Michael Massaad is a student at the University of Dayton and an ISA Featured Blogger. He is currently studying abroad with ISA in Madrid, Spain.
My first few weeks may have been some of the best times in my life. I found myself running through the alleyways of Madrid, climbing rooftops to overlook the city, eating massive amounts of Spain’s famous and tasty tapas, bicycling through cities, spontaneously booking flights all over Europe, and staying up until the wee hours of the morning after a long night just to see the sun rise.
After being in Madrid for almost two months I realized very quickly that you can’t do everything, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try. Studying abroad is an experience that will make you want to come back for MORE! And if you can’t, you’ve got to capitalize on every moment you have.
From my experiences abroad, I have identified 5 tips that I suggest you follow to really grab life abroad by the horns!
1. Learn Some of the Language!
Locals: The locals themselves are your most valuable asset. From them I learned the best places to eat, relax, and enjoy some good music.
Host Family: If you’re with a host family, talk to them! They are your greatest source of information. Be open-minded and respectful of their home and they might be willing to spend some major time with you.
If it turns out you’re having problems, then don’t be afraid to talk to ISA on-site staff about your alternate housing options. I had a similar experience my first time.
2. Get Lost in the City
Architecture: Wandering around enables you to find and enjoy the most spectacular type of buildings unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
Go off the beaten trail: Don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled by. This has proven to be one of the best ways to find great local hang-outs outside of the typical tourist attractions. One of my personal favorites in Madrid is the Blues Bar right across from Club Joy near Sol (You’ll understand what Sol is once you arrive; it’s the city center).
3. Be More Outgoing!
The beginning stages of study abroad are your most crucial. Most of the time nobody knows anyone, so you already have something in common with other students. Be the first one to introduce yourself and go out of your way to hang out with people that have different tastes and interests from you. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and also about life in general.
4. Travel Travel Travel!
Get on Ryanair or Google Flights right now and buy a ticket to another country. You have the ultimate opportunity to explore the most beautiful parts of the world. Do what I have done and explore your surrounding territory!
Flights: You can find a steal if you book ahead of time. I booked flights to England and Copenhagen for 27 Euros each, but two months in advance.
Bus: Cheap. Relaxing. Convenient. I booked a bus to Valencia 3 hours before it left. They are almost always the cheapest option.
Train: Sometimes this can be the most expensive, but is worth a try once, just to see the beautiful scenery.
5. Just Keep on Living
Take a Chance on Yourself: The only way you’re going to experience things is by taking advantage of the opportunities presented to you.
Push your Boundaries: While you begin your first few weeks abroad take into account that while school is important, you’re here to explore another place, and more importantly explore who you truly are as individual. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone and do not be afraid to fail!
Want to know more about the Spanish capital? Check out “4 Things to Do on a Lazy Day in Madrid.”