The past 5 months have flown by faster than I could have imagined. The experience that I had been looking forward to and planning for years is really over and I can’t believe it. There are no words to articulate how amazing and impactful my time abroad was. It truly was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I will be forever grateful for the people I met, the memories I made, and the things I learned this semester. I never thought that I would get so attached to a place and experience as much as I did. If you’re reading this and thinking about studying abroad, do it. I promise it will be worth it. 

When I wrote my last blog post, I had been in Madrid for about two weeks. Everything was still new and fresh and I still had a lot of doubts about living in a new country. Of course, throughout my semester there were ups and downs just as any other semester but I wouldn’t give up this experience for anything. I have learned so much about myself and what I truly value. My perspective has been changed by the people that I have met who are living completely different, yet similar lives to me. I’ve learned to not take myself so seriously and roll with the punches rather than try to plan out everything with such detail. In European, and especially Spanish culture, the people value life more than work. They take time to spend with family and friends and just enjoy life to the fullest. I’ve been conditioned to work hard and achieve my goals my whole life and being abroad has taught me to take a step back and just enjoy the moments that I am given. Being goal-oriented isn’t all that life has to offer. I now prioritize my happiness first.

If I had to pinpoint my favorite aspect of this experience I would definitely say it’s the travel and the people that I got to travel with. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel to many cities and countries throughout my time abroad and those trips have made an invaluable impact on me. Immersing myself in completely new cultures every weekend was exhausting at times but the exhilaration of it all outweighed anything else. The feeling of being on a plane to a new place is unbeatable and I am so thankful that I was able to experience that feeling so many times. Throughout my travels, I visited iconic historical sites, art museums, beautiful oceans, and more. It truly felt like I was living in a dream. The best part, however, was the friendships that I cultivated along the way. Traveling with a group strips you down to your core. You see each other tired, hungry, and stressed but you also get to experience the most beautiful places together. It’s a unique bond that will never be broken. 

Lastly, after an entire semester of experience, I can definitely say that I’ve picked up some tips and tricks that I would love to share with incoming students or anyone else who wants to listen. My most important piece of advice remains the same as what I said in my first post; get out of your comfort zone. Try new foods, be independent, meet new people, and do things that you could have never envisioned yourself doing. If you come out of your study abroad the same way as you started it, you will be missing out on what this program is all about. You’re here to learn and grow, so don’t limit yourself!

Now for some more practical advice:

  1. When it comes to packing; less is more. Bring layer-able clothing and essentials but when you get to your city, you’re going to want to buy a new wardrobe anyways so don’t waste the space in your suitcase with old clothes.
  2. Choose a living arrangement in a central location. It was so helpful to be located in the center of Madrid for ease of access to everything. If you are able to find a place in the center, it will make your life a lot easier.
  3. Study for final exams early! UC3M has a grading system where the majority of your final grade comes from the final exam. It’s not what we’re used to at A&M so I found it very helpful to start studying for finals about 3 weeks in advance since they hold so much weight and I didn’t want to risk failing.
  4. Don’t book your travel super far in advance because you will meet new people and want to go on trips with them and if your whole semester is booked out, you won’t have the chance.
  5. Finally: You will get homesick eventually, even if you think you won’t. When that happens, talk about it with your fellow study abroad friends. Everyone experiences it and it helps to talk it out. Just know that it will pass and remember why you signed up for this in the first place.

I hope that this advice is helpful to someone who is about to embark on their own adventures abroad. I can confidently say that this was without a doubt the best semester of my life. I can’t express in words how much Madrid and its people mean to me but I hope that it treats whoever is going to be there next as well as it treated me. Hasta Luego, Madrid! <33 

P.S. If you’re an incoming student reading this and you have any questions, feel free to DM me on Instagram @nikhila_bulusu 🙂