I have been in Madrid for about a week now and I thought I would take some time to reflect on the steps leading up to moving halfway across the world. I had a very crazy summer between graduating from college, and navigating visa requirements, to moving out, family vacations, and saying my goodbyes in-between. The last two months felt like there was constantly something I needed to be doing to prepare for the next phase of my life. To say I was constantly stressed is an understatement, just ask my family. To avoid these stressors I thought I would assemble a list of pre-departure tips and tricks to help things go smoothly for you!
TIPS AND TRICKS FOR A SMOOTH PRE-DEPARTURE:
1. The biggest piece of advice I could give someone who has made the commitment to moving abroad is to schedule an appointment with your consulate ASAP. - After I was accepted into my CIEE teach abroad program, I began looking for visa appointments because I knew they fill up so fast. In mid-march I made my appointment and the closet time they had open was July 9th. A friend of mine told me she had to pay $400 to expedite an appointment because her visa wouldn’t have been ready by the start of her program, so again make these appointments way in advance.
2. My second piece of advice is read through the CIEE Visa guide THOROUGHLY. At my visa appointment I saw so many people be turned away for not having the correct documents, or having them missing completely, the consulates are very specific about every detail so triple check everything. One thing that happened to me during my appointment was that my doctor signed her name but not that she was an M.D. so I had to mail in my medical form with the correct format and signature and pay for extra overnight shipping.
3. Buy a good set of adapters before you arrive - They do have them here in Madrid so if you forget, don’t worry, but it was cheaper to get them in America. Before I left I bought this set of two off amazon for my phone and all the other devices that need a USB port to charge. They have worked great and I highly reccomend. If you have a Mac, you can get an attachment for your charger here, it is so nice not having to use an adapter to charge my laptop.
4. If you have an extra phone lying around, BRING IT. A friend of mine just had two phones stolen from her in the matter of three weeks. I highly suggest having a backup phone because pick pocketing happens all the time here. Also call your phone company to make sure your phone is unlocked and can put a different SIM card in it.
5. My final piece of advice is practice packing and weigh your suitcase. I did this about a week before my flight and I had packed WAY too much stuff. I was flying United and if your suitcase weighs more than 71 pounds (which mine did) you have to pay $400 in overnight fees, something I was not trying to pay. If your suitcase is in-between 51-70 lbs it's an $100 fee and under 50lbs is free. After eliminating half the shoes I decided to bring and a lot of clothes, I got it to 50 pounds exactly! I was happy I did so once I got to my apartment, because Spanish apartments are so small, and don’t have amazing storage. If I would have brought everything I originally wanted to I would have had to ship back a lot of things.