The Start of the Adventure

Growing up, I had always wanted to see the world. I loved meeting new people with different backgrounds than my own to learn about new cultures and gain perspective in my own life. However, with school, sports, and various other activities in my life, I was never able to travel outside of the United States. So, when choosing a college, I searched for a school that offered study abroad programs because I had heard of so many people who traveled abroad during their college years and loved it. I figured this would likely be my best shot to travel abroad before I became an adult and had real responsibilities. Soon I realized that no matter what university I went to, studying abroad had become extremely accessible to everyone.

Once enrolled at the University of Alabama in 2018, I began researching anything and everything related to study abroad because I had no idea where to start and didn’t know how long it all might take. I searched what programs were available, where I might want to go, how long I wanted to go, and how expensive it would be. Since I took four years of Spanish in high school and was considering minoring in it in college, I figured Spain would be a perfect country to go because I also wanted to be able to travel all over Europe during my time abroad. I then chose Barcelona because it’s one of the largest cities in Spain, so it would be easy to travel to and from other places in Europe, and it’s also on the Mediterranean coast and has mountains, so I thought it would be a very beautiful place to study. I seriously considered going abroad during the summer months because after my freshman year at UA, I really didn’t want to leave for an entire semester. However, my mom wisely said that going for a whole semester would give me much more time to experience Europe than only a little over a month during the summer. So, I chose to go during the spring of my sophomore year so as not to miss football season (Roll Tide!) and because I was eager to go and not wait until my junior year, which is when many students choose to study abroad. I was not able to find any UA programs in Spain for spring semester 2020, so I learned that I needed to look into affiliate programs that are completely separate from UA. There are so many out there, so it was definitely overwhelming at first. After making a spreadsheet and reading a lot of reviews, I concluded that AIFS would be the best option for me. It had the best reviews overall and was ranked the best study abroad program in 2018. It also offered classes that I was interested in and could count towards my minor in Spanish. So, I applied to go to Barcelona, Spain for spring semester of 2020 through AIFS, but I wasn’t quite done yet.

The application for AIFS and the application that UA required as well included a multitude forms to submit and the process to get a Visa because I would be in Europe for more than 90 days. So, I spent a great amount of time during the fall semester of my sophomore year submitting forms, figuring out what classes I was going to take, making sure they would transfer back to UA, and mailing forms for my Visa. However, it is all definitely worth it for an entire semester in Europe. During winter break, when all my applications were completed, I spent time saying goodbye to my family, who were all very emotional, figuring out how to use my phone in Europe (I ended up getting a prepaid SIM card at a local carrier in Spain because Verizon’s international plan is very expensive), and stuffing all that I needed for almost four months into two suitcases and a backpack (It was quite a challenge!).

I left for Barcelona on January 5th, eager to take on this brand new experience. I stopped in London for two days with other people in my program to explore that city first before flying to Barcelona. Initially, this sounded like an excellent idea, but living out of a suitcase for three days with little to no sleep and not knowing anyone in my program was definitely overwhelming. Never having traveled outside of the US, I had never experienced jetlag, and it was rough, especially because I only had two days in London and didn’t want to spend them sleeping all day. So, I met some girls and saw all the major sights we could. The driving on the other side of the road and the time change made me feel like I was in an entirely different universe. However, London was unfortunately as gloomy as they say, at least while I was there, so I was glad to arrive in Barcelona on January 8th to sun and palm trees. I was definitely still super jetlagged, but I was eager to embark on my exciting semester in the same city that the Cheetah Girls thrived in, at least after I slept for about 15 hours.

London Sightseeing

Author: Shannon D

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