Dos and Don’ts of Studying Abroad in Spain
DO always keep a positive attitude. No matter what challenges will be flung at you, no matter how embarrassing your language mistake, if you keep your spirits up and your mood good then you will be able to make the most out of any situation. You’ll make friends and have a great time.
DON’T be afraid of messing up. Unless you are fluent in Spanish, you’re going to screw up. You’re going to mis-conjugate, confuse adjectives, and fail at subjunctive, but if you let that intimidate you then you can’t get better. Everyone will be so excited that you want to learn and improve, they’re going to be more than willing to help you out!
DO get to know your study abroad program staff. Their job is to make sure you have the best experience possible—make use of this resource!
DON’T assume that everyone is 20 minutes late. To be honest, my Spanish friends were always on time. It is culturally more acceptable to be late, but you really should just be polite and keep it to 5 minutes max.
DO prepare for the fact that everything is closed on Sundays except restaurants. This can be a massive pain in the neck, so plan ahead if you need to.
DO take chances! As long as you’re smart about it and there is no danger involved, then go for it! You never know what you’ll discover.
DON’T hang out with only Americans. This is boring and goes without saying. At the same time, don’t feel like a failure if Americans are in your friend group. Moreover, don’t feel like a failure if you don’t have sixty Spanish friends in the first two weeks. It takes time to make friends, just be patient and open-minded.
DON’T expect everyone to speak to you in Spanish all the time. Some people will try and talk to you in English. Just refuse to speak in English—they’ll get the picture.
DO make a budget. Trust me, you’ll want to keep your finances on track so you can do everything you want.
DON’T leave your host city every weekend. You want to get to know the city you’re living in. There is so much to discover.
DO take advantage of intercambio programs. You can usually find one through your university, and if not, then ask your program coordinator where you can find a language exchange. This is a great way to meet other people and practice!
DO take every chance to speak in Spanish. You’re there to improve after all!!!
DO read the newspaper! El País is the most well known Spanish paper, but depending on which city you’re in, you can easily find the local one, too. (P.S. if you’re in Seville, 20 minutos is handed out every morning on the metro!)
DO keep some type of journal. It’s overly ambitious to try and journal everyday, so what I suggest is to keep a list of the things that you do and use your journal for self-reflection or document moments that you considered very important.
DO try to adopt the Spanish lifestyle. Take a siesta, eat when your host mom eats, embrace Spanish food. You have the chance for complete cultural immersion, ¡aprovecha!