So we talk about our forthcoming year abroads’ like they are going out of fashion (why wouldn’t we!) but after months of talking we have to start preparing. Sounds daunting, right? I hardly knew where to begin: start buying an unnecessary amount of clothing for every possible weather condition? Stare at Google Maps Street View for hours, imaging yourself strolling around and being mistaken for a local? Lie on your bed, in silence, to try and convince yourself that, yes, you do actually have to move country? These preparation strategies are options, however I would like to share my experience of preparing for my year abroad and recommend preparation tips that are ever so slightly more productive.
First thing first, make lists. I don’t care if they are not your thing. Make them your thing. Reminding yourself what still needs to be done can never be a bad thing and there is less chance of you stressing at the last minute.
Research different modes of transport to and from the airport and in your place of residence because you never know how easily your full proof plan can be turned on its head. For example, a supposedly two and a half hour flight to Malaga became an eight hour sweaty mess due to a poorly flight attendant and the flight being redirected to Seville. This in turn altered my plan to catch one of the buses to Granada. The art of thinking becomes increasingly difficult at this point when you have been trapped in an aluminium hell hole. However, due to previous research I had a note of the times of the buses that travel directly from the airport to Granada and the ones that take you on a short trip to the centre of Malaga to then get a bus from there to Granada. So save yourself some stress and prepare for every mode of transport you are able to take.
Obviously you can ask in your finest Spanish how to get to your destination but it’s always good to know your options beforehand. I found the details on this site for those of you travelling to Granada – Granada bus timetable. This obviously gives you an indication of how much money you will require on your day of travel and help you budget overall. Flying to Granada airport direct is not the easiest or cheapest option hence why I flew to Malaga. However, this is not the only route to get to Granada as many people have found it cheaper (depending on when you book your flights) to fly to Madrid and then to Granada to then get a cheap taxi to the centre.
Okay, brace yourselves. I am going to talk about something very boring but very important. PHOTOCOPY ALL DOCUMENTATION. These copies are ready for action when encountering any unseen events. I photocopied nearly all my documentation before traveling as I have had bad experiences with the library printers in Glasgow and didn’t want the hassle if the printers in the University of Granada were just as bad. However, I was unaware that not only is Granada packed full of pharmacies and bakeries, they have an abundance of photocopying shops. Any extra photocopies I needed I got from a shop on Calle Buensuceso for 0.03 euros each which is the cheapest I have heard of so far. There are also photocopiers in the Facultad de Traduccion y Interpretacion on the lower ground. I would still recommend photocopying everything before to save any hassle when you are here or if you are going somewhere that doesn’t have the photocopying facilities Granada has to offer.
A list of documents I copied:
- Learning agreement
- European Health Card
- Grant contract
- Insurance documents
When starting the hunt for accommodation I would recommend looking at flats before you travel to your destination to give yourself an idea of what you can get for your money and the locations that are close to your faculty. Travelling to your destination a week earlier to find accommodation is plenty of time to search for a flat. In the mean time you can stay in a hostel. However, I urge anyone that knows students who have previously been on a year abroad to the same destination, to get into contact with them as they may be able to provide you with the details of their landlord. To get in contact with people who have lived in your destination you can go the International University of Glasgow Study Abroad Facebook group.
If you are moving to a country where you need to know the language in order to study you can arrange to meet someone through the Glasgow University Language Exchange Facebook page to practice. I highly recommend doing this as finding accommodation, setting up wifi and opening a bank account will be a lot easier and less scary. I also recommend that if your university offers a buddy system that you take up this opportunity as you can ask he/she about any enrolment problems, learn the language and make friends at the same time. I was offered a buddy at the application stage. I asked my buddy about the insurance the university offered when I was still in Scotland and she was very helpful and responded quickly to my queries.
Talking of insurance, check if your university offers student insurance as it may work out a lot cheaper than other companies. I compared a lot of insurance sites but found that the university offered a full years’ worth of insurance for only 35 euros which covers you within and outside if the university.
Remember to also check your phone contract and what it charges abroad. Obviously it will cost to contact people with a Spanish phone number if you use your UK sim so getting a Spanish sim is advisable. I got a free pay-as-you-go sim from Vodaphone at one of the introductory lectures with the first month free and 15 euros a month after that. I bought a Sony Xperia from a cash convertors for 35 euros as well, so it is possible to do it on a budget.
And finally, remember to enjoy your time at home before going and relish in the familiarity of your surroundings because soon the word ‘familiar’ will not be in our vocabulary – but ‘exciting’ will!