Traveling abroad is a once in a lifetime experience, and one I recommend to anyone who has the opportunity. It is a time to explore, meet all kinds of people, try strange food, and most importantly learn a little bit about yourself and the world around you. Here are just a few of the things I learned while being abroad in Madrid, Spain for a semester.
1. America has the BEST food
Yes, Italy has great pasta and Germany has great brats, but nothing will ever compare to the variety and quality of food in America. Maybe I’m spoiled because I’ve only lived in San Francisco and Los Angeles. I literally get the best food. It can be as simple as dank Mexican or as exotic as authentic Ethiopian. Europe is just a little behind in mastering foods that aren’t their own. So my advice is while you are in America enjoy as many In n Out Burgers, fresh sushi, spicy burritos, and greasy dim sum as possible.
2. Being drunk is the same in every country
Most college kids look at studying abroad as an opportunity to drink immense amounts of cheap beer and wine, party in Europe’s biggest clubs, and well not remember 3 nights out of the week. After one too many drinks in Barcelona I quickly learned that partying through Europe was not what it’s all about. I wanted to remember my nights out, and enjoy the next mornings exploring these magical cities. Drinking and dancing is all good and fun, but being drunk in Barcelona really isn’t that different than being drunk in California. Everyone is still pretty bad at dancing, drinks are still too expensive, and there is still that guy that keeps following you around eyeing you from the corner that slightly creeps you out. This leads me to my next point.
3. Foreign men are forward
I can’t be any more straight forward than European men are. If they like what they see there is really no stopping them or changing their mind. You can say no as many times as you want, but somehow that translates to “oh yes please keep bothering me and try harder I really enjoy this.” Point being never go out alone, and if you have a good guy friend with you then he will most likely become your “boyfriend” at least once or even five times a night depending on how smoking hot your looking that night!
Side note: My favorite line was, “Sorry I have a boyfriend back home.” And my favorite response, which I got more than once was, “No-no-no, there is a rule that you can have a girlfriend every 300KM.” Personally I don’t know the metric system all that well, but I was sure to stay far far away from that guy the rest of the night.
It’s not everyday that you are in Europe, so take advantage of it. Flights are insanely cheap, and Airbnb is just about the best thing ever. Now these are things you don’t need to splurge on. Extra legroom for a 2 hour flight is something that you’re just going to have to suck up, and a slightly sketchy bedroom is worth it (unless there are bedbugs, then it’s never worth it). So what I mean is that tour of the Tower of London may be pretty pricey, but when the hell are you planning on coming back to London. An extra 15 euros for authentic Dutch pancakes beats out any shitty fast food. I know I know that we all have a budget, and our parents don’t grow money on trees, so work your ass off for a few summers so you have a little extra cash. It’s probably going to be your only time in these badass cities and countries, so you might as well do it right.
5. Try anything at least once
Being abroad is just one big experience. To get the most out of your trip you have to see, do, and try as much as you can. If you are grabbing some grub, and some locals invite you to get drinks at some bar, the answer is yes. If your host mother makes you something that looks like dog food and smells like smelly socks, the answer is yes. If a cute non-creepy guy asks you out, the answer is yes, especially if he has a Vespa! If your best friend wants to go skydiving over the Swiss Alps and needs a buddy, the answer is yes. No matter how great or terrifying the opportunity sounds you should try it at least once. Just saying I took one bite of my host mother’s mystery food, I said once not multiple.
All in all go abroad! It’s the best experience I’ve had in my whole entire life, and wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I saw a whole lot, ate even more, and learned more than I ever have in a classroom.