Being enrolled into a new country that’s going to be your home for several months is both exciting and nerve-racking. When I first arrived in Spain, it was challenging for me to get used to several things, including:
One thing to remember is that — most of the time — when you are adapting to a new country, you will run into people who don’t speak your language fluently. Things like shopping can be difficult if you don’t prepare. Before I first went to the grocery story, I practiced my Spanish speaking skills. I pulled out my notebook and started writing down questions I might want to ask and then looked up the Spanish translation on my computer.
Another thing to learn before departing on your journey is what currency the country you’re going to uses and what the exchange rate is. It can be very confusing when making purchases. Typically, I use an app on my phone called “Globe Convert” to look up what the Euro is worth in USD.
New Ways of Getting Around
Difference in Transportation
It is essential to understand that there is a different transportation system in every city and you must learn how navigate getting around. Some subways or buses don’t run 24-hours a day. Usually, before I go on a bus or train, I spend some time in my apartment reading maps to get myself adjusted with the area I am living in and read what subway or bus lines I have to take to get to my destination, along with the hours of operation.
Street Sign Locations
When I was taking walks around the city, I was lost because I couldn’t find the street names. Finally, I visually discovered that the street names are placed on the buildings instead of on signs at street corners. After finding that out, it was easier for me to read the signs and numbers carefully in order to get to the right location.
Getting used to a new city and culture is really just a matter of getting out of my comfort zone and discovering the environment you have signed up to live in for four months. Integrating oneself into a new country doesn’t take a lot of work, but it requires taking action. I highly recommend participating in activities provided by your program or even taking tours to know the city better. Discover what excites you in your new environment. For me, one of the best gifts about living in Barcelona is I can take the metro or bus to my destinations, just like back home in New York City.