As our time here winds down for single semester students, I can’t help but think back and wonder what I wish I knew about before coming abroad. What did I realize would’ve made my life easier when I was packing? What did the pre-departure checklist forget to mention? And sooo in the hopes that someone’s reading this who will need it eventually, here’s to making your packing process & pre-study abroad life pan comido ☺
Money advice – This might seem like a given, but having had money issues here and had to have my home-based debit card sent here after the company upgraded to chip cards, I have a lot of advice to offer on this front. For one thing, make sure you exchange dollars for euros at your local bank before departing!! They tend to offer a truer exchange rate, unlike the money exchange stores here, which you will often find in the city center and for that reason typically cater to tourists, charging ridiculous rates (like 1.3 as opposed to 1.1). Notify your banks that you’ll be out of the country and make sure to have emergency and backup options just in case. Whether it’s a really tempting dessert, trendy clothes or gifts for family and friends you’re going to make some impulse purchases and that’s ok!!
Bring a comfy pair of sneakers... or 3. You’re most likely going to be walking more than you ever thought your body could handle so this is a great investment. I’d suggest breaking them in as well if they’re new, especially before you come, to avoid getting blisters. Include running sneakers (people wear them in every color and often match them with almost any kind of outfit!), and also PLENTY OF SOCKS!!! Seriously fill up on socks – Madrid is gorgeous and not only will you want to walk everywhere, but it will most likely be a requirement. Also, you will most likely do laundry once a week or so.
If you’re a music person, get Spotify premium (or some kind of stable music station) & bring some headphones. Obviously they are great for the metro and to drown out noise if you need to. Plus I’m one of those people who needs to stay up to date on the new music coming out so I rely heavily on Spotify and am super happy to have good music accompanying me wherever I go. It’s super cool to see what the Spanish charts and genres look like as well, so when you go to a restaurant or a bar you can sing along like a local.
Carry on – yeah besides your backpack, invest in & bring a good carry-on bag for sure. When you embark on your weekend trips you won’t regret having more room, especially for your laptop. Plus, most of the cheaper airlines like Ryanair and easyjet only allow you one bag, so in the chance that you bring both, they may ask you to put your backpack inside your carry-on (which may be impossible) so watch out! With this it’s also smart to invest in a travel pillow if you don’t have one already – something seemingly unimportant but actually will save you on long bus, train, or plane rides to other parts of Spain and other countries as well. I really should’ve gotten one at one point and so I’m gonna emphasize it in advance for you all!!!