As long as you have the bare essentials: passport, money, clothes; you will have an incredible time doing study abroad. There does not need to be an overabundance of stuff that you bring with you to your study abroad destination. For the most part, you will be too busy exploring, having fun, or taking care of daily tasks to need much more than the clothes on your back, your electronics (for obvious reasons), toiletries, money, and enough to keep you entertained in your down time. However; that being said there is a certain dynamic to the lifestyle that comes with studying abroad that makes me regret not bringing certain items. Here are three things that I wish I’d brought with me to Barcelona.
Item #1: Comfortable shoes to walk in
You are going to be doing lots of walking. That is a fact. Regardless of whether or not you want to do a lot of walking, you are going to do it. That being said, I strongly encourage you to walk whenever and wherever possible. It is the best way to see the city and the most enriching and simple way to develop a sense of place that is unique to wherever you may be. Nevertheless, it is pivotal that you bring shoes you don’t mind walking in all day. While it’s equally important to bring shoes that you like to wear because they go well with your outfits, do not focus on that! That’s where I went wrong. I did not prioritize bringing a pair of shoes that I knew I could walk in all day without my feet hurting, or that I wouldn’t care if they got dirtied or creased. I’m not saying you have to bring hiking boots, but it would be smart to invest in a pair of shoes with strong soles that have been designed to withstand the wear of walking around a city all day.
Item #2: More shorts
Item #2 is tailored towards my location of Barcelona and may also be specific to the fact that I chose to do my study abroad semester in the Fall. The summer lasts long in Barcelona and even as I write this in mid-November the weather is still warm enough that I can leave the house in a t-shirt. Such a normality is unheard of where I live—the United Kingdom, and more-so where I study in the U.S.—New Jersey. Before I embarked on my study abroad journey, I had the premonition that fall would begin around mid-to-late-December and I would be well into pants-wearing season by then. Clearly, such a premonition was ill-founded.
I only brought two pairs of shorts with me to Barcelona and quickly realized that that had been a mistake. Around two weeks into my time in Barcelona I went in search of some fitting and affordable shorts to bolster my supply only to discover that they weren’t being sold in any of the places that I went. I guess that by September a lot of the clothes stores had transitioned into winter season, preparing their stock for the colder weather. I didn’t look much further than the fast-fashion outlets that I knew would sell basic stuff at an affordable price, but I wasn’t able to find anything that I could bring myself to buy. So, for the rest of the warm weather I did a lot of laundry, and some days just had to suffer through the heat in jeans.
Know the climate of the place you’re traveling to!
Item #3: A Nice Camera
This one is probably less essential, but I think it’s certainly worth noting that a phone camera can’t provide the same service as a proper camera. I’m not talking so much about the quality of the photo that a proper camera takes, while that is a contention, and more about the aesthetic of a photo from a camera, a kodak, or a polaroid. It’s needless to say that study abroad is an experience you will never forget. In my opinion, it’s risky to entrust a mobile phone to savor all of those moments that you will want to capture. Phones can be stolen, they can break, or get lost, and yes, such things as the Cloud exist to back-up your files but, for reasons that may seem ridiculous and far-fetched, putting all of your faith into the digital ecosphere may not always pay off. With a real camera, the photo inherits a certain specialty; an ever-lasting moment that’s not lost to the chaos and junk of your phone’s camera roll. This all may sound like it’s turning into a cheesy Canon advertisement, but really; give the moments that will turn into memories the respect that they deserve.
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I have a passion for storytelling, I like to spin mundane thoughts and pass-times into narrative spectacles on paper or in my mind. I think everything we do is part of a story and there is no such thing as a boring life.