Feeling like a sponge in the ocean? Here are some tips on how to manage your time abroad!

Lucy Mayer
September 19, 2021

After spending two weeks in Granada, a completely new place I have never been, I’m confronted with a strange sense of nostalgia. The nostalgia I’m feeling can’t be about the streets, the smells, or the neighborhood, because those are all new to me. I realized the nostalgia I’m experiencing isn’t coming from anything tangible or specific. My time abroad feels familiar to me because the version of myself abroad reminds me of the version of myself at a very young age, where every color is bright and bold, and every street curves unexpectedly (and I mean that literally, I have tripped and run into a wall two separate times). I feel like I’m seeing the world through young eyes again, and it is so striking and surprising and magical. I promise I’m not trying to be cheesy. 

A sponge in the ocean is how I would best describe the sensation. I am only able to absorb so much at one time, yet I’m exposed to an ocean’s worth of things to see and do. It is overwhelming in the best possible way! Whether you’re planning to study abroad in Granada (or anywhere), or are studying abroad right now, you’re probably wondering how to best divide up your time. I thought I would share some of my tips and suggestions about how to make the most of every moment without over committing yourself.

1) You can’t do everything! Do not let yourself feel bad about it.

While studying abroad, you might feel pressured to do absolutely everything on your bucket list. After all, you’re only there for so long, and you want to make every moment count. I feel that way sometimes, and it’s normal. But slow down! I had an epiphany last weekend while sitting in a cafe in Sevilla (photo included in the cover of this blog.) The cafe was so pretty and intricate in design, like the inside of an iSpy book. I thought to myself, ‘I could literally spend my entire semester in the back right corner of this coffee shop, and not even see everything in this square foot of space.’ Then I thought, ‘and this is just one small corner of one cafe within one city in the entire country of Spain.’ What I’m trying to say is, you can’t possibly do everything, and you don’t have to go far all the time to see something cool. Sitting in a local cafe can feel infinite!

2) Be prepared to sit down for meals (it’s super fun).

On one of my first days of orientation, I thought I would get a coffee and breakfast on the way, and pack a lunch so I can eat on the go. One problem: uhhh nobody does that here. Sitting down and having a slow-paced meal with multiple courses is very normal in Granada. I’ve also noticed very few phones or laptops out during meals. I love how much people value time at the table, and how it is meant to be a way to socialize with friends and family. They even have a word that refers to the time spent at the table after a meal and chatting while your dishes are empty: sobremesa. There is no real word equivalent in the U.S., and I think that is fascinating because it is the perfect example of the way language is influenced by culture. My word of advice, be open to spending a lot of your time at the table to eat. It is not at all a waste of time. It is so much more enjoyable than scarfing down a sandwich in five minutes hunched over the kitchen counter, which is what I usually do for lunch when I'm in the U.S. 

3) Sleep! 

Yes it is a basic piece of advice but don’t forget about it. You are going to be walking everywhere and you need energy to last you all day. A typical walking day here is much more physically exhausting than in the U.S., and I find myself needing much more sleep here. You will want to stay up late and go out, and you totally should, just don’t let your sleep schedule get away from you. By sleeping more you end up enjoying what you’re doing to a much greater extent. It’s quality over quantity, people. 

Lucy Mayer

<p>Hi! My name is Lucy Mayer and I am a senior at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts majoring in Biology and minoring in Hispanic Studies. This fall I am studying abroad in Granada, Spain. I am super excited to explore the beautiful landscape and architecture in Granada, and hope to improve my speaking ability in Spanish. After graduating from Brandeis, I would like to do molecular biology research and eventually go on to pursue a Ph.D. related to science or science education. I am passionate about teaching and I would love to be a professor one day! In my free time, I love to figure skate (I have been a figure skater since I was 10 years old), dance, draw, paint, and go on nature runs.</p>

2021 Fall
Home University:
Brandeis University
Minneapolis, MN
Biological Sciences
Explore Blogs