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9 Things No One Tells You About Studying Abroad

As my study abroad experience winds down, and I return to the States in the next two weeks, I’ve reflected on the things that I never expected or considered when I  was preparing for this adventure. Whether you are studying abroad this summer, next semester, or next year, I hope this post imparts some guidance to what no one tells you about studying abroad.

1.  It’s like starting freshman year all over again.

You just don’t get the help of orientation activities, clubs, and common areas to help you meet people. Most people seem to travel abroad with their friends, others, like me, try to be independent and go where I wanted to go. Studying abroad is a privilege, and I am honored that my parent’s let me study abroad, as the costs can prove inhibitive. That’s said, I feel like I have had to completely re-establish myself by finding new friends and meeting people who enjoyed my quirks. Except, I have noticed that when people come abroad with their friends, they aren’t as interested in making friends.

2. There will be times of loneliness.

As I said before, it’s difficult to come alone without a core friend group.  I’ve had my fair share of loneliness watching people have their instant travel and bar-hopping buddies. I got through it, and really had to reach out of my comfort zone. Also, do what you want to do, and don’t wait on others to make it happen.

3. You will miss certain American food items LIKE CRAZY.

Do yourself a favor, and pack yourself some peanut butter. Because if you find it in your respective country, it’s not the same! Once I got here, I was dreaming about goldfish, cookie dough and my favorite version of Special K. Save yourself the trouble, and try and save room for your favorite snacks. You can use the empty space for your souvenir collection.

4. Traveling get’s HELLA expensive, and it’s exhausting.

Euro-tripping sound’s amazing. I thought so at first too. Until I realized how expensive it could be. Flights, hostels, food and museums add up fast. Unless you have been saving up for months and years for these trips or your parents chip in, you might just be staying put. And more people than you think are all about staying in the region too! I also quickly realized that I was exhausted when I was traveling two or three weeks in a row. And then I got sick. Take a little downtime, and make sure that you are living and experiencing the city you chose to study in, and not just using it as home base in between your fantastic weekends.

5. You will spend most of your money on food, transportation, and booze.

Trying new dishes and restaurants- TOTALLY WORTH IT.  However, Keep the alcohol cheap and even, gasp, limit it , because you don’t want to waste all your money on being blacked out. Use those funds to have a memorable experience like renting a scooter for the afternoon or visiting a famous landmark.

6. There is pressure to go out every night, but please, do you!

There are many people here in Barcelona who seem to go out every night. Sometimes, it feels like everyone is going out. Some people can easily live that lifestyle, others need a break. Please feel strong enough to resist the temptation of clubbing 7 nights a week and get a good night’s sleep and your homework done every once in a while.

7. Some classes may be harder than in the U.S, and the indifference about that is too real.

I definitely have less work to do here, but my tests count more toward my grade. And that’s a scary thought, especially when that someone has test anxiety and loves the cushion of several smaller assignments to soak up an average test score. Also, don’t come abroad expecting your GPA to get a good bump, because that’s not going to happen. Just focus on maintenance, because you’re not going to have much time to study between all your traveling and exploring your city.

8You will have FOMO.

Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my friend’s snapchats and Facebook posts at home, I wish I was there with them. You will get FOMO as you see them all together on Spring Break just goofing around, wondering what would happen if you’re there. But. Please don’t let this FOMO stop you because you are having the experience of a lifetime as cliche as it sounds. Check in with them occasionally, but don’t let their actions make you homesick.

9. Hola

No, I’m not saying hello! It’s a chrome add-on that makes it look like you’re browsing in the US, and makes it easy for you to watch Netflix. Because, even abroad, you’re not going to stop binge watching. It’s the best form of me-time out there!

But all in all, you will have the time of your life, experience self-growth and immerse yourself in a totally new country.  As cliche as it is, you will have the experience of a lifetime. I’m so excited for you to start this amazing journey in your life! 

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Four Weeks In

Four weeks. Wow. I can’t believe I am saying this, but I have been in the beautiful city of Barcelona for 4 weeks. It feels like yesterday that I arrived. I’ve done so much, but there is still so much to experience.

I would say that I have gotten into a little routine, and figured out the way of life in Barcelona.  I would say that studying abroad is literally the equivalent of starting college over again as a freshman: new surroundings, new people, and even new food. I’m not going to lie, and I was surprised that I was going to admit this, but being 4,000 miles away has made me homesick for my friends and family, especially as I know they are together, and I am, well, here.

Studying abroad is not only a traveling and educational experience, but a personal one too. I can already feel myself becoming more independent and self-sufficient. I’ve even been dabbling more in the kitchen! I’m experiencing an entirely new culture, meeting people and having conversations from all over (Belguim, Greece, Austrailia, Brazil), and trying to find my place in a city that views me as a foreigner. (I totally am though, and I’m ok with that.)

Those who know me are aware that I am a planner. I live by what my agenda says and plan around that. Thus far I’ve learned to be spontaneous! I’ve tried to make use of my afternoons twice a week after class by visiting a museum or walking around the city instead of coming home to take a nap from my “exhausting” day.

On my second Wedensday, I decided to check out a little photography exhibit at this place called Fundacio Foto Colectania in the Gracia neighborhood. I paid the 2 Euro entrance fee and pondered around the small photo exhibit that featured 6 photographers of artwork taken in the 1970s of life in Spain. Very Interesting to few, and there were some that really made me ponder.

The museum was very modern and had a small library upstairs of hundreds of photo books that I couldn’t help but peruse through. IMG_6921 IMG_6924 IMG_6923 IMG_6922

The next day after my long Spanish class, I headed over to my friend Rebecca’s for tacos and “Margaritas” aka tequila and orange fanta, but still delicious.  Her roommates made homemade guacamole, so I may be moving in. Afterwards, we decided to splurge for a spontaneous trip to the club. We ended up at a place called Shoko. It was fun, very smoky, I came home reeking of it the next day. However, I was so mesmerized by the fashion week catwalk videos a screen played to the music

The following Monday I had a UMD Community Meeting so I spent the two hours walking around the city. I found this awesome home goods/ stationary type store called Tiger that reminded me of a 5 Below, Target without the clothes and cleaning supplies, and a HomeGoods. I couldn’t resist a little berry colored mirror for 2 euros because I didn’t have one in my room. And I found pretzel sticks here! Let’s just say, I was so excited about the salty treat that it didn’t make it home.

Afterwards I found the bookstore called Come In, which is where I had to buy my Spanish textbook. It’s an all English bookstore, so if I ever find myself craving a new read, I will definitely check it out! Then, wandering the streets of Barcelona until I was near Ryan, the program director’s office.

Last Wednesday was my best adventure day, I must say.  My Creative Economy class visited a museum of design, that I had also visited on my own with my Spanish roommate Christina and Kenia. We had to complete a short assignment and could do what we wanted when we were done. Well, since I arrived early, I decided to check out this market that was across the street.

One of the most interesting places of my life. It’s like one big flea market where people sell their old antiques, clothes, and purses. Electronics, fabric, shoes and lingerie were also big sellers at this place.  So random, so crowded. And, I walked away with nothing, meaning I did something right.

After class I hopped on the metro to see Arc di Trompf, which was constructed for the 1888 Barcelona World Fair. This beautiful monument near Parc de la Ciutadella.  I spent a good amount of time taking photos as we walked down the avenue to get to the park entrance.

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Arc Di Triomf

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While walking toward the park, there was a man making bubble art. I was so excited, I got a little snap happy. I probably should have given the guy a tip for all the photos I got from him. But, next time……

In my photography class that same day we practiced “freezing objects”- think water spraying in mid-air, so you know I had to try that out with the bubbles.

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And dogs.

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And the balloons from class.

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that wince

My favorite part of the afternoon was just gawking at the magnificent fountain in Parc de la Ciutadella.

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The fountain of dreams

I want to look at that masterpiece every single day. Apparently spanish children get to have recess there. Right when I went to start taking pictures of the fountain, these school aged children started bombarding me! They were so excited, but at first I was wary of their moves, clutching my bag tightly against my body. They were so excited to speak to an American, and spoke better English than I do spanish. As I moved back, they came closer. Must be a Spanish thing- no personal space.DSC_0687

Anyways, the girls were adorable and entertaining, and I enjoyed talking with them. I asked them the best places to visit, and they said the zoo and chocolate museum, so I know where I have to go next!

After this little excursion and lots of walking, I lunched at this fabulous Mexican restaurant called Rosa Negra with delish chicken and pineapple quesadillas and 3.50 euro MARGARITAS. I’m ready to go back. Who wants to go?

Well, I have plenty more to say, but I want to get ready for a short amount of super bowl viewing on my laptop!

Also, uploading photos on to this blog is a pain…. sooooo slow, but I think it’s worth it in the end.

All in all, can’t believe 4 weeks has passed. Time to start traveling and continuing to make the most of EVERYTHING!

xoxo

Class Act

I have officially survived my first week of class. Well, it was syllabus, add/drop week, and I will say I actually learned something.

After getting out of my damned Friday International Marketing morning class and the excruciatingly boring politics of developing nations (15 page research paper was not gonna float my boat), I now have the perfect schedule.

My favorite class is hands down The Creative Economy. The professor, Jean-Phillipe Charles is from Belgium, and the class is all about the different types of creativity, creativity versus innovation, and the likes. The  class has people from all over in it: Brazil, Germany, the States, Belgium. I’m meeting lots of international people. Belgian business students do a program where they study in Barcelona for a year (AT 18) then Brussels for a year, then either Paris or London for 6 months followed by an international internship. The very first class we took bits of creativity tests to see how creativity was measured. My favorites were having an object, such as a paperclip, and coming up with all of the different uses for a paper clip. Try all the uses you can think of in the comments!  Another exercise involved drawing. We had a shape and had to finish the shape. Naturally, I drew a puppy with those pointy ears.

On Wednesday we learned about creativity versus innovation. Creativity is thinking up new things and innovation is doing new things, involving an action. The only downside to this class is the midterm on my 21st birthday. 😦

I also managed to get into Digital Photography, which I am very excited about. I missed the first day because of the politics class, but on the second day we learned about Aperture and took practice shots. I can’t wait to build my portfolio with this class.

I am also taking Spanish History of the 20th Century. The teacher, Nuriya (pronouced Nooriyah) is a riot. The first class she talked about her fascination with zombies, and likes to give restaurant recommendations. She told us that the day to get Paella was Thursday. I’ve yet to have paella while I’m here, so I’ll have to give it a try next week.  Meanwhile, spanish history is actually  quite interesting, and I’m looking forward to learning more about the country I will be spending so much time in.  We learned about the Constitutional Monarchy and how the King has no political power, but runs the army. He is also still above the law, and could “technically” get away with murder. The president is in charge of everything government and policy related.

Finally, for my spanish class. It’s a long 4 hour class twice a week. I already feel like my Spanish is improving. The teacher, Roberto, talks solely in Spanish, but not too fast, so I have to devote all my attention to him. I’ve already learned some life changing things. The letter V is pronounced as a B, so every time I’ve been using a word that starts with v like “vivir” or “vestido” I’ve been pronouncing it wrong! IT’s supposed to be pronounced bibir or bestido. Vale (Ok!)