If you’re abroad to learn and practice a new language, don’t shy away from continuing to speak in that language if the person you’re talking to responds in English. This happened to me far more often that I would’ve liked. It’s usually in situations where the person I’m speaking with is in a hurry and I’m taking too long to get my point across (like ordering food at a restaurant). It sometimes made me question my Spanish abilities. Were they switching to English because I wasn’t speaking Spanish well enough? I was there to learn so I wouldn’t let that stop me from speaking. Who knows? Maybe they want an opportunity to practice their English. Just keep practicing! You’re there to learn.
4. If you see something potentially interesting or are curious about something around a corner, through an archway, up/down stairs, go explore! You won’t regret taking those few extra steps and seconds to check it out. Even if it doesn’t end up being that noteworthy, you won’t leave the country wondering what could’ve been. Plus, you just never know what you will find!
5. Learn how to use public transportation systems; it’s a great feeling when you get it down. I still struggle with it at times, but Google Maps is a lifesaver. Keep in mind, some countries are easier to navigate than others with this mode of transport, but you’ll get the hang of it.
6. Front load the time you’re living in the country by doing a lot of activities, exploring, eating new foods, meeting locals and new friends. Time really does fly when you study abroad and you don’t want finals week to suddenly be upon you and you still have so much on the table. It’s not fun to be studying for finals and still trying to cram a few more activities in. It just it makes it hard to enjoy it all. I was a victim of this… the procrastinator in me really revealed itself this semester. Don’t wait!!
7. Just take it all in! Enjoy every second and find special moments in each day. I know this is very general, but there is so much to discover and take in. Make the most of your time!
Thank you for joining me this semester and for taking the time to read about my adventures! I hope that those who are planning to study abroad have a wonderful experience. And if you are still on the fence about whether you should go or not, I have one piece of advice for you: do it! You won’t regret it.
Camille Meeks is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Psychology and Languages & Literature with an emphasis in Spanish. Camille will spend the Fall semester studying in Granada, Spain through International Studies Abroad as a Truman Good Neighbor Scholar.
Disclaimer: Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.