It has been a couple of weeks since I have gotten back, which has given me plenty of time to reflect upon my experiences. I wrote in my first post that I would list the top 10 things to pack for a short-term summer study abroad program…so here they are!
- Phone and laptop. These are essentials. Be sure to download Whatsapp, GroupMe, and Viber on your phone before you leave. Also, upload and delete any pictures left on your phone. You will need all the camera space!
- Sturdy shoes. On one hand, I want to advise against bringing white Converse shoes, but almost all of the college kids in Spain wear them, and they match with everything! I would consider buying knock off Converse shoes because they will get dirty, destroyed, and tattered. However, I was able to salvage mine by washing them several times when I came back. Also, I regretted not bringing my running shoes. If you are a runner, please bring them!! There are so many beautiful places to run. Finally, I strongly suggest that you don’t bring too many sandals. They are fine to wear to class, but they are not practical at all when exploring a city.
- Half-used toiletries. The reason I suggest half-used is because this way you can throw them out and save space in your bag for other things when you return. I bought brand new containers of shampoo, conditioner, and body soap, and I had to bring them back because I felt wasteful tossing them out.
- Granola bars, peanut butter, and other American snacks!! This is very important!! For the first week, I didn’t know how to get to the grocery store so it was very difficult to get simple food items. I was starving between meals, and I ended up spending a lot of money on snacks. At least bring enough snacks to hold out for a week. However, American snacks are expensive in Spain, so if you are a peanut butter addict…bring a jar or two with you! Also, our dining hall had a very mediocre breakfast, so peanut butter came in handy to make sandwiches in the morning. This tip will save you a lot of money. I encourage eating Spanish food as much as possible, but it can get very expensive. By bringing snacks, you can budget your money more effectively.
- A lot of underwear and socks!! Who knows when you will get a chance to do laundry?
- A cheap towel. My towel became pretty gross after being packed (sometimes while wet…) in my backpack during weekend trips. Thankfully, I brought a cheap towel, and I just tossed it out before I left Spain. It cut down on a lot of volume in my bags!
- A credit card and debit card without foreign transaction fees. This is extremely useful because foreign transaction fees add up! I used a Capital One Venture Credit Card. I highly recommend it, however, I usually use Bank of America (BoA) so it would have been easier to get a BoA Travel Rewards Card. I used my BoA debit card (I’m not sure which debit cards don’t have withdrawal fees). I only used Deutsche Bank (the BoA partner in Spain) because then there was only a 3% fee and not the foreign transaction and ATM withdrawal fee. Check with your banks beforehand to figure out their policy, and let them know that you’ll be studying abroad!
- STUDENT ID. We were issued a University of Salamanca ID, but some programs don’t issue student IDs. Either way, bring your student ID from home. You can get so many discounts. On one of our weekend trip, we went to the Alcazar in Sevilla and I had to pay 11 euros (versus the 2 euros with a student ID) to get in because I forgot mine in Salamanca. Also, many tourist sites have certain hours that are free for students. Plan ahead!
- A nice camera. I know that this is not practical for everyone, but I highly suggest investing in a good camera. Studying abroad is a rare opportunity, and I am fortunate to be able to have documented it with a good camera. iPhone cameras honestly don’t do justice to the beauty of Spain. However, my camera lens stopped working after the second week (probably one of the saddest moments on the trip) so I suggest buying a camera in advance to make sure that it doesn’t have random problems.
- A good attitude! This is pretty cheesy, but it is very true. I thought I had planned out my trip very well before I came, but almost nothing went according to plan. Regardless, I had one of the most amazing times of my life!! It is fine to have a general idea of what you would like to see and do, but don’t be set on a certain plan before you even enter the country. I love the calm vibe of Espana, and my study abroad trip definitely helped me relax a lot more.
I hope this list is helpful! Keep in mind that it is not entirely applicable if your are doing a semester-term program. Also, in a previous post, I mentioned that I would explain tapas. Basically, people go for tapas anytime throughout the day in Spain. It is most common to have tapas around 7:00 PM. Often you order a drink and a tapa together. Sometimes the tapa comes free with the drink. Also, if your order two tapas, sometimes the third is free. A tapa usually costs 1-2 euros in Salamanca, but it can be more expensive in Madrid, Sevilla, and Barcelona. Some of my favorite tapas are: pincho moruno (grilled meat skewers), costilla (ribs), and huevos con papas (eggs and potatoes). I usually get full off of 2-3 tapas.
This definitely isn’t the end of my Spanish language study or international travel. I have begun practicing Spanish with a conversation partner who lives in Madrid, Spain. We text everyday and Skype sometimes. I have also been watching Spanish TV shows for little kids like Peppa the Pig (haha). I am looking forward to volunteering again during my winter or spring break in a Latin American country. I plan to use the knowledge that I’ve gained to be more effective while I am there. I definitely plan to return to Spain!! Barcelona, Bilbao, San Sebastian, Granada, Malaga…there are so many places left to see! 🙂