1.) This Isn’t Study Abroad Part II
If you did a study abroad program in the past, this experience is quite different. There is no welcoming staff into your new country/city, no apartment to just walk into with hand picked flatmates, no list of places to visit, recommended doctors…nada, it’s a much more independent experience—which is not a bad thing, but …different. And rewarding in the end;)
I started looking for apartments in Spain around late July with Facebook Erasmus Pages and easypiso.com. But I must say, looking for an apartment while you are not in the same continent is difficult—who would have thought? So though many people back home thought I was crazy, I flew off to Spain without having had picked a place.
I booked a youth hostel for 3 days and had a prepared list of apartments to check out. I had a bit of help from another American doing the same teaching program as me the first afternoon I arrived, but after that I was all on my own—oh and of course I had the love of my life with me, Google Maps.
The first days felt like a blur, probably due to the extreme heat of Valencia and the stress of searching. I forgot to sleep and eat because my search was non-stop, and the pressure was on as I started work in 3 days.
(I definitely recommend no one to do this and arrive at least 1-2 weeks before starting your new job/program/etc.)
But in the midst of all the chaos one finds when moving to a new city, there are moments that will make you smile and remember that this chaos will be worth it.
And who knows, maybe your hostel roommate from Asia you met for only one night will leave you a kind note, making you remember people out there truly do care.
2.) Not Everyone Is Welcoming, So Be Prepared
Being American is a double-edged sword when being abroad.
I have to say we defiantly take #1 spot in the entertainment world, with all our music, movies, and T.V series being really well-known, which is a great way to connect with people…but then there are some people out there who believe you represent every aspect about your country and will take their opinion out on you.
Be prepared. You might be going out for a Halloween party and happen to mention you are from the states to some new people, which will then turn the festive mood into a
conversation (ahem ahem…attack) on your political system, president, economic situation, and hey you may even begin to hear some ridiculous conspiracy theories about 9/11 as well.
Because of course you represent the entire population of America, so why wouldn’t these people just bombard you with their thoughts?
Oh, and your Italian heritage might also be insulted as well…
And in this situation you try to keep calm.
If it wasn’t obvious enough, yes this did happen to me. And yes, it was rather annoying.
Long story short, I followed up with some stats, past political situations that America truly shined in, but acknowledged that every single country in this world messes up. But I did not stoop down to start
commenting (attacking) on their countries.
Nice people I’m sure, but there’s a fine line between a conversation, and a well rehearsed speech about how much they think America screws up.
Negative energy aside, then there are your new Spanish landlords and flatmates that decide to welcome you with a beautiful feast and a welcoming night out, and your hope in humanity is restored.
3.) It’s Difficult Staying In Touch
Some days are hectic and having a 6-hour difference with your home country is difficult when wanting to find time to catch up with everyone back home.
But I also don’t recommend you stay locked in your room on Skype everyday for hours, because there are other ways to stay connected daily, and you have to enjoy your life abroad.
Sometimes days will pass, and everyone is out living their own separate lives, but what I noticed is that with true friends, staying in touch is simple.
For my best friend Maura and I, staying in touch is like drinking water—a daily and necessary human action.
Don’t waste your energy on trying to stay connected with people who are not putting in the same effort.
4.) Your New City Takes Time To Grow On You
It takes time to fall for your new city, because it’s not always smooth sailing.
Whether it’s due to being sent to three different offices for your NIE papers, or getting paid late by your company and trying to living off 4 euros for a few more days…tough times will come up, and sometimes you may even loathe everything.
It’s ok. These emotions will pass, and times do get better.
Heck, I’ve lived in New York City for 22 years there are moments I was completely tired of my city, but at the end of the day, I loved it.
Have patience. Go out for a tinto de verano with your new friends. Walk around your new city, and all the positive energy will flow right back into you.
5.) The Good And Bad Times Make This Experience
It’s not just the good times that you will reflect upon when you return back home. It’s all of it.
Like that time you went to Madrid to visit that European boy you had a crush on last year during your time abroad, and he turned out to be not-so-charming, which leaves you all alone in Madrid…
Well that turned into a funny story of how you made a new friend, who happened to be from Brooklyn and is kind enough to show you all over her new city and let you crash at her place
Oh wait…that didn’t happen to you? Good thing:p
There will be down-right frustrating moments, lots of new responsibilities, and a new set of difficult challenges personally, financially and professionally.
At the end of the day, it’s completely ok to go through 10 different emotions every hour. They are normal human emotions you feel when you move abroad.
But I rather experience all these new challenges and moments than to never experience it, or wonder what my year abroad would have been if I didn’t come here.
I feel that it is all worth it, and I would probably do it all over again.
And always remember
“I regret going abroad.” -said no one ever.