Before this excursion to Spain, I had never spent an extended period of time outside of the United States. Here are some of tips and tricks that I think all first timers should use.
Hey there Rebels at home! This one goes out to those of you all getting ready to go abroad. I am relatively new to this whole “going abroad” thing, but I think I learned a few things that could help out.
1. Make sure to be proactive.
Now, there’s no other way to say it, but I am a procrastinator. Through and through. Even as I was preparing for this trip I was way behind. All I can say is please learn from my mistakes.
I waited to the last minute to do, well, just about everything. The best thing to do when you are preparing for something like this is to plan, and do so well ahead of time. Do your research, find out what documentation you need and when you need it by, have currency for the country you’re going to, get your travel dates set, find a place to live, buy groceries, pack your bags. I’m really just trying to stress how much work there is to do, and you can’t get it all done in a week.
2. Weigh your luggage.
Ok, now hear me out on this one. This sounds strange, but it could end up being very helpful at the airport. Overpacking is an issue that I became all too familiar with when I was leaving Memphis International.
I packed a suitcase, a garment bag, and my backpack with all my clothes, shoes, toiletries etc. I knew that my suitcase was pretty heavy when I wheeled it up to the American Airlines counter, but what I didn’t know is that my bags could only be a certain weight. Simply put, my suitcase had been packing on the winter pounds and had to drop a few pounds.
You can only imagine my embarrassment when I had to open up both of my suitcase and my garment bag and move items from one into the other. Luckily, I was able to get everything in order before handing my luggage over. So, unless you want to show off everything you’re taking with you, I highly recommend weighing your luggage at home.
3. Do some research.
Research everything! It only takes a quick Google search, but that little bit of extra work could make a world of difference. There is so much to learn about before making such a long journey.
Look at the city you’re going to. Look at things like safety, culture, what they have to eat, how far a grocery store is from your house or apartment, where the university is, and so on and so on. There is just so much helpful information out there that can make your transition so much easier.
4. Be ready for the jetlag.
Speaking of transitions, jetlag is a real thing, and it’s pretty awful. You really only have to prepare for it if you’re going overseas, but it still deserves mentioning. From my experience, even as I attempted to start a regular sleep cycle, nothing worked for about a week, which is to be expected.
Jetlag takes about a day per time zone, and seeing as Europe is either six or seven time zones away, it takes about a week to fully adjust. There were a few symptoms that I was not expecting, namely a loss of appetite. The best recommendation I received was to wake up with the sun; leave the shutters or blinds open if you have a window; if not, set an alarm for the morning and be strong enough not to fall back asleep. Also, I found it extremely helpful to arrive in Spain about a week and a half before any type of class started.
5. Join an international student organization.
Last but not least, I have found it exceptionally helpful to join an international student organization. It has helped me immensely over the time that I’ve been abroad so far.
They organize parties, weekend trips, game nights, meet and greets, etc. and I have met so many new friends through one of these groups.
I hope you all have had a great first half of your semester! I still have a few weeks until spring break. Hotty Toddy!