Before I moved to Spain I came with certain expectations that weren’t realistic. Here are some things to know before moving to Spain:
- Do not feel discouraged if your roommate or best friend's Spanish level is higher than yours. My roommate speaks fluent Spanish and many of my friends come from a household where their parents speak Spanish. It’s ok to not know vocabulary or use the wrong verb when speaking with a Spanish local. Everybody is willing to help you.
- Joining groups has really made me feel like I’m apart of a community here in Madrid and it’s great to meet new people every week. There are plenty of Facebook pages to join, for me it’s a hiking group that new people attend every weekend and it’s great to meet Spaniards or other Americans this way. I wish I knew of these groups before November rolled around.
- Joining a gym was super simple in Spain and it’s important to continue doing the things you love here in Spain or other countries abroad. There are plenty of options but the most popular ones are BasicFit, McFit, or an alternative like Top Cycle. TopCycle is a smaller spin chain in Madrid that is pretty affordable.
- I’m a huge Dunkin’ Donuts lover and I remember feeling sad that I wouldn’t have it for 10 months. Not to worry! There are plenty of Starbucks and Dunkin’s here in Spain. Plus they have very reliable WiFi and don’t mind you hanging out for hours on end to do work or write a blog post.
- PACK LESS THAN WHAT YOU THINK YOU NEED. This one is important. I brought two raincoats, three pairs of boots, and five jackets. I have bought another pair of boots and two more jackets. Everything you think you need you can buy here (and it’ll probably be more fashionable than the ones you bought at home anyway).
- I remember saying that I would never need a doctor or want to do private tutoring. Both were false. I do two private classes a week and it pays for my groceries every week. It’s honestly the best way to make some extra cash since we only get paid once a month. The doctor was a necessity when I got really sick in October. It is super easy to find one on the U.S. Embassy’s website that speaks English.
- A portable charger will save your life. Invest in one right now.
- Bring an extra outlet converter. I remember only packing one and my best friend who studied abroad was ashamed. Thank god I went out and bought two more (you can find them in Spain if you forget).
- Bring an old phone as a backup. Pickpocketing is notorious in a lot of Europe and it is super difficult to have things sent from the United States to Spain as it is almost inevitable for it to get held at customs. Dealing with the bureaucracy and having to pay fees to retrieve things from customs isn’t worth it. My roommate had to pay 180 euros for an iphone 4 when her iphone 8 was stolen. Bring that old phone that is sitting in your drawer just in case.
Moral of the story: drop any expectations of living abroad that you have and you’ll find that you will really enjoy being away from home more.