Study Abroad: The Preparation Phase

January 18, 2019
• by
Michelle Naeem

As I got closer to leaving for Pamplona Spain, I realized that my research had consisted of the bare minimum. I felt stressed as I still had quite a few last-minute things to do. It is not the end of the world; however, my life would have been less hectic had I not left everything to the last minute. One of the first things I did was book my visa appointment for the third week of November. By this time, quite a few students had already dealt with the Spanish consulate -- therefore making the process for me much easier and quicker, as they were familiar with students studying abroad from USC. I immediately downloaded the hopper app to track tickets as I flew from LAX to MAD and then took a train to Pamplona. The flight ticket, which I bought via Iberia Airlines, cost me approximately $344 and with baggage fees it was about $575. However, I will warn that my flight was on Dec 31st, thus making my ticket inexpensive.  

Right away I knew I wanted to pack light as I would be bringing back nick-knacks from my time abroad. Furthermore, because I was not landing straight in Pamplona, it was crucial that my baggage does not hinder me during my commute. What I did was only bring the clothing I wore while away at USC -- this way I knew what I could live without. Although, having lived in Southern California my whole life, I did not own very many clothing items appropriate for the cold weather. Therefore, I decided to only take the bare minimum and buy extra clothing items as I would need them.

Finding housing has got to be one of the most stressful experiences as I did not have it finalized until a week before my flight. The UNAV Facebook page was the main source for finding housing but I did not have much luck with it. I reached out to an acquaintance who lives in Spain and he directed me to sites, such as Idealista, as I wanted something fairly inexpensive but still close to the campus and in a safe neighborhood (there isn't much crime in Pamplona). I ended up deciding to live with a host family at a moderate cost of 315 Euros (everything included). For me, I decided on the host family because I have already experienced living with girls my age and felt this would be something new to try. After I had sorted out my housing it felt as a lot of the weight had been lifted off my shoulders. So, reach out to your contacts domestic and abroad as they can be crucial in making the process much smoother.

In between packing and finding housing, I was also juggling signing up for my classes abroad. This process was simple and went for an ideal schedule of classes only Monday through Wednesday. I signed up for my classes and obtained almost all of them, except for one, which will be finalized once the school starts. I would say that signing up for classes and the visa process was one of the simplest things I had to do prior to my departure.

Seriously, do your research and don't be afraid to try different options. Use your resources as they will take you a long way, something I wish I utilized more before getting on my flight to Spain.