Hola! I have completed three full weeks in Buenos Aires, and sometimes it feels like the only thing I know how to say in Spanish is hola and hasta luego. Apart from beefing up my Spanish skills (an expected challenge), I have been overwhelmed both physically and emotionally in ways that I didn’t quite expect. Check out my tips below on getting over those first month's hurdles.
Make time to rest!
I should preface this by saying I am not a morning person. However, even if you are, this advice still applies! When I thought about my first few weeks abroad, I imagined relaxing in cafes for hours on end with a few tours of the city mixed in. I never imagined waking up for orientation events at 8 a.m. every day and crashing back onto my bed every night.
Studying abroad is exhausting. And it’s not just me—during one of our few cafe rendezvouses, I and some of my cohort testified to just how incredibly tired we were getting off the plane on day one. For the rest of orientation and on into the start of classes, there’s always someone who wants to go out at night, but this is where you have to put your foot down. Personally, I have a terrible case of FOMO (fear of missing out), but these past three weeks have taught me that not every experience abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I say all of this to say: don’t underestimate how taxing it is to have to learn a new city, speak a second language, and meet new people in your first few weeks. Being picky about which optional outings you partake in is an essential part of maintaining mental and physical health while abroad.
Plan personal trips in advance!
A semester abroad can sound like an eternity, but trust me, it definitely is not. The hardest part to planning your trips is finding a travel group, but once you’ve done that, you should get your mini-vacations on the calendar. Once you start looking at how many weekends you actually have to travel, the semester becomes a lot shorter. So, if you want to travel, enter your semester with a list of places you want to go and find people with similar lists. I can go on and on with reasons for planning ahead, but the most persuasive is that flights get more expensive every day you procrastinate. If you think I'm exagerating about the daily price increases, I'm not. I once saw plane ticket prices increase within an hour and it caused my group to change our getaway location for the weekend.
Don’t blow all your money on food!
Just because the exchange rate may be favorable to the dollar and everything seems so cheap in the beginning, it all adds up. When I’m at my home college, I eat most of my meals on campus and really only spend money on food for the weekends. In Buenos Aires, I have to buy all of my lunches throughout the week and my dinners on the weekend. This means making a big adjustment to my typical food budget. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge foodie, and what I look forward to most about a new place is the food I’ll get to try. Even though you’re probably eager to try all the local food like I am, you have four months to eat your way through the city, so pace yourself. Here’s my top advice for cutting down that food budget:
- Bring a reusable water bottle and travel mug so you don’t have to buy water or coffee every time you go out.
- Track every single food purchase you make during your first week of classes, and then see how you can cut some of that down in the future. There are a lots of free apps to track your spending—my favorite is everydollar.
- Spend time finding the best grocery store for your needs. Most grocery stores abroad will not have a lot of the comforts of home, so this is a worthy venture. Once you find food you like, think creatively about how you can make your non-restaurant meals stretch.
Hopefully these tips will cut down the amount of times you feel overwhelmed by your study abroad experience, but as always, don’t forget to have fun! This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and despite the hiccups I’ve had along the way I wouldn’t trade my first few weeks of experience for the world. Hasta Luego!
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<p>I am a third year student at Spelman College double majoring in International Studies and Spanish. I claim Boerne, Texas (right outside of San Antonio) as my home, but I have lived in over 10 places both in the U.S. and abroad as I am an Army Brat. This however, is my first time going abroad without friends or family, so join me on my journey of learning how to tango, bonding with my cohort, and learning to love Buenos Aires!</p>