One of the most difficult challenges of going abroad is navigating your new city, and I think that is something most study abroad students can agree on. When I first arrived to Salamanca, Spain, it was overwhelming trying to get anywhere without my beloved map. With antique buildings made from the same materials and a lack of street names on every corner, you can bet I was the classic tourist walking through the streets with an open map at all times. It didn’t take long for me to find out the best ways to get around, and I thought I’d share some pointers on how to keep that map hidden.
Tip #1: Use your map religiously for the first few days! For me, this helped me learn street names, but also helped me become oriented. Because of this, I not only figured out how to get somewhere, but I also know geographically where said location is in the city.
Tip #2: Learn the names of the most important streets ASAP and how to get from one to the other! In Salamanca, the most important streets stem off of the Plaza Mayor, so it was imperative for me to learn those quickly.
Tip #3: For your first week, take a different route home from class if you aren’t in a rush! By doing this, you’ll become familiar with the streets of your city while also noticing smaller things, like a cute breakfast café or an incredible view of your city’s cathedral, which happened to me!
Tip #4: Figure out the fastest ways to get from the Plaza Mayor or your city center to the most important/famous landmarks! It makes receiving directions so much easier. Knowing that where you’re going is between _____ monument and _____ church is definitely easier than having to remember the six different street names it would take to get there.
Tip #5: Finally, test yourself! Keep your map on your person just in case, but don’t use it unless you’re desperate. If you know where you’re trying to go is in a certain direction, just start walking and see what happens. If you have to pass by the same store three times, so be it, but testing yourself with trial-and-error is the best way to become confident with meandering through your city!
While it may take some people longer than others to find their way through the city, I can proudly say that I haven’t had to use my map since the beginning of my second week in Salamanca. And even though it is falling apart at the creases, I always keep it folded up in my purse to be safe. As I’m sure you’ve already heard, the best way to learn a new city is to get lost in it, so go get lost!