Nearly a month and a half into my experience, I can confirm that study abroad truly stretches you in the most uncomfortable and strangely rewarding ways. Here are some ways that I managed to survive my first month of studying abroad in Spain:
- I Made The New City Feel Like Home
While you may never develop the comfort and familiarity of your hometown while being in your host country, embracing all the wonderful things your new place has to offer will help stave away the loneliness and homesickness. I landed early in Spain just so I could have extra days to explore my city and take a CityMadrid tour, get acquainted with the culture, attractions and cuisine of the gorgeous capital city.
2) I Downloaded Every City Map/Guide I Could Find
Apps like CityMapper and the Madrid public transportation app have helped me plan out my routes ahead of time and to choose the quickest, most efficient ways to get to the places I need to go.
Instead of just wondering around trying to find things to occupy my time, I invested in a Lonely Planet book about Madrid and began to plan out places that I wanted to visit during my year abroad. Retiro Park, the Palace of Aranjuez, Gran Via and Plaza del Sol are just four places I’ve knocked off my bucket list, and I’m eager to see more of what this beautiful city has to offer.
3) I Tried To Make As Many Friends As Possible
The friends you make will not only make or break your experience, and for me, they’ve been the key to discovering lesser-known hacks, such as the cheapest places to go grocery shopping and the quickest route from my residence to the university campus.
I’m typically shy and tend gravitate to other shy people, so I had to make a note not to avoid starting conversations with the more outgoing people that I’ve met.
Staying at an international student residence and attending activities at my university, also helped me form a solid friend group with people from all over the world (including Germany, England and parts of Spain).
4) I Didn’t Allow Myself To Cut Down On Exercise & Activity
When I first moved to Spain, I assumed that the constant walking would make up for my bad eating habits. I was very wrong. Three weeks into my stay and many gained pounds later, I signed up for a gym membership. Exercise is such an important component of my mental health and physical health and regular aerobic activity has been such a great way to deal with the stress and changes I’ve been experiencing.