Study abroad

10 tips you should follow when you start your international studies

Ten nationalities explain to us what they highly recommend when you are going abroad for your studies.

Studies abroad: Christian
Christian from Germany is studying five months abroad in Barcelona.
Annafried Schmidt Annafried Schmidt

To study abroad is something every student should consider in their lifetime. The experiences in a new country and the friendships you make are something you can’t compare to anything else. The memories made will shape participants for the rest of their lives. It’s not for nothing that they say, “Erasmus lasts a few months, but you will miss it forever.” 

Every year, the University of Abat Oliba welcomes hundreds of students from many countries around the world, as well as many students from Barcelona who flock to different cities. Before students embark on their journey to a new adventure, they often have the same questions. One of the most important ones are probably: What do I urgently need to consider when going abroad? What should I definitely take with me? Is there any insider advice for starting over at the new place?  

For anyone facing these questions, in this article students from whole Europe, currently studying at the University Abat Oliba, and the Vicerector of the University reveal their insider top ten tips for studying abroad – to make your start as smooth as possible. After that, all that remains is to say: Safe travels!

1. Look for accomondation on site 

Christian from Germany searched for a flat on site while studying in Barcelona. / Source: Annafried Schmidt.

“Look for an accommodation abroad when you have arrived in the city. You can arrange some visits for apartments already from home, but then plan plenty of time to search on site. Get an AirBNB or another hotel room, so you can search without a rush. Most important: Don’t trust pictures at the internet and have a proper look by yourself! If it’s looking too good, it might be a scam. Also, don’t give up straight away! You will find a good room, even if it takes some time.”

Christian, 30,  from Germany studying at University Abat Oliba

2. Stay close to public transport 

Rose from Belgium bought herself a ticket especially for students to be flexible in public transport in Barcelona. / Source: Annafried Schmidt

“Start searching for an accomondation close to public transport, so you have a good connection to the entire city. On Erasmus you are normally very busy, because you move a lot through the city and travel a lot. Also check out specific offers for students – in Barcelona for example they have the special transport ticket called T-jove for people under 25 years that gets you everywhere in the zone of Barcelona unlimited times.” 

Rose, 20, from Belgium studying at University Abat Oliba

3. Connect yourself on Social Media 

Anna Sophia
Anna Sophia from Germany connected herself on Instagram to meet new people in Barcelona. / Source: Annafried Schmidt

“If you like sightseeing, meeting people and partying while studying abroad, look for special facebook groups or instagram accounts about the new city, for example like “Erasmus Barcelona“. There you can find several offers for activities to explore the new area, cheap admissions or a lot of parties for Erasmus students every day. On social media you can also often find your new university to get some insights and all the information you need. On top of that there are often a lot of useful apps for internationals.” 

Anna Sophia, 26, from Germany studying at University Abat Oliba

4. At least attempt to learn the new language abroad

Ryan from Ireland is trying to speak as much Spanish as he can while studying abroad in Barcelona. / Source: Annafried Schmidt

“I had zero experience with Spanish when I moved to Barcelona but have made a point of actively trying to speak Spanish to people whenever I can. The locals appreciate you putting in the effort and are always happy to help you! Apps like Duolingo make it fun to learn the language and you are more likely to keep it up everyday without the academic pressure. Also, use your native language to your advantage! Most people always want to learn a new language or improve on one they are learning so they really appreciate the practice when you are conversing! Language is a beautiful thing.”

Ryan, 26, from Ireland studying at University Abat Oliba

5. Plan your side trips as soon as possible 

Cristina from the United States planned her side trips very soon to save some money. / Source: Annafried Schmidt

“Once you know the city you’ll be studying abroad in, start looking at the cities and places you can travel to on the weekends. The sooner you book them, the cheaper they will be and you will have something to look forward to. Once you make friends, see if they also want to travel the cities you want to go to. Don’t worry if they don’t want to travel those places – solo travelling is such a great experience!”

Cristina, 20, from the United States studying at University Abat Oliba

6. Take something which reminds you of home 

Magdalena from Poland decorated her room in Barcelona with photos of her friends and her family members. / Source: Annafried Schmidt

“When you’re going to study abroad, it may gets lonely sometimes or you get homesick, especially at the beginning. That’s okay. You’re in a new environement, in a city you don’t really know yet, surronded by lots of new people. So it’s totally okay to miss. For times like this, take some photographs from home with your family and friends, or something that will remind you of home. Keep it somewhere in your room, where you can see it. It helps with making a new place feeling more like home, with feeling more comfortable and it may give you some kind of consulation or even support during the exchange. Also flowers or fairy lights will make your new home cozy.”

Magdalena, 23, from Poland studying at University Abat Oliba

7. Walk as much as possible 

Swen Seebach
Swen Seebach from Germany likes exploring cities abroad by foot. / Source: Annafried Schmidt

“When you arrive, do a lot of exploring on foot to get to know the new area. If you don’t always take the quickest route between A and B, you’ll get to know people and paths you wouldn’t discover otherwise. On foot you get a different feel for local life and the city. Also, be open to the new environment and find out what local people like to do. This will turn you from a tourist into a resident and immerse you in local life for a truly authentic experience abroad.”

Swen Seebach, Vicerector of Universitat Abat Oliba, went to Erasmus in England   

8. Say “yes” to almost everything!

Britt thinks you should be open to new experiences while being abroad. / Source: Annafried Schmidt

“New experiences are so important and will make you grow during your exchange. Even if you don’t feel like it or it’s something you normally don’t do, don’t hesitate and try out new things. So make sure to say yes to almost everything! To study abroad means also to leap over your own shadow, but it’s worth it every time. Every day brings the opportunity to walk into new people and make some new friends. You should take the initiative to meet up, because it’s in your own hands with who you will end up abroad. On a side note, you should always bring a portable charger – as you never know where the day takes you.”

Britt, 21, from Belgium studying at University Abat Oliba

9. Watch your stuff and get insurance

Julie from Norway recommends to watch your valuable belongings when you study abroad. / Source: Annafried Schmidt

“Bring an extra of every valuable thing and watch your stuff when you study abroad. For example, Barcelona is a fairly safe place in comparison to other bigger cities. But the chances of getting robbed are still pretty big. I was robbed of basically everything I owned and didn’t have a backup of anything – luckily I had insurance. So my tip is make sure you have insurance, and bring a backup bank card, sim card and if you have a backup cell phone. Just to be safe, if something as this happens to you.”

Julie, 21, from Norway studying at University Abat Oliba

10. Don’t be afraid to leave! 

Andrea from Italy says you don’t need to be afraid as studying abroad is a great experience. / Source: Annafried Schmidt

“When your departure is imminent, don’t be afraid to leave – to leave your certainties, to get involved. Henry Miller once said, that “your destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things”. This really shifted my point of view. Because when you study abroad, every person you will meet, every building you will observe, every difficulty you will be forced to face will enrich you infinitely. Erasmus is the best price to pay to become a new person!”

Andrea, 20, from Italy studying at University Abat Oliba

Annafried Schmidt

Communication student. Interested in politics, feminism, travel and food. „Journalism is an act of faith in the future.“ - Ann Curry