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3 ways to make the most of your experience abroad

Madrid Sunset

Moving to Spain will be easy in some ways and challenging in others. Luckily, we humans are a pretty adaptable bunch, and we pick up tips and clues about a new place as soon as we've arrived.

I've found that, despite any difficulties I'm facing with paperwork, bureaucracy, or whatever else comes my way, a shift in attitude and perspective can make all the difference in achieving a positive outcome.

Here are 3 ways to make the most of your experience abroad:

1. Stay positive (no matter what!)

Keep in mind that you’re applying to live for several months in a foreign country. Things might go smoothly, but they might not. It’s much more pleasant for both you and everyone around you if you can take a deep breath and maintain a positive frame of mind.

Handy trick: If you hear yourself complaining about something that didn’t go your way, add an “and” or “but”  to the end of the sentence and flip it into a positive phrase. Slightly cheesy, but it’s actually kind of fun and might make you realize that you’re being more negative than you intended to be.

  • Example #1: “Man, I’m so pissed that we waited for 45 minutes at Caixa Bank and then they wouldn’t let us open an account…. AND I’m really happy that CIEE gave us the contact info for Banco Sabadell because maybe we’ll have more success there.”
  • Example #2: “I can’t believe that we were just rejected by 3 landlords! BUT I’m thrilled that Idealista exists because I’m sure we can find some other options pretty quickly.”

2. Ask lots of questions (in Spanish, of course)

Turns out that you’re not supposed to touch any fruit with your bare hands in Spanish supermarkets. To make sure that this was indeed a rule, I exposed my naïveté to an attendant by asking what exactly I should be doing. Clearly, I blew my cover as a true Spaniard, but that happens all the time anyway. I got to practice some Spanish, have a positive interaction with the attendant, and learn that I simply needed to don a plastic guante (glove) and then use that guante to pick out fruits and veggies to my heart’s desire.

3. Dare to do new things (read: get out of your comfort zone right away)

Escaping your typical routine and engaging in new activities can produce a virtuous cycle that just keeps giving. I’ve found that, once I take the leap and commit to doing something new, I’m immediately more likely to do so again. Suddenly, my calendar has filled up with a dance class, volleyball practice, and sewing workshop before I even realize what’s happened.

The stipend for auxiliares is definitely livable but not luxurious. This makes the power of sign-up fees even stronger. If you put some cash down up-front to reserve a class/tour/experience you’re feeling a tad nervous about, that “sunken cost” will get you in the door when the date of the class arrives.




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