Dustin Abnos is a student at Kansas State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. Dustin is currently studying abroad with ISA in Barcelona, Spain.
Five weeks have passed by since my last final exam at Kansas State, and it still has not fully hit me that I will be in Spain for four adventurous months. In a few days, I will be enjoying the wonderful seafood and tapas, visiting the beaches of Barcelona and taking a dip in the Mediterranean Sea. I will also be surrounded by the astonishing architecture and history of Cataluña.
The idea of being in Barcelona gives me chills. However, before leaving, I had to make sure I that I was prepared for this semester abroad. Obviously, I have my passport and visa ready and my flight booked. That was easy. But packing the clothes I wanted was a struggle, especially when making sure that my suitcase did not exceed the weight limit. I had to make the tough decision of whether to leave behind my favorite pair of jeans or my fresh pair of barely scuffed kicks. Although packing and booking my flight were a big part of my preparations, I believe that preparing mentally for a trip abroad is most important. Because I have traveled to Peru and China on study programs before, I have a good understanding of what students need in order to fully enjoy their study abroad experience. Below I have listed tips for making your study abroad program the best it can be.
First of all, you will need to get out of your comfort zone. Upon arrival, you will be in a room full of strangers who are in the same position as you. There will be a little awkwardness, like your first day of high school or college. Even though it is important to be yourself, I would suggest trying new things — eat new foods, be open to attend events and festivals, and go see what the city has to offer.
No matter where you come from in the United States, the culture and customs will be different in Spain. The language, expressions, and gestures may seem unusual. Being thrown into this environment can result in culture shock. Culture shock will affect your mood and can make you feel confused, sad, or even frustrated. To lessen the effect of the culture shock, I would suggest reading about the country’s culture before going abroad or talking to students who have studied in that city before. Most importantly, embrace and accept the new culture. You will find things that you love both about the host country’s culture and about your own by opening your eyes to this new world.
Lastly, you must be ready to say “see you later.” At the end of your program, you might not want to go back home because of the friendships you have made with locals or with other students in the program. You will have shared unbelievable experiences and priceless memories, and because of this there will most likely be a special bond between you. Although goodbyes can be tough, it is a necessary part of the experience. Studying abroad can build friendships for life, so even if you have to say “see you later,” hopefully you will see them soon.
With all of this to look forward to in the next couple of months, it is important to still expect the unexpected. Who knows what is awaiting you in the near future? As Ray Bradbury, an American science fiction writer, states, “Half the fun of the travel is the esthetic of lostness.”