This is the surreal moment where an opportunity of a lifetime becomes reality. At this moment, it finally sinks in and I begin to get butterflies of excitement. This is the point in the process where I kept saying to myself, I can’t believe I’m doing this! Hold on and cherish this feeling of elation because when it hits you simultaneously, it is a feeling like no other. Well believe it because it hits you all at once, in the best of ways. Here are some more important things to be aware of before/ during your first weeks abroad!
- You have to book your flight independently from the school. They do not give you much guidance with this part. So I booked it once the program dates were finalized. So for me, orientation for the program is January 7th so I’m flying out on the 4, arriving the 5th but classes start the 16th. So I have some time to get settled in before school starts. Sky scanner and student universe are good websites to look on for cheaper flights!
- Everyone says not to bring nice things in case you lose them or they get ruined. Everyone says pack as light as possible. Everyone says bring old clothing to throw away to make room for the new stuff you will get. Well of course I’m not following any of that advice. I currently have 2 packed suitcases of only clothing lol. I’m lucky enough to have a big closet to keep my clothing in, but the style in Spain is so much different (better) that I have already been shopping twice…. Which is probably not the best great way to be spending my money, but oh well. The problem that I will probably face coming back to the states is that I will have to pay because my luggage will be over 50 pounds, but that’s a problem for another post.
- I got 2 suitcases from Kohl’s (lightest ones they have 6 pounds) on sale for $65 each, which is a great deal. I have also brought a hiking backpack, which just screams I’m a tourist lol. But it’s the best way to be able to travel while keeping your things safe.
- This is important. If you have a debit card you will be charged every time you take out money or use your card. But don’t worry; almost every national bank has some kind of card that has no foreign transaction fees. I will be using the capital one 360 card which works as a debit card abroad. Another option is a credit card either linked to your account or to your parents account. Personally, I don’t trust myself not to rack up the credit card bill so I opted for a debit card. I found that a lot of smaller credit unions don’t have a card option for international travel so having a big bank is super helpful.
** Be aware of the amount of money you spend, 1 week in I spent almost 700$, so sit down with a glass of wine and look at your card statements! It’s brutal but write out how much you spent, I had to learn the hard way and guilt myself into saving money.
- A lot of international communication can be done through Wi-Fi with apps like WhatAapp or Viber in addition to iMessage. But this only allows you to communicate when you’re connected to Wi-Fi and your phone company will charge you if you use the Internet when your not connected( Data-Roaming). I found that lots of restaurants and buses all have Wi-Fi so I haven’t ran into any problems yet without a data plan (fingers crossed.)
- You can look into an international SIM card, here in Madrid “Orange” phone company gives you 2 GB of data and calls for 15$ a month, which might be worth it in the long run (in case you get lost or lose people.)
- Then your family can get an international plan, but I know these can get pricey.
*** Be so careful carrying your phones around especially at bars and clubs. Pickpocketing is extremely common here.People look for foreigners and will try and steal their phones if they are not put away (happened to my friend twice!!!)
- This all depends on where you are living (country) and then what type of living situation you want (on campus, independent apartment or host family.) Personally, I will be living in an apartment, which is close to everything, which is very convenient! I’m sharing a room so ill be paying 420 euros a month but a single room is 500 euros, everything included.
- I am located on Calle O’Donnell, which In Madrid, SUNY Oswego put is through a company called Sal y Ven, which finds us housing and also deals with the landlord for us. This is convenient in the sense that they find us great places to stay and its only one price, but as we begin to settle into the apartment we are beginning to see some problems with the company… For example we can never contact the landlord, in order to get something fixed, we have to email Sal y Ven, wait for them to email the landlord and get to get a response. This is good if the people in the apartment don’t speak Spanish. But being that my roommate and I speak Spanish, it is more time efficient if we would be able to call and communicate with the landlord directly. Also, apparently there are no visitors allowed, and if you want to have a guest stay with you, they have to pay Sal y Ven 15 euros per night. I haven’t ran into a problem with this yet because I haven’t had my friends stay the night yet, but we will see if I can get away with not notifying them. Last thing, I am living in a 4-bedroom apartment with only 4 people, so Sal y Ven apparently can rent out that extra bedroom. So I was informed today that 2 people are suppose to be moving in… tomorrow. You can see the concern not only do we not want to live with strangers but we only found out this was happening today. Clearly communication is an issue.
*** These things should NOT be a deal breakers, just situations to be aware of to avoid any future surprises.
- Most people who study abroad in Europe want to travel as much as possible, and with crazy cheap airfare prices you can! I made a list of all the cities I definitely want to go to, but some are pricier than others, though all are cheap compared to US flights. Instead of spending a lot of money for one city, my friends and I are starting to travel to the cheapest places from Madrid (Paris, Brussels, Ireland, Lisbon) and then plan bigger trips. For example I planned flight to Brussels for 50 euros roundtrip!
- There are some really great websites to help you with trips, Ryanair, SkyScanner, Bus2alps, Wanderlust and City Life. My school (University Rey Juan Carlos) has a Citylife program all around Spain, Portugal and Morocco that are discounted prices and day trips.
- SUNY Oswego also has a great class in Madrid that every student going through Oswego has to take. The class is made up of excursions around Madrid and outside city’s, for example, one weekend we go flamenco dancing and to Toledo. Then at the end we have to write an essay for a grade, easy fun class.
- Everyone takes public transportation around the city. The metro comes every 10 mins or so and the bus does the same! Its very accessible and not sketchy at all!
- To get a metro card, make a cita previa (previous appointment) online at http://tarjetatransportepublico.es/CRTM-ABONOS/entrada.aspx . There are so many metros you can get this at, but the one I went to (Avenue America) no one spoke English! So if you don’t speak Spanish it would be difficult.
- Then you put euros in the kiosk and load it for the month!