What To Do Before Studying Abroad? (Spain’s Edition)

Well, HELLOOOOOO!!!

What a joy to finally be on WordPress without feeling somewhat guilty.

As a college student, there will always be that little voice in the back of your mind that you still have something to do, whether it’s an assignment, a paper, a creative project, or just plain old studying…. Yet you don’t listen to it. And comes the regret that say “hey, you could have done better. You haven’t tried hard enough.”…

That probably explains why I felt my stomach turning and tangling into a thousand knots as I turned in my Spanish Linguistics final exam a couple of hours ago, but it already feels like it’s a thing of a long and distant past. Sigh. Now it’s just waiting for time to pass until my grades are posted.

Not that it’s the most anticipated thing I have on my list. There, I regrettably admit it.

Because I’m going to study abroad – as far away as possible. Ok, not exactly, just an ocean away: SPAIN!

It’s precisely the reason why I started this blog.

This is where I share my dreams, thoughts, and plans – the detailed ones, the ones that maybe too much for the people around to sit around and listen. So here is the place where I can share my voice with unlimited freedom. No need to feel constrained by my past, my identity, family, friends, acquaintances… I’m just here to be and discover myself.

But most importantly, I’m here to record the journey to the actual journey. My road isn’t graced with rose pedals, and oftentimes I use this blog to express that frustration… But it’s only a part of the adventure, no?

I’m just sitting here, reminiscing on how fast time really flies. I started this blog a year ago – one year before my study abroad trip to Spain.

It’s almost here. So close, so close that I can almost smell it.

But enough of that rambling.

I have to keep myself occupied (aka sane) before my trip. Keeping a countdown doesn’t exactly help, neither does working a sales job that requires an incredible amount of patience to deal with the good, the bad, and the ugly. (Mind you, it does bring home some bucks. Wait til you see what I’m going to buy in Spain!)

So I have to devise a strategic plan to deal with the free time (besides working part-time everyday) where I will be able to achieve the maximum pleasure of having no school while waiting to hop on the plane. Below is the list – written primarily for myself. If you are like me, you are stubborn as **** and you will refuse to take any kind of advice unless you feel like it is in your power to decide whether or not you will listen to the “advisors” who have the gut to believe that they know what it’s like to be you.

Anyway, here it goes – a list to remind myself of what I could and should be doing:

 

1. Brush up the Spanish Grammar…

See those old Spanish textbooks in the corner of your room? Having them collecting dust will not help you get a good score on the placement exam. After all is said and done about studying abroad being an excuse for a fiesta, you still have to go to school – a local public Spanish university to be exact. This is especially important if the summer credits count toward your degree(s).

2. For goodness’s sake, READ.

Unfortunately, a regular school term can suck the fun out of reading. Summer is the time for you to remember what it’s like to really read for the sake of reading and having not to worry about memorizing/applying the text to your finals.

3. Prepare for the Fall semester. Early.

Because, trust me, you won’t have much time nor the energy to do all that once you come back from studying abroad. This little break before you go off on your adventure is the perfect time to register/rearrange your class schedule, get the financial aids sorted out, turn in any missing documentations, and order the textbooks.

4. (For those ultimate planners:) Glance through your Fall’s textbooks and (somehow) relate it to the study abroad experience.

If you have been worrying and getting all the things ready for the study abroad looooooong before the starting date of the program. you are one of those people I call “the ultimate planners”. It wouldn’t hurt to check out your textbooks (and even your syllabi) for the classes in the fall! If you are lucky like me, you may be able to combine #1, #2, and #3…. For instance, I’m a Spanish double-major, so reviewing the grammar and reading Don Quixote will help me strengthen my Spanish skills and prepare me for my classes in Spain. Oh, did I mention that I am taking a Spanish Lit class called “Don Quixote” in the fall? Win.

5. Pick up a new trade or hobby.

It’s a gift from free time. Now is the time to explore what is out there as well as what has been lurking inside you. School has inevitably been clouding your interests and passions; but with the summer here, you have all the time in the world to explore the most important thing that is always there: yourself. Of course, everyone is interested in different things; so I’m not here to suggest anything. But I will say that I can’t wait to research more about photography and starting my own Catalan lessons…considering that I will be traveling to three 4 different cities that speak the language and also take the class in the fall. (I guess you can tell by now that I have a hobby of killing multiple birds with one stone.

Image

The amount of Catalan books in my university’s library is amazing!!!They also offer basic to advanced textbooks that come with the CDs! And yes, I need to work on my photography skills.

6. Get to know your school.

Yes, the one where you spent an entire semester looking forward to leaving it. Summer gives any university such a different vibe. It is more relaxed… The buses are not as full. Plus, you can’t help but appreciate that the library is now much less like a cafeteria. And you will also be surprised by the amount of resources that your formerly obnoxiously loud library has to offer. I was very impressed by the amount of Catalan books that they have… (Impressed because it is an under-studied language that is only spoken in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands of Spain). There might be some spots on campus that you haven’t visited, or there might be some that you rush by everyday on your way to class without ever stopping to appreciate them. Take some time to stroll around and you will notice how gorgeous your campus really is under summer’s blue sky. (Maybe today’s not the best day to do it if you live in the “Sunshine State”. You know, thunderstorm and junk.)

7. Get to know your school abroad.

Is it a public or private university? Is it on the main campus or just a center for foreign students? Will you be taking classes with locals, Americans, or international students? How will the credits be transferred and how long will it take to receive your foreign transcript? Do these credits apply to your degrees? Will the grades that you receive over there count toward your overall college GPA? If you don’t know these by now, my dear, you are screwed. Just kidding. You don’t have to know anything, but like I said before, it wouldn’t hurt.

8. Start thinking about what to pack.

Or should I say,  what not to pack? Sometimes it is more convenient to purchase certain items abroad instead of hulling them across the ocean. I personally will not be bringing my three bottles of shampoo with me. I’ll buy some more toiletries once I get to Spain – I think it’s an important part of the puzzle to make you feel like you really are living there! Which brings me to number 9…

9. Shopping. It requires research.

It seems that El Corte Ingles has become an institution for study abroad students, and I won’t disagree. It has everything and much more. Like I said in #8, I’m going to get some toiletries once I landed. I have been looking around on the elcorteingles.es to see what kinds of products they have and OH MY GOD (read: too many). It looks like I’m going to spend a few hours on a hunt for the right soap. Regardless, El Corte Ingles shouldn’t be the sole comfort zone for your survival abroad. Research on what kind of convenient (“chino”) stores are in your neighborhood. It might save you some time and money.

As for the clothes, I do not know where to begin. Much brands and many excite, I can’t even articulate. But to keep it short: look for the brands that aren’t widely available in the US! You’ll be surprised how much are not sold/shipped across the pond, and I’m not just talking about the Spanish ones. Sure, you need to look into the local (but some are world-famous) ones like Hoss Intropia, Mango, Stradivarius, and the Inditex brands (Zara, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Pull and Bear, Osho, Lefties, etc…), but don’t forget other European ones, especially the hip ones like Superdry and Gas Jeans (not available in the US!). Some brands like Lefties and Stradivarius are extremely affordable, but are If you are into expensive European designer brand names, start your search early and start saving it up, which brings me to my next point.

(My goodness, #9 requires its own post. More on that later.)

10. Save, save, save!

Craving an expensive drink full of empty calories? Hold on, you can do it! Just imagine what you can do with the exact same amount of money. I downloaded a currency converter app to help put things into perspective. It helps convince me not be buy some ridiculous cup of so-called coffee after seeing that I could spend it on a bus ride around Madrid! That should give you a motivation to save and march on with your labor-intensive summer job. You still have some time left. You can do it!

11. Use social media. Correctly.

Utilize social media to your best interest in order to enhance your study abroad experience. Studying abroad shouldn’t be about taking an insane amount of pictures to impress some of your faceless friends on Facebook. By all means, capture the special moments, but don’t let it consume your adventures. Keep track of the events of the day in a journal, better yet, on a blog that you can share with the world. You may not realize it, but there are plenty of curious strangers who are anxiously waiting to know more about others’ study abroad experiences before they embark on a journey of their own. Explore different options. Don’t just stick with the circle of friends you have on Facebook and you will be surprised about finding so many different people across the world who share your passion. WordPress is a good place to start, but don’t overlook Flickr and Tumblr if you love pictures as much as you love the words.

 

 

 

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