Okay, so let’s talk about Study Abroad. Every single one of you should seize the opportunity to study abroad. You may not realize it now but when it is all said and done it will have been one of the greatest experiences and biggest learning experiences of your life. My experience helped me to grow as a person and discover a new found independence. Being able to go to Europe made me fall in love with traveling that much more.
In June 2016 I studied abroad in Sevilla, Espana (Seville, Spain) at the TTU Center. I was able to take pretty easy elective so I had a lot of free time (so take one of those “GPA booster” classes if you’re able, it’ll make your time abroad that much more enjoyable). Before going abroad I had never traveled outside of the United States, and when I did travel I did not get to explore much because I was always spending all my time in school activities.
Preparing to go abroad can seem so stressful but if you plan and do things ahead of time you will be just fine. Buy your plane ticket early and use websites like studentunivers.com. I bought my ticket on that site and saved $700 compared to some of my peers. (P.S. Flying out on Wednesdays is cheaper ;) )
The day before I left Lubbock I remember being overcome with nervousness at what would lie ahead. I had never been out of the country and I had never flown by myself. I soon learned that traveling alone for the first time can be stressful, especially when you’re traveling to another country..BUT, it is all so worth it. I flew from Lubbock to London, England. Keep in mind that every country’s airports will have regulations that differ from the U.S. With that being said, I went through security THREE TIMES in London just walking to my departing gate to Spain. Then security in Madrid was a BREEZE.
When I arrived in Spain I was relieved and so excited. The weather in late May and the beginning of June is great. It is warm but not dry Texas heat. I never stayed in a hostel in Europe so I cannot speak for those but my first hotel in Spain, and pretty much every hotel I stayed in during my time in Europe, were great. Nice hotels are cheap compared to what you pay for a nice hotel in the U.S. After spending a day in Madrid I flew to Seville where my adventure truly started.
Once I arrived in Seville I took my first taxi. Let me tell ya, if you have not been in a taxi before, then your experience of being in a taxi in Spain will be terrifying but exhilarating. I hopped in my taxi and felt like I was on a roller coaster. Taxi drivers are so friendly but they waste no time and will get you to your destination faster than you could imagine. Once I arrived at my hotel in Seville I met some other Tech students and went exploring through the old part of Seville. I had my first meal in a little café and it was great (spoiler: splitting tabs is not a big thing in Europe so be sure to carry plenty of cash to pitch in for your bill when eating with friends).
The next day I met my amazing host mom and headed to my apartment. I would encourage anyone who has the option to live with a host family to do so. It is a great way to immerse yourself in the culture that much more. Most host families are older men and women who just want to have someone to care for and keep them company. My host mom cooked 3 meals a day, did my laundry twice a week, and cleaned my room (literally a college kids dream)! I loved getting to have conversations with her at lunch and dinner where she would tell me about her life and about places to see in Spain.
While in Spain if I didn’t go to a local bar or dancing with friends, I would always go out and explore the town. Whether it was walking through Corte Ingles (basically a Spanish Dillard’s),
walking the Metropol Parasol, or walking the streets that seemed to have Cruz Campo signs on ever block, I always found something to do.
When you’re not eating at home do not, I repeat DO NOT go eat at a restaurant that is in America! Go and eat at local places and experience all that you can. The ice cream is AMAZING. If you want some coffee or tea, my recommendation would be to visit Costa Coffee, it is like a European Starbucks.
There are also so many churches and museums to see along with beautiful castles and palaces. Anytime you are able to go on an adventure… GO, even if you are by yourself. Go to local attractions and celebrations that are taking place while you are there. Traveling in Europe is also very affordable, don’t be afraid to take day trips on the train to small cities or to take a cheap RyanAir flight to another country over the weekend. In Seville there is an organization called “We Love Spain” that organizes trips for visiting students. If they have a trip that is appealing to you take advantage of it because you get a lot of fun experiences for the small amount of money that you pay in.
Wherever you go, don’t be afraid to speak to locals. The only countries I visited were Portugal and Spain, but I can speak from experience and tell you they are some of the friendliest people. They love to answer your questions while also asking you what it is like to be from America and more specifically Texas. One of my favorite things while abroad was talking to local artists who sold handmade paintings and artwork on the streets of Spain. Use some of your money and invest in some artwork that you can keep forever.
My last pieces of advice are:
-Don’t be afraid to branch out, you are in another country and who knows when or if you will ever be back, HAVE FUN.
-Take risks but don’t be senseless
-Don’t stay glued to your phone, immerse yourself in your surroundings as much as you can.
-BACK UP YOUR PICTURES TO YOUR COMPUTER WEEKLY (I lost over 1,000 of my pictures)
-If you are in Spain, eat all of the Croquetas and Paella that you can, I promise you will miss it. Oh and don’t forget to try LEMON wine while you are there (who knew you could make wine from lemons?)
Signed from an old Terry Scholar who wishes you a great time in your time abroad!