Alison Sabath is a student at The Ohio State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Valencia, Spain.
I don’t know about you, but for the most part, I’m a planner. I like to know what I have on my agenda for the day so I can maximize my productivity and fun. I had never been to Spain before – actually, I had never been abroad in general – so there were a number of different things I didn’t expect.
1) You’re going to be spending more money than you think. I know how this statement probably makes you feel – nervous, anxious, angry? I get it – I’m sure you have already set aside a certain amount of spending money so as not to break your bank account. But here’s the thing – there are so many unexpected experiences that will pop up in your host city that you couldn’t have planned for, even after looking at every travel blog and city guidebook. For example, I arrived in Valencia just two hours before their local soccer team, Valencia CF, kicked off their final game of the season. Originally, I didn’t think I was going to be able to see a soccer game in Spain, so I was more than happy to spend 20 euros to cross it off my bucket list. Some things are worth the extra money if it’s going be a memory for a lifetime.
2) Improving your Spanish skills is ALL up to you. You will come across Spaniards that know English just as well as you do. Typically, they can hear it in your accent or notice in your mannerisms that you aren’t from Spain and they’ll start speaking in English to you. The first few times I responded back in English, but then I realized that that is NOT what I came here for! It can be second nature to reply in English but if you really want to make the most of your experience you NEED to try your hardest to adapt to the customs and practice your skills!
3) Be prepared to try foods you’d never thought you would eat. Did I ever imagine that I would eat pig lips or chicken butt? And enjoy it? Never. But I wouldn’t have known if I didn’t try it! I’m not saying that I’m going to make pig lips a regular part of my diet, but I’m glad that I at least gave these typical Spanish tapas a chance. In other words, although there are similarities in the cuisine between Spain and the US, there are many many differences that I think everyone should taste at least once.
4) It’s always sunny in Valencia. I packed probably 4 jackets, including a rain jacket, and 3 pairs of jeans for my trip, assuming the temperature probably drops a lot at night. Boy was I wrong! It’s always hot and sunny during the day and still very warm at night. You can ditch the cold weather clothes besides for maybe one pair of pants and a jacket to wear in the air-conditioned classrooms. And as for a rain jacket or umbrella? Well, it only rained two times all of last summer – so take that as you wish!
The world awaits…discover it.