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8 Lessons I've Learned From A Month Abroad

Wednesday, October 1, 2014
A month ago today I landed in Madrid with two seriously heavy suitcases and a million expectations of what the next four months would be like, and now it feels like I've been in Spain forever. Pretty much all my expectations have been shown to be false and the adjustment has been pretty hard, but I can't imagine not being here. So, I thought I'd share a few of the things I've learned over the last month! 

1. Every daily activity is harder when you’re in a country where you don’t speak the language.

I knew coming to Spain that my spanish speaking skills were limited, but I wasn't really worried. My experience with Europe had been that most people speak english, but Madrid is completely different. It's a rarity to find anyone who speaks any english and that can make little things like going to the grocery store or asking for help feel like huge hurdles. 

2. You’ll constantly be subtracting 6 hours from the current time to figure out what time it is at home. 

Between talking to people at home and working for a start up based in NYC I'm almost always trying to figure out what time it is on the east coast. It can be easy to get homesick when it's hard to get in contact with your family and friends at home, but after a couple weeks you adjust and remember to send a text or squeeze in a facetime when you have free time. 

3. Traveling every weekend is amazing but exhausting. 

In the four weekends I've had in Madrid I've traveled for three of them and while I wouldn't change anything about my trips it's felt like I'm playing catch up every week. Last week I didn't feel rested until Thursday and then I left for another trip early Friday morning. I couldn't be more excited to have the next few weekends just to explore Madrid (and sleep in). 

4. Classes aren't a joke

I know the whole classes don't matter when you're abroad argument, but this semester I have more hours of class a week than I had last semester and my classes are definitely not easy. Between an intensive spanish class (8 hours a week), business classes, and a documentary course I've had a lot of work so far this semester. Plus, I don't want one semester to ruin my GPA. 

5. You can’t forget to make yourself a priority. 

With traveling, hard classes, adjusting to a new city, and making new friends it is really easy to feel overwhelmed (I know I did), and that's when you have to remember to make yourself a priority. Whether you need a night in with ice cream and Netflix or just a long hot shower it's incredibly important to take care of yourself so that the little things don't get to be too much. 

6. Europeans don't drink like Americans do. 

Obviously in Spain it is legal to drink at 18 instead of 21 as in the US and some people can go a bit crazy. The biggest thing I've heard from Europeans (including two very cute british boys) is that us Americans don't know how to handle our liquor. The Spanish have drinks with almost every meal, but seeing someone overly drunk is a rarity. Don't be the American who goes crazy because people will not appreciate it (and incase my parents are reading, I am not speaking from personal experience here, just observation). 

7. You'll adjust to being constantly disconnected to the internet and social media. 

Most people I know, including myself, have cheap prepaid cell phones with no data so gone is the time of compulsively checking instagram and twitter. While I still come home at night and scroll through my feeds I have adjusted to the fact that I can't constantly be updating things. Sometimes I feel liberated and sometimes I try to load instagram over and over again even though I know I don't have service. 

8. You'll have incredible new experiences everyday. 

Even with all the hard parts of studying abroad I wouldn't change anything I've done. I chose to study in Spain because I wanted to challenge myself and have amazing experiences. Yes, there have been some really hard days (I got locked out of my apartment and called a friend crying), but every bad day has been followed by an incredible day. I've seen a palace built in the 9th century, spent my birthday by the Mediterranean, and I walk by the most beautiful buildings during my walk to class every morning. I honestly couldn't be luckier. 


  1. I like that with all that you have said, number 8 you end on a positive note. It is good that even with ups and downs there is nothing you've done you'd change. I hope you are taking pictures to capture all the beautiful views you are seeing.

  2. I love all of this! I got accepted to study in Paris for this coming Spring semester so I'll definitely be staying tuned to this blog because I love to hear about peoples experiences abroad!
    I hope you're having an amazing time!

    xo, Dezzie |

  3. I went to Greece this summer to study & it was a huge adjustment! I had the hardest time with the time difference when I wanted to call my parents! I'm glad your having a wonderful time though & that you're so positive about everything!

    Crumbs & Curls

  4. This makes me miss studying abroad so much! I can't tell you how much I wish to be back in London! I didn't have to deal with as much of a language barrier as you are (I say as much because there definitely still was one - surprise, surprise), but I learned so much about the world and myself. Sounds like you're having an amazing time!


  5. YES TO ALL OF THIS. Especially number one. I'm in France right now... and things are really hard when you barely speak the language! I"m also in 18 hours of class each week, all in French. It's so hard and my brain is fried by the end of the day, but I"m so happy to be here! :) I"m really glad you are enjoying Madrid too. It's a beautiful city!

    Zoe | La Vie en Zoe

  6. I can definitely relate to all of this. I actually moved from Europe to Canada and it was quite the adjustment for me. I'm definitely having a hard time understanding why people don't have wine with their meals :)) so you were spot on with that one

  7. Wine with dinner (and lunch) is the best way to drink wine and you're right we should do that in the US/Canada!


  8. Wow I can't believe all your classes are in french if you don't speak it that well! I just have an intensive spanish class and the rest are in english. My brain is fried too by the end of the day so I completely understand. Hope you're having an amazing time!


  9. Thanks Kirstin! I love Greece. Where were you staying?


  10. Ah that is so exciting! You're going to have an amazing time! If you don't follow her blog already you should check out - She's studying in Paris right now!


  11. I'm taking SO many pictures. It's easy to let yourself be negative about all the hurdles and mess ups, but I try to remind myself I'm experiencing things that some people will never get the chance to experience.


  12. The drinking comment cracked me up - when I was abroad, I felt like I spend most of my money on booze to keep up with everyone else. Even our professors wanted to go to pubs and talk over beer instead of sitting in a classroom. It sounds like you're having a great time, excited to hear more!


    Vanessa Lang Design

  13. This sounds like a fantastic experience and you're so lucky to have been able to travel abroad!! It sounds difficult but fun and new all at the same time. And I like cute British boys :)

    The Life of Little


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