You would think the past few months and even the past year would have prepared me for this day, but because of who I am as a person and female millennial, I was still scrambling around 10 minutes before I left for the airport deciding which lotion to live without for 3 months.
And then the woman clad in Aer Lingus green and white said the words all travelers dread hearing: your bag is over the weight limit. Now, accompanied by various interjections from my parents asking why I need “9 shoes” I passed over shirts and shoes to leave behind 50 minutes prior to boarding.
I am a good example of what not to do. PACK LIGHT. You know you will want to do at least some shopping during your three months and even if you don't, you will not need those extra sandals for FALL.
Packing trial and errors are just one of the many opportunities to learn from and throughout my 3 months I will be able to pass on my wins and losses, strategies etc. but for now, we will hit 5 points which to me seem the most crucial for preparing to leave the country:
FORMS. Submit ALL forms as soon as you can. IES Abroad has that handy-dandy list of deadlines as a favor to you-don't wait on submitting important forms! The quicker you get those forms to IES Abroad the quicker you can prep in other ways for your trip. (Note: Visa forms deadlines are crucial so that you can obtain your visa way in advance of your departure date).
FLIGHTS. Book your plane ticket as soon as you are accepted into your program. I used Student Universe to book my flight to and from Barcelona for around $700 round trip . Expedia is another option for cheaper flights. (Note: travel insurance is a plus and is worth the extra $50 in case your flight needs to be changed etc.)
HOUSING. Whether you choose to live in an apartment or homestay, make sure to submit your forms for housing preference as soon as you can so you can have a better chance of getting placed where you want. Think about what you want to get out of your experience abroad. Take a chance- now is the time to live out of your American bubble for 3 months, how do you want to remember it?
MONEY. While budgeting for 3 and a half months can be difficult, do your research, but also read what IES Abroad has to say. With Bank Of America I have my typical debit card for ATM withdrawals as well as a Travel Rewards credit card which waves the transaction fee for larger purchases such as plane tickets or weekend trip reservations. Make sure you take some euros over with you for when you arrive. You can order them from your bank without having to go to a currency exchange. (Note; girls- opt for a cross body bag with a zipper so it's harder for things to fall out or get accessed by pick pockets).
SLEEP. although affordable flights are worth it in the end, your body will need to adjust to the 5 pm departure/5 am arrival time. Sleep on the plane. This is the time to be a diva. Headphones, ear plugs, sweatpants-whatever keeps you comfortable for long hours in recycled air- do it. If you're headache prone, BRING IBUPROFEN. Take it from someone who sat next to the bathrooms AND an 18 month old.
While I never thought I would “have a blog” or that I would be someone suitable enough to give advice to my peers, I do believe the best info about your program and life abroad is given by those who have lived the authentic experience, and I will try to do just that. Whether its where to find the best hole-in-the-wall restaurants or which tour you must go on before leaving town- I will share it all.
Bear with me as I navigate the unfamiliars and I hope my experience can enlighten or inform others interested in pursuing an IES Abroad program and more specifically, Advanced Spanish Studies.
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Mary Katherine Prehn
<p>I grew up in San Antonio, Texas and by the 3rd grade I knew I loved speaking Spanish. While my skills have come from learning the colors of the rainbow to reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Spanish culture and language has always been a part of my education. Both English and Spanish have been clear interests of mine throughout my adolescence, and both allow me to communicate in different ways while stretching to understand what is around me.</p>