Kimberly is currently studying abroad in Madrid, Spain through a Reciprocal Exchange program. Part of her coursework includes Spanish grammar and literature courses. She lives with another OSU student whom she met through the Introduction to Study Abroad class. She and her roommate found a flat in Madrid through a company called Sal y Ven con Nostoros. Kimberly is financing her trip through scholarships that she received (the Humphreys Scholarship being one of them), money that she saved and a small loan she took out for emergencies. She was one of the first recipients of the newest study abroad scholarship, the Humphreys Scholarship.
Kimberly shares with us some things she learned as she prepared to go abroad and once she arrived. Read on as she shares one of her adventures (and mishaps) in a new country.
Thinking about taking that big step and studying abroad? It is a little scary to think about. Trust me, I’ve been there. Not only are you worried about leaving your family and friends, but trying to pack and find a place to live in your host country is also worrisome. However, these are things you shouldn’t fret over. There is always, always an answer or solution (it just might not be an immediate answer).
What Should I Pack?
I had no idea what to pack when I first decided I wanted to study abroad. Luckily for me Google helped me out. Check into what the weather is going to be like for the duration of your stay. Unfortunately I had to pack for three seasons, and being a girl with enough clothes for every season made it a difficult task. In my carry-on bag I made sure to pack a pair of jeans, a few shirts, travel-sized shampoo, body wash, toothpaste, etc. and other necessities just in case my luggage did not make it. In my luggage bag I packed neutral colors that I could mix and match to create more outfits or “looks”. I tried to stick to only a few pairs of shoes. As I said before, neutrals are the way to go because you can wear them with more than just one outfit. Leave the hot pink converses at home because you more than likely won’t be able to wear them every day or with every outfit. Sticking to your basics will really help trim the fat for your suitcase.
What’s the Best Way to Communicate with Friends and Family Back Home?
I have found some useful tools to keep in contact with everyone back home to steer away any homesickness that might be creeping near. My top communication tools are Facebook (mostly for friends), Skype (useful for family and friends), and TextPlus4 (an app on my iTouch that allows me to text any phone in the US or Canada). The only downfall to them is that they require internet to access them. Keep that in mind because you don’t want to plan on using them for emergency calls or as the primary source to call everyone at home about your arrival.
I made this mistake on my first day in Spain…
My plan was to skype my family and friends to inform them of my arrival to my new apartment. However I did not plan for what to do in case I could not get into my apartment, which is exactly what ended up happening. On day one after I left the airport, I arrived to my apartment through a previously-arranged shuttle service. To my surprise, I was locked out! I tried using my cell phone to call Sal y Ven con Nosotros (the company I used to find my apartment), but my phone would not make any calls. There I was standing alone and locked out. But as I stated before, there is always, always a solution; so do not let your nerves get the best of you. After I sat there and debated my options, I decided the only thing I could do was to check into a hotel. I hailed a taxi (luckily, there were no shortages of those) and politely asked the man to take me to a nice hotel. From there I used the phone to get a hold of Sal y Ven and used the internet to skype my family. Lesson learned, double check with all parties (companies or people) to ensure that they are aware of your time of arrival. It is also a good idea to have extra euros to pay for unexpected expenses like taxis or hotels. There are also kiosks in the airport to buy a pay-as-you-go phone, which would have come in handy to call Sal y Ven instead of having to check into a hotel.
Besides the one mishap I had with Sal y Ven, the company has been quite accommodating. Their service is to find an apartment or host family for you. Bills are included in the rent so you do not have to concern yourself with getting your utilities turned on. I found Sal y Ven through the OSU Study Abroad Office. Since my stay I have also found the group called Erasmus at Complutense. This group plans parties, events, tours and will even help students find a place to live. They are a very helpful group and the events they set up are an excellent opportunity to meet other international students from all over the world!
To read more about Kimberly’s semester and adventures in Spain, check out her blog at http://kimboinspain.blogspot.com/