Eight Pre-Departure Study Abroad Tips

I’ve been in Spain for almost a month and think I am finally getting used to the culture and education system in the country, but it definitely took a lot of time and adjustments to get to this point.

Looking back I think it would have been easier if I had a list of tips of what to prepare for before my trip, so here is a list of tips eight pre-departure tips.

  1. Make sure you know the language… somewhat. I am in Zaragoza, Spain a country where everyone speaks Spanish. I am a native Spanish speaker so for me communicating is not difficult. But other people who don’t speak Spanish have issues with communication. I made a friend from Florida who does not know any Spanish. She thought coming to Spain would not be a problem because her classes are in English, but she was wrong. Just because your classes are in English in a country where English is not the common language does not mean everything will be in English. Make sure to learn a good amount of the language spoken in your country, even if you classes are in English.
  2. Do not leave your Visa paperwork until last second. I made the mistake of getting all of my documents ready until the day before the appointment and that was a mistake. Make sure you look over what you need and take time to complete it correctly.
  3. Apply to scholarships! Applying to scholarships might seem like a daunting task that takes a lot of time, but it is worth it in the end. Writing the essays and filling out the application for each probably took three hours, maximum. The prompts for most of the scholarships are the same, so once I wrote one essay I altered it for the other scholarships. I received two of the four scholarships I applied to, the Gilman Scholarship and the Associate Students scholarship. Even though I was not awarded the maximum amount for either of these scholarships, the money I did get is enough to cover the majority of my living arrangements and some travel. Receiving scholarships is a huge weight lifted off my shoulders and the three hours it took to complete them was definitely worth the time.
  4. Make a monthly budget and stick with it. It is really easy to get excited and spend all your money when you are in another country, but budgeting is the best way to avoid overspending. A good way to budget your money is to know how much money you are going to have for your trip and divide that by the months you are staying there.  Another way to budget money is setting a limit of how much money will go for food each month and how much will go to travel and shopping.
  5. Pack lightly and shop abroad! I did not do this. I brought more clothes than I needed to Spain and regret it because once I got here I realized that the buying clothes is a lot cheaper and the style is different. Check the weather, bring the necessities and shop abroad because most likely the clothes will be less expensive. Also make sure you leave enough room in your luggage for everything you will buy abroad.
  6. Have your living arrangements set up before arriving to your country. I know some people who stayed in a hostel their first days in their country. Although through this option you get to personally tour your apartment, sometimes you are more limited in what apartments are available and the price range. Join your university’s Erasmus (international students) Facebook page or google apartments near certain areas and find a place to live sooner rather than later. Staying at a hostel your first couple of days can also make it difficult for you to get adjusted and the cost will add up the longer you stay.
  7. Look at the courses offered by your university abroad and get as many as you can approved. I got eight courses approved by the university and still needed to email my advisor to get two more approved. Sometimes the times of the courses collide or the class may not interest you once you shadow it or it may be too hard, so the more back up classes you have the better.
  8. Call your bank and know how much the international fee is when you use your card and take money out. Those fees add up so it is important to know how much each fee is for each transaction so you can mange your money. Also take out enough cash in your country’s currency to last you a couple of days. If you take out a large amount of cash make sure you hide it all in different places and write down how much money you have hidden in each area. This is a good tip just in case someone tries to mug you they don’t take all of your money.

Emely Navarro is a journalism and Spanish double major. She is studying in Zaragoza, Spain for Spring semester 2017. 

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