Summer of 2012 was when my wanderlust was born. I fed into the notion that crossing the pond could actually be a good thing for me thanks to friends who had previously studied abroad.
I decided that Barcelona was the place I needed to visit. Boy, what a great decision that was. The hustle and bustle of that foreign place was amazing. The atmosphere whisked me away with a “city that never sleeps” feel that rivals New York City. I instantly fell in love, and not that childhood infatuation type love, no, this was much deeper.
While in Barcelona, I learned a few tips that I wish someone would have advised me about before I boarded a plane for Spain. I hope to share a few things that I learned along the way that will even provide a bit of comic relief. Enjoy!
I definitely paid for this one coming home. Well, I didn’t pack light – at all. I actually acquired a whole new suitcase and carry-on bag during my trip abroad. Yes, I was the girl at baggage check-in trying to stuff some of my new purchases into my purse, wear them and stick whatever else I bought somewhere on my person. DON’T DO WHAT I DID. Pack light when you depart, and add only super-awesome things you find abroad for the trip home. Don’t pack a whole new wardrobe and then buy another new wardrobe to take home. That’s what I did. I don’t recommend it.
Take a few staple fashion pieces you can mix and match so then you won’t feel bad when you get a couple of tops from Zara or from a local boutique. The fees for overweight bags in itself are ridiculous, so if you can’t remember anything else, at least remember to pack light!
You’re abroad, so live it up! It is essential that you travel to any place, whenever you can. Europe is like a sandbox with many buried and beautiful treasures, you just have to get out there and start digging! In the two and a half months I was abroad, I had traveled around Spain, went to Italy during the World Cup championship game, went to Paris with some girlfriends and even explored the wonders of stunning London town.
Step outside the box, because you might like what you find.
I went with a program for study abroad students, so it was nice to have a group of so-called automatic friends when I arrived to Spain. I found my group of friends and we did everything together. I actually still keep in contact with them to this day, and we are currently planning to meet up in Hawaii for part two of our adventure.
Also, don’t just limit yourself to making friends with Americans for the comfort of it, branch out and hang with the locals! I met a lot of awesome Spaniards along the way who I still chat with on Facebook. Don’t be shy! Many locals are friendly and are willing to give tips and even show you around your new home.
Explore the City
Exploring was one of my favorite things to do while abroad. I’m not talking about visiting typical tourist traps, I’m talking about getting wonderfully lost and creating an awesome adventure for yourself. Often times, my friends and I would ride the metro and get off on stops we weren’t used so we could walk around and discover things most people wouldn’t get to see.
On a trip to find the Forever 21 in Barcelona, my friends and I got lost, of course, and ended up finding a delicious bakery. Side note: the pastries were delicious! I couldn’t even count the number of restaurants, boutiques, local hangouts and other gems I found in Barcelona just by getting wonderfully lost.
Learn as Much as You Can
While abroad, I attended the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona otherwise known as UAB. The campus was beautiful. It had a very old, yet classic, look to it, but was very modern on the inside. UAB is also where I met Pablo, my Spanish teacher for the summer course. All the girls in my class were googly-eyed over the curly-haired Spaniard, to say the least. Learning at UAB was pretty intense. We would have class all day and solely in Spanish. If you asked Pablo a question in English, he would always respond in Spanish with a smile on his face. He wanted to challenge us and make us better, and he did. It was an intense learning experience, but by the end of summer, I was able to join into most conversations and even watch a movie shown at our school in Spanish. It is important to learn in every situation. Immerse yourself so you can get the most out of your experience.
Studying abroad was hands down one of the best, life-changing decisions of my life. I hope that when you are battling with the study abroad decision that you choose the adventure route! I promise, it will surely ignite a wandering spirit inside of you.
-Lover of all things travel, India