Are you hoping to have a seamless adjustment to your study abroad program? Solomon has put together 5 ways to prepare ahead and take action for a smooth transition as you immerse yourself during your semester abroad in Spain.
Studying abroad can be difficult. While it is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding experiences of one's college years, it is by no means without challenges. Living in a new country, being away from your friends at home, and adjusting to a new culture comes with difficulties for everyone. However, by preparing yourself and adjusting to your new environment, you will be able to make the most of studying abroad. Here are five tips that will help you adjust to studying in a new environment in Barcelona and acclimate to a new culture.
Let’s face it, by the time the average college student in the United States begins applying to study abroad, they have forgotten nearly everything they learned from high school language classes. Despite the fact that those born in Barcelona often grow up speaking Catalan as their native language, the presence of a large population of people from other regions of Spain and outside of the country means that Spanish is the most common spoken language in the city. Therefore, learning Spanish is an extremely important skill, as it allows you to communicate with locals who don’t speak English and immerse yourself in the culture. In your last month before departing to Barcelona, I would recommend spending 15–30 minutes a day on Duolingo or another language-learning program. Once you arrive in Barcelona, taking a Spanish course through CAPA is a great opportunity to continue learning the language while you are here.
Learn Proper Restaurant Etiquette
Eating is a major part of Spanish culture, as Spain is a country that is known for its cuisine. For many Spaniards, sharing a meal with friends and family is an essential part of their social life. Therefore, it is important that you are able to behave properly while eating out in a restaurant, as it allows you to engage in a fundamental part of Spanish culture.
The most important thing to remember while eating out in Spain is that you are not expected to tip. Servers here are paid the same wage as any other worker, and do not rely on tips to make a living. This means that there isn’t the same emphasis on customer service here as in the United States. This doesn't mean servers here will be rude to you, but they will not spend the same amount checking in on you as if you were in the US.
Furthermore, it may take longer for your food to arrive than you may expect. At the end of the day, this is an opportunity for you to embrace Spanish culture, as people in Spain often take their time to socialize while eating a meal. Last but certainly not least, it is important to dress nicely when eating out at a restaurant. This means you should avoid wearing sweatpants, shorts, athletic wear, open-toed shoes, and baseball caps.
Learn How to Use the Public Transportation System
In the US, it is common for people to drive as their main method of transportation. However, when you are in Barcelona, you will not have access to a car and will have to learn how to rely on the public transportation system. Luckily, public transportation here is clean and efficient. Before you come to Barcelona, I would recommend learning the metro routes and knowing which bus to take to the CAPA center, so that you are able to move around easily upon arrival.
Learn How to Budget
When in a new city, it is often tempting to spend money at every corner. This comes from the urge to eat at fancy restaurants, buy new clothes, and splurge on expensive souvenirs. However, it is important to be smart with your money, so that you are able to make the most of the funds you have. Some easy ways to save money while studying abroad include taking the public transit or walking instead of taking a taxi, avoiding eating at expensive restaurants, staying at hostels while traveling to other cities, booking flights with budget airlines, and cooking food at home when possible.
Learn About Barcelona’s History
Before going to a new city, one of the best ways to make sense of your surroundings is learning its history. Barcelona is a city with a long and rich history stretching back more than 2,000 years. This can be made evident by the old buildings in the Gothic Quarter, Roman ruins, and countless museums. Before you leave for Barcelona, I would recommend reading about the city's history, and continuing to commit to learning more by taking history classes through CAPA and visiting the Barcelona History Museum.
Solomon Herring is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2022, sharing his story in frequent posts on CAPA World. A Political Science major from University of Massachusetts Amherst, he is studying abroad in Barcelona this semester.
Solomon's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.