Before leaving for Spain, I was told that writing a post study-abroad reflection was mandatory. At the time, it was the least of my concerns and was viewed as an insignificant speck that I wouldn’t need to worry about until one day way, way in the future. Well ladies and gentlemen, that day has arrived. In fact, that day has already passed. I got home from my Europe adventure about a month ago. I have put off writing this last blog for several reasons: first, I am amazing at procrastination, if there’s no hard deadline I can drag things out indefinitely, and second, I didn’t really know what to talk about. But I think inspiration has finally struck. Instead of writing a long, nostalgic blog about my exchange experience, I think I’ll just write a list of some tips and advice that I would recommend to anyone about to study abroad. So, without further ado, here are my five advice-tips:
1) You don’t have to have an amazing time. Seriously everyone thinks that just because you’re on a different continent you need to enjoy every second of it, but guess, what? You’re allowed to be upset, homesick or even bored at times. I wish someone had told me this because those moments when I wasn’t having a good day or when I wanted to go home, I felt like I was letting everyone down. I had an opportunity to travel the world, an opportunity most people don’t ever get, and I wasn’t having fun?! Unacceptable!! But, my friends, I’m here to let you know that just because you’re not having a good time doesn’t mean you’ve ‘failed’ or that you’re weird or spoiled or ungrateful. As my dad always reminds me, ‘it’s ok to just be ok.’ Remember that.
2) If you’re going somewhere that doesn’t speak your native language, there is a point at which you will want to revert to your mother-tongue. My advice? Don’t fight it. Enjoy a little break on the brain every now and then. Plus, it always makes me feel like a spy or something when I am able to successfully switch between languages.
3) If you’re traveling with friends, enjoy their company, but don’t be afraid to meet and hang-out with new people. That being said, don’t feel as though you’re obliged to hang-out with someone you’re not particularly fond of simply because you think you need to make new, foreign friends.
4) If you and your friends ever borrow money from one another or pay for each other’s plane tickets, hostels, meals, etc. Please, please make sure to document everything. If you don’t, things could get very messy and awkward and friendships could end on a sour note. Now it is possible- Mary and I would often split the cost of tickets and hostels, or one of us would pay for something online and then the other would repay later and I am happy to report that we are still friends (right Mary?). But that is largely due to the fact that Mary is one of the most insanely organized and on-top-of-it people that I have ever met. So unless your friend is crazy on-top-of-it or really good with remembering details, I wouldn’t enter into any money related endeavors with them.
5) If you’re able to, try and go to some sort of event: a play, a festival, movie nights in the park, open dance classes, even just going to a movie theater to watch something in a different language on the big screen can be a really cool experience. In fact, one of my favorite memories from my entire trip is the time Catey, Mary and I saw a movie called ‘Toc’ (which translate to O.C.D.). It was super funny, we were pleasantly surprised by how much we could understand, and it just made me feel like I was really living in Spain and not just visiting for a weekend.
So there we go, those are my five nuggets of advice. I hope you find them useful, and if you’re not planning on traveling abroad anytime soon and found this post completely unhelpful and boring, my apologies. I guess I am truly almost done with this adventure now. I only began this blog to write about my study abroad experiences, but I have quite enjoyed it. Thus, I think I’ll continue to add to it in the future, most likely during the summer when I have more time to write. So thank you for reading! I really appreciate it and I’ll see you again some day way, way in the future 😉