28 Quick Tips to Help You Get Settled in Spain
Below is a list of things I learned about myself, Spain, and other little tips based on my journey studying abroad in Spain so far. I hope this is good advice for anyone looking to travel!
The Journey Begins: Airport Advice
- Meeting new people is the best thing, and remember to keep an open mind. Who knows, they may just become one of your best friends some day.
- Taking pictures of two people jumping in a crowded airport is not the best idea.
- When doubting where to walk in an airport, just follow the massive crowd. They usually know what they’re doing.
- I know flying on a plane with a new friend is exciting and you want to get to know them, but remember to sleep. Especially if it’s a red eye flight. Seriously you will look dead in the morning if you don’t.
Arriving in Spain and Orientation in Madrid
- EVERYWHERE you go when traveling, check that you have money, your phone or another way to communicate, and especially your passport. It is essential you remember your passport, if nothing else.
- Check with your roommates, if you have any, if they have any special requests and/or necessities, and try your best to listen to them.
- Be clean and tidy in a hotel room. Not only is it respectful, but can also help you from forgetting things when you check out.
- Bacon in Spain is not the same as the USA. 🙁
- There’s more donut options at Dunkin’ Donuts!? Like, actually, I want an Oreo fudge cake batter brownie in the USA!
- It is VERY easy to get lost in Madrid. The streets look similar, especially in the big shopping district. If you are with other people, make sure to stay together.
Taking in the Sights, Trying Foods and Making Friends
- Paella is incredibly good, and it’s fun to try different types to find your favorite! I love the carne paella 🙂
- Experience every second of where you are. Take in every sight before and around you. Let it sink in, and admire every drop.
- Sometimes it’s best not to take pictures. Just look around and let it absorb into your memory.
- It’s okay not to do something. Everyone may take a boat ride or go grab some food. But, just because you think you are there and that you have to do as much as you can, it doesn’t mean you have to do EVERYTHING. If someone else does something you don’t want to do, go find something else like listening to the local music playing or watching fish swim in the lake. This is your experience, don’t forget that.
- Be silly, make jokes, have fun. Take funny pics and record hilarious moments. When homesick, it makes things feel a lot better.
- Do your best to try and speak the language. You may get it wrong, but most people correct you with a smile and are always happy to help.
- On the contrary, learn to be quiet. Try to think more about what you’re doing and where you are and how lucky you are to be there. Silence is just as powerful as the pen, just know when to use it.
- Try as much food as you want! The food in Spain is so fresh and vibrant and tasty and just worth the time to experience as much as you can. It’s so good, and my personal favorites are the bread, coffee, and chocolate. The U.S. can’t even compare to the quality of food here.
- Dance EVERYWHERE! I know it sounds crazy, but everywhere I went I danced a little bit, sang a little bit, and ran around a bit just to get everyone to laugh, even myself. Let yourself loose, go be crazy. Little dances in the elevator or down the escalator get you excited for what’s to come, and it’s such a simple way to create a smile.
- When greeting people, kiss them once on each cheek, except for a boy with a boy, then a simple handshake and hug will do.
Settling into Your New Life at School and with Your Host Family
- You will get asked tons of questions! If speaking in Spanish, take your time and don’t feel pressured to get it right! You are here to learn, not to be perfect. If speaking in English, speak slow and concise and ask those you’re speaking to if they need any help understanding. Always be kind and remember they are learning too!
- You will get frustrated and think there is something wrong with you. You will feel stupid and like people do not like you at times. And that is 100% normal! I experienced that in my first week! Now I’m much better and my friends and host family are helping me a lot. Just be patient and know you are learning, and you will get better.
- Ask the teachers, to the best of your ability, for help. Because I guarantee you will not understand much, if anything at all, for a while. They speak very fast and you will be confused. If you have a question, just ask! Write the notes on the board regardless, and have a friend or host family member help teach you what they mean. It helps you become closer with your teachers, friends, and family.
- There is no Kraft Easy Mac or Goldfish crackers. I know, it’s tragic. But hey, find some new snacks! It’s a lot of fun. 🙂
- Go to the supermarket and the shops as much as you can, and ask your host family and friends how to say certain things, or ask to buy items. It is very, very helpful.
- Hey, remember those friends you met in Madrid for orientation? Don’t forget about them. Comment on their photos, send them a text now and then just to ask how they’re doing. One of my best friends, Olivia, made our orientation and her arrival to Caceres into a video montage. Check it out:
- Also, don’t forget that your host family is hosting you out of the generosity of their hearts, so always be grateful for what they’re giving you.
- Finally, don’t forget to just smile. Take pictures of you smiling, smile to teachers, friends, strangers even. It will make you feel happier when you look back and remember these great moments.
I hope this helped! All the best to anyone wanting or waiting to come to Spain! It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
About the Author:
I’m Grace Forrest, and I’m 15 years old and love to write and sing. Traveling has always been something I’ve loved to do, as I’ve been going to Australia every year since I was six years old. My favorite thing about traveling is the different cultures I get to explore, and comparing different parts of the world and what makes them so different. I hope to combine that with my love of writing and be an anthropologist one day!