After reflecting some more on my amazing experience in Barcelona this summer, I wanted to touch on my experiences with travel logistics and how my planning skills improved over the course of my time in Barcelona. I believe this advice could be useful as it illustrates much of what I learned, while also providing future students with tips to consider before they study abroad in order to avoid making trivial (and sometimes costly!) mistakes in the planning process.
At first I was both anxious and apprehensive about going abroad, mostly because I have never traveled abroad by myself and I seldom travel domestically on my own. I overcame this fear by watching videos and reading stories about the experiences of other students and it helped me realized that I was not alone with these fears and, in fact, they are quite common. One of the most challenging elements of the study abroad experience was accounting for all of the logistics of both the arrival and departure end of my journey. This was particularly challenging because I come from a less financially stable background. I did not want this to inhibit my experience but it was something I always had on my mind during my experience. However, I was able to persevere and overcome much of the challenges I faced through my abilities to plan. For example, I was thrifty and able to use credit card points that I had accumulated to help pay for my flight, which helped lower the cost. Additionally, I took a flight that was at a less favorable time which saved hundreds of dollars. In reality, the time of the flight didn’t matter because the time change between the U.S. and Spain was going to make me tired regardless, so it was worth it to save money on the flight. I was also fortunate enough to use some of the money I saved to be able to travel to other countries outside of Spain during my two months abroad.
Here are a few tips I recommend to future students:
1. Make friends within the program.
I was quickly able to find friends through Barcelona SAE’s events and meetups who had similar interests and wanted to see many of the same things as me while abroad. We booked a few trips together to places like Morocco and Italy. As a result of going in a group, I was able to cut the cost of each trip down a significant amount (saving money on hotels, taxi’s, etc.), which allowed me to extend my budget for the trip. It also made the experience more enjoyable because I had the company of good friends on the trips!
2. Book things early in advance and plan around them.
When abroad, it can be difficult to explore the city of Barcelona and simultaneously plan trips to see other parts of Spain or Europe, as the mere result of taking in all the new experiences is so stimulating. That being said, by planning in advance my friends and I were able to get deals for hotels and travel for under $100 for some weekends, which allowed us to see Italy and Morocco. I attribute this to our exceptional planning, research, and genuine curiosity to explore a new region.
3. Don’t be afraid to speak up!
There were various points on my experience abroad where friends would recommend activities or trips to me that I either was not super interested in, were outside of my budget, or sometimes I was just too tired. Most people are understanding and will be willing to meet you in the middle on the amount or type of activities/trips you do and this can really help save money, especially if funds are tight.
Here is a picture of my friend Ryan and I in Morocco. We were able to go on a sunset camel ride with tea and cookies for $20, which was lower than the normal rate because we booked it in advance and booked in a group.
Overall I really enjoyed my experience abroad. I would encourage anyone who has the ability to go abroad to pursue it, even if its for a short period of time. The experiences and lessons that you experience are often unexplainable until you live them for yourself. My best advice is to conquer any fears that you may have with extensive research and planning, but don’t be afraid if things do not go according to plan.