5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Studying Abroad

“After spending a semester abroad in Madrid, Spain, I realized that there were several things I wish I had known before I departed the US. Part of the journey of going abroad is figuring out different things about yourself and the places you visit, but listed below are five major points to know before you go.”

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“Everyone travels for different reasons, and everyone has something to share and something to teach, including you.”

Check out my full article on The Abroad Guide here.——-> 5 THINGS I WISH I KNEW BEFORE STUDYING ABROAD

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5 REASONS YOU SHOULD BLOG WHILE STUDYING ABROAD

“Studying abroad means embarking on a journey that will take you to new places and help you reach new heights, both literally and figuratively. While a picture may be worth a thousand words, starting a study abroad blog is a creative and expressive way to catalogue your experiences and share your adventures with the world. Read on for the top 5 reasons to blog while studying abroad…

Like my blog about all my study abroad adventures? Read the reasons WHY I started blogging on my latest post for The Abroad Guide—–> 5 REASONS YOU SHOULD BLOG WHILE STUDYING ABROAD

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Research, people. It’s all about the research.

While I was studying abroad last fall in Madrid I did plenty of “research” about the best party spots and this is what I came up with:

Madrid is one of the few places in the world that literally parties all night long. With several major clubs, hundreds of bars, and a passionate and social culture, it’s perfectly normal (and a common thing to do while studying abroad) to end your night on the town at the same time people are making the morning commute to work…

Check out the rest of this article on The Abroad Guide. ——->  THE ABROAD GUIDE TO PARTYING IN MADRID

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Have you visited any of these awesome places? Let me know in the comments!

¿Tienes Hambre?

Who’s hungry?

“Spanish food is considered a Mediterranean diet – not Mexican. So while you might be expecting amazing amounts of salsa and refried beans when in Madrid, you’ll be in for a (hopefully pleasant!) surprise. You won’t find tacos and nachos on every menu– instead, you’ll be delving into little appetizers that make up a big meal – with a multitude of ingredients from shrimp, to eggs, to ham croquettes. Spanish food uses fresh, high quality local ingredients, and can vary depending on the particular region you’re in. Here’s a rundown of the top places to go to grab a bite while in Madrid…”

Read on here ——-> THE ABROAD GUIDE TO EATING IN MADRID

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Have you visited any of these delicious eateries? Let me know in the comments!

THE ABROAD GUIDE TO MADRID

Here’s my debut post on The Abroad Guide! [All lovely Madrid photos are my own.]

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Madrid is the capital of Spain, and one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. It’s a medium-sized city with an intimate feel, and the passion, architecture, and clear blue skies will seep into your soul and provide the energy to maintain the up-all-night lifestyle. Madrid is a place for adventurers, artists, and people who don’t need a lot of sleep. It’s full of fútbol (soccer) fans, Royal history, artistic masterpieces, and a glorious clash of historic and modern culture. Go ahead, immerse yourself in Madrid.

Do you have questions about studying abroad in Madrid? Let me know in the comments and I’ll answer them!

Visit The Abroad Guide for more information about study abroad.

Any Questions?

Questions about abroad answered in questions about abroad.

How was abroad?

You really expect me to answer that in one sentence, let alone one word?

What was your favorite city?

Which is your favorite child?

What did you think of the weather?

How would YOU enjoy 4 months of sunshine, warm weather and the clearest blue skies known to man? (With the exception of the rainy weekend in Paris, but would that bother YOU?)

How was your host family?

How would you describe the woman who cooked for you, did your laundry, opened her home and served as a source of comic relief and mother/grandmother figure while your real family was 3,397 miles away? How do you describe a bond that was forged through sharing photographs after dinner and stories about travel without so much as a word in English? How do you think I feel knowing I may never see her again?

Are you fluent now?

How do you convey to someone who has never lived it that being “Spanish” (even for just a few months) isn’t just knowing the language? Being “fluent” may mean you can communicate effectively through words, but do you realize that being a “Madrileña” is about embracing the lifestyle? That being passionate, spirited, outspoken, majestic, self-confident, and willing to learn from and share what you know with others is only the tip of the iceberg?

Did you “study” at all?

I think I studied a total of four hours the entire semester, isn’t it crazy that I actually RAISED my GPA? Has anyone ever told you that learning also takes place outside the classroom?

Are you happy to be home?/ Did you miss your family?

Yes, of course I am happy to be home and I missed my family, but would I go back in a heartbeat?

Yes, that’s not even a question.

Winning London

What a whirlwind weekend. It seems like everything that could have gone right in London did go right. London was also my last international trip until I go home, and the only city that made me wish I studied abroad there (*important note: not instead of Madrid, maybe in addition to though…). I went with the Madrid girls in my sorority (minus Anna and Rachel) Allison, Eliza, Morgan, and Alexa, and I even ran into my friend Vic from high school and my sister’s boyfriend David!

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‘Ello there!

I flew into London Gatwick airport late at night, but had to rush through customs (only other passport stamp I’ve needed to get disappointingly), withdraw some pounds (feeling that exchange rate, thanks Econ), buy a ticket to Victoria Station in downtown London and change two metro lines all before public transportation closed at 12:30 am. At least these people speak English! London was the first time I’ve been in a native English-speaking country since August. That’s crazy.

After so many close calls lucky breaks, Morgan, Eliza and I arrived at Palmers Lodge Hostel in Swiss Cottage, which was nice, clean, conveniently located, and appeared to be a renovated mansion. We were with Allison and Alexa in a room of three rows of three bunk beds which we affectionately called “The Treehouse.” We ate the most delicious croissants and toast at the included breakfast, and set off to Abbey Road. We also met up briefly with our friend Sarah who is studying in London, but she was off to Scotland that weekend.

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After narrowly avoiding some traffic incidents trying to take this picture (Abbey Road is indeed an actual road), we explored Baker Street (The Great Mouse Detective anyone?!) and ate lunch in Heaven at Chipotle before heading off to ok now I mean Heaven Harry Potter World (!!!!!!!).

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Harry Potter World is the movie set compound for all eight movies and is unlike any other place I’ve ever been. I can still remember my Auntie Elise giving my sister Michelle and I our first copies of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and how Harry, Ron and Hermione’s coming of age paralleled my own. I was one of those kids lucky enough to get into Harry Potter at a young age, but even as I’ve grown up I have continued to re-read the stories and get lost in the, well, magic of it all. J.K. Rowling is an inspirational storytelling visionary, and people of all ages can take something away from reading her stories, even the Muggles. 

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First Christmas at Hogwarts since filming. Bring on the Butterbeer!

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When it was time to leave Harry Potter World, we went back to central London, explored the Oxford Circus Station metro area decorated for Christmastime and had dinner and hard cider (YUM) at Garfunkel’s before catching the metro back to Swiss Cottage. The London Underground, or “Tube” took a little getting used to because rides are more expensive, tickets need to be checked at the entrance and exit, and the lines are named instead of just going by the stops (“Jubilee” was our lucky line). It wasn’t the most confusing metro I’ve been in, but it was different to have cushioned seats and not have people staring at you like they do in Madrid.

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The next morning, we caught a FREE walking tour from our hostel around London from a struggling British actor Eddie (how Study Abroad/European is that?!).

London Walking Tour:

  • Green Park where we saw people training and fathers playing with babies.
  • Caught the Changing of the Guard in front of Buckingham Palace (LOOK WHO I WAS STANDING NEXT TO).
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My friend from high school Vic is studying abroad in London this semester!

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  • Big Ben/Houses of Parliament/St. Paul’s Cathedral

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  • Westminster Abbey

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  • London Bridge

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Montgomery cheddar cheese with leeks and onions on sourdough bread…

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My sister’s boyfriend David now lives just outside of London, but met my friends and I in the city for a tour of Tower Bridge and coffee. I really missed him too, and we FaceTimed Michelle and my parents from Starbucks. It was great for both of us to see a familiar face, and I’m so glad my friends got to see how great he is! Anonymous was overheard saying, “It sucks he’s her sister’s boyfriend, because I think I’m in love…” 🙂

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Sunday morning, Morgan and I got up a little earlier and went back to Westminster Abbey to walk around the monastery and surrounding gardens (we couldn’t go inside because we didn’t have time to stay for the whole mass). We also got another view of the London Eye before meeting up with the others at King’s Cross Station to take the famous “Platform 9 3/4” photograph that all Harry Potter fans will recognize. We took a train out of the station back to the airport, and I spent my last few remaining pounds on a sandwich, a UK version of Cosmopolitan magazine, and some candy in the Gatwick airport.

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Leaping through the platform on my way to Hogwarts!

Overall, I was enamored by London. The jolly yet refined accents, the helpful and stylish people, the cosmopolitan and clean look and feel of the city itself, and the overwhelming amount of history in such a large place made me feel like I’d need at least a week to even cover the basics. I definitely need to go back to London. The city is so big that transportation to and fro requires so much time, money, and energy, but I feel like I was able to cover a lot in the weekend I had there, and it was definitely a top weekend of the semester with my friends. The lifestyle and daily routine is SO different from Madrid, but as my new friend from the Pub Crawl pointed out, “traveling to new cities is what makes you cultured“.