Going To Spain? What To Take, Leave, & Learn

by Eileen Loh

To get the inside scoop on what to take on board (and what to leave behind) when you intern abroad in Spain, we’ve polled several international education experts based in various Spanish cities. Combining the savvy of the locals with the wisdom of travel professionals, our experts have lived, studied, and traveled throughout Spain for years. Here are their tips.

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.
The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Photo by Troy Peden

Traveling to Spain: What to Bring

Something to cover up your shoulders when you enter churches or other religious institutions. — Stephanie Jackson, Opportunities Abroad Program Manager, BridgeAbroad.

A great guidebook to take advantage of all of the great sights to see, the foods to try and the places to go off the beaten track. — Betsey Tufano, IES Study Abroad Grenada.

Good walking shoes. — Rich Kurtzman, Director, Barcelona Study Abroad Experience (BSAE).

Two things students should pack when heading to Spain are their favorite snacks (mine were Luna bars), and their favorite socks. — Liliana Jones, SOL Education Abroad.

A camera and a journal. Document everything! The country has so much to offer and it is definitely a trip you will want to look back on. — Kelsey Quitschau, Illinois Wesleyan University.

A good pair of shoes that look awesome with any outfit, and face wipes. — Juliet Aylmer, Study Abroad Advisor, California State University-Northridge.

What to Ditch 

That extra suitcase you're contemplating packing. Overpacking is commonplace in the study abroad world, but really, you can find pretty much anything you need in Spain, and you'll want to save your luggage space for all the souvenirs you'll inevitably gather during your program! — Stephanie Jackson, Opportunities Abroad Program Manager, BridgeAbroad.

Your curling iron or hairdryer. They will burn out because of the different electrical systems. — Betsey Tufano, IES Study Abroad Grenada.

One of the many items a student should leave at home is a negative and constricted attitude. —  Liliana Jones, SOL Education Abroad.

Cell phone! Take time to explore. Get to know the country, the people, the customs ... You can't make the most out of this incredible experience with a cell phone in your hands, you just can’t. — Kelsey Quitschau, Illinois Wesleyan University

An expensive pair of sunglasses. — Juliet Aylmer, Study Abroad Advisor, California State University-Northridge.

Leave a lot of space for souvenirs, clothes, olive oil, wine, etc. that they will probably want to take back! — Jeff Greene, IES Study Abroad Grenada.

The Cathedral of Saint Mary of Girona, Spain

The Cathedral of Saint Mary of Girona

What to Learn

The Spanish language, of course! I also think it's important to really become immersed in the Spanish way of life though — it's such a cliché that Americans move very fast and Europeans take the time to slow down and enjoy things, but I think it's an essential lesson to becoming a well-rounded person and understanding your priorities.  — Stephanie Jackson, Opportunities Abroad Program Manager, BridgeAbroad.

To take their time with things. Here it is very important to spend time with friends and family, and enjoy meals together often. — Jeff Greene, IES Study Abroad Grenada.

How to say “Please,” “Thank you,” and “How do you say…..?” in Spanish. Also, how to move about confidently using public transportation. Interns abroad should learn how to roll with the punches when dealing with the different attitudes towards time, planning and decision making. It will make them much more flexible and understanding when working in a U.S. setting with people from different backgrounds. — Betsey Tufano, IES Study Abroad Grenada.

That meals don't have to be inhaled while on the run and in 15 minutes. The pleasure is sitting down with friends and having a relaxed delicious meal that is more about quality than quantity. That you can work hard and be productive, but life doesn’t just have to be about work. Also, that going out for tapas after work is a tradition that should be taken back to the U.S.!  — Rich Kurtzman, Director, Barcelona Study Abroad Experience (BSAE).

How to relax and let go of some of the American tension and pressure to always arrive 10 minutes early and stress out in traffic. Just let it go and when you arrive, breathe out with a smile, “No pasa nada!”  — Liliana Jones, SOL Education Abroad.

Not only should students going abroad take the time to learn the Spanish language and culture, but it is extremely important for them to focus on themselves as well. You will learn more about yourself and your capabilities than you could ever imagine, and come home with a better sense of who you are and what you want out of life. — Kelsey Quitschau, Illinois Wesleyan University.

Spanish, and patience! — Juliet Aylmer, Study Abroad Advisor, California State University-Northridge.

The City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, Spain

The City of Arts and Sciences

Do You Know These Spanish Words & Phrases? You Should.

Cielo, which technically means ‘heaven’ but it’s my favorite term of endearment for a loved one! — Stephanie Jackson, Opportunities Abroad Program Manager, BridgeAbroad.

Aprovechar. It means ‘to take advantage of.’ All students should aprovechar everything Spain has to offer. — Jeff Greene, IES Grenada.

Sosurro, which means “whisper,” for the onomatopoeia. Or imprescindible, ‘absolutely necessary.’ — Betsey Tufano, IES Grenada.

No pasa nada, ‘everything’s all right.’ I love how it sounds, what it means and how it makes people feel. — Liliana Jones, SOL Education Abroad.

Tortuga! It was one of the first words I learned in Spanish when I was younger and is just so fun to say! Plus, turtles are pretty awesome. — Kelsey Quitschau, Illinois Wesleyan University.

Vale, ‘okay.’ — Juliet Aylmer, Study Abroad Advisor, California State University-Northridge.

Get started on your Spanish adventure and check out internship programs in Spain now.