Happy One Year Anniversary!

Happy 2016 valued readers! I know it's been a little over six months since my last update (yikes), but I just wanted to send a quick shout to everyone on my one year anniversary of my Study Abeard adventure. 

Want to relive some of the awesome moments from the blog from the past year? Start at the beginning with my first post, How to be An Awesome Traveler, here.

I also wanted to let everyone know that I have some (hopefully) big plans for the new year, so be on the lookout for more updates in the future! #TheBeardIsBack

Why You Should Actually "Study" When You Study Abroad

In honor of just finishing up finals here in Barcelona (yes I know I'm leaving in a week, no you shouldn't bring it up), I wanted to do a little bit of a reflection post about why actually studying and learning while you're abroad are so important. 

The thing to understand if you decide to come abroad is to not expect to just be partying and living it up the entire time. Sure, it might be "the best semester of your life," but partying and going to the club every night are not the reason why.

The other thing to understand is that when I say "studying" and "learning," when you're abroad this doesn't just take place in the traditional classroom setting. Some of it does, but most of it actually happens on your own.

You control how much you learn and experience the world around you, which is something I want to convey in this post. So, without further ado, here's ten reasons why you should actually "study" when you study abroad.


1. You might actually learn a new language

If Ben Stiller can do it, so can you!

If Ben Stiller can do it, so can you!

Nothing can quite compare to studying a foreign language in a foreign country that actually speaks that language. You can take as many Spanish classes in college as you want, but unless you go out and actually practice the language every day, you'll never fully understand it or be fluent in it.

When you study abroad (in a foreign language-speaking country), you have the opportunity to go out and practice a new language every day for a semester or longer. You also have the opportunity to take classes in that language. Even if you're in the lowest level speaking course, chances are that most of the class will be taught in that language. You can't get that kind of immersion anywhere else, so take advantage of it. 


2. You'll learn about the country you're staying in

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

News flash, you're living in a foreign country for at least a few months. That country is different from your home country in about a trillion ways. A lot of the classes offered on study abroad programs are art, history, architecture or other subjects relating to that country. 

Why wouldn't you want to take advantage of learning about the country you're living in? Seems like a no brainer to me. Even if you don't like some of those subjects traditionally, give them a shot. You might find that you actually like them because of the way the class is taught (which is often the case in foreign countries) or because you get to see the subject up close every day when you walk around your city and can see what you're learning all around you.

Making those connections from what you learn in the classroom to the world around you is the best way to take more than a new drinking game away from your study abroad experience.



Gif courtesy of

Gif courtesy of

Might be a wake-up call to some people, but depending on the program you're on while you're abroad, those classes that you didn't ever go to might actually count toward your GPA back home. Pretty simple if you ask me. 

If you don't go to class, don't do any of your work and generally have an attitude of "I don't care, f– it," you might find that your GPA has taken a major hit when you get back. The bigger problem with that is that there's no one else you can blame beside yourself. So, suck it up, go to class regularly and you'll do just fine.

4. You'll meet new people

Yeah, two Will Ferrell gifs back to back. So what? He's a funny dude. Gif courtesy of

Yeah, two Will Ferrell gifs back to back. So what? He's a funny dude. Gif courtesy of

One of the best parts about going abroad is that you're constantly meeting new people, almost every single day. They could be other people on your program, from your own school or different people from all over the world and that's pretty cool. You aren't going to meet all of those new people if you're holed in your apartment all day or hanging out/going out with the same people all the time. 

In actuality, a great place to meet a bunch of new people is in your classes. Hard to believe, I know, but if you go to class and make an effort to talk to different people each time, you'll end up making a bunch of new friends. 


5. traveling is learning, too

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

It might not be the most traditional way to learn, but trust me that when you're taking one of your weekend trips somewhere, you're immersing yourself into a whole other culture. Even if you don't experience every museum or cultural activity a city or country has to offer, you still pick up on cultural cues and differences without even realizing it.

Then, your brain does this amazing thing where it actually compares and contrasts those cultural differences and cues with other ones you've experienced in your travels and with the ones from your home country. So, even if you decide to blow off a class to catch a flight you booked (sometimes while sitting in that same class), you're actually still studying another culture and constantly learning.


Gif courtesy of

Gif courtesy of

Believe it or not, a ton of employers place great value on potential employees who have studied abroad and actually have something to show for it. It's one thing to put on your resume that you studied abroad in Spain for four months, but it's another thing entirely to be able to articulate and explain your experience.

It gives you more anecdotes for interviews. You can explain how living in a foreign country actually helped you learn independence, how to overcome various obstacles, how to break out of your shell and how all the things you learned make you the best candidate for the job. 

If you can relate your experiences abroad to prospective employers in an effective way, they'll think really highly of you and your application.


7. you'll be more organized

Ok, maybe not. Gif courtesy of Reddit.

Ok, maybe not. Gif courtesy of Reddit.

Even if you think classes aren't as difficult when you're studying abroad*, you're actually juggling a bunch of different things at once. You have to go to class and make sure you keep up with your work, but you also want to hang out with friends, explore your host city and country and travel as much as you can. It's a demanding schedule that really requires you to budget your time effectively.  

Also, all that traveling helps you to figure out important life skills along the way such as how to actually pack for a weekend away without your mom's help and how to budget your time when you're taking a trip somewhere and want to see all the sights but only have a certain amount of time.

Again, not learning that occurs in the classroom, but still important.

*Important side note: This is absolutely not the case. If you're studying abroad just to take easy classes, you're going to find yourself out of luck. Just like any other school, there are some classes that are easier than others, but there are still plenty of challenging classes that you might find yourself in.


8. you'll understand the value of time

No time for BS here. Gif courtesy of

No time for BS here. Gif courtesy of

Going along with the organization and time management I just talked about (see number five right above if you already forgot), studying abroad helps you make the most of the time you have. A lot of classes abroad have hours that you may not be used to. For example, I had classes twice a week at the ungodly hour of 9am. I also had a four-hour Spanish class twice a week.

These might not be things that you're used to at your home college or university, but they do exist abroad. But, you learn to live with them. You actually might come to find that you like getting your day started earlier because it helps you be more productive the rest of the day. Or you might learn not to drink as much the night before you have a four-hour Spanish class. Things I couldn't seem to get a hang of, but you might!

As I touched on in the organization point also, you'll learn how to plan trips. So, you've only got 72 hours in Rome? No problem. Besides reading my weekend guide to Rome, you'll learn to plan the trip hour-by-hour just so you can see everything. That's an important skill to have that you can only learn if you travel a lot when you go abroad.


9. you'll understand the value of a dollar, euro or whatever

Gif courtesy of

Gif courtesy of

One thing that becomes extremely apparent very early when you're studying abroad is that you're spending a butt-ton of money. If you haven't learned to budget your money in college, you sure as hell better learn when you study abroad.

Studying abroad also gives you familiarity with the values of other currencies and their relations to each other. You'll find yourself looking at exchange rates and analyzing economies more than you usually do just because you want to know the best time to go to the ATM so that you have enough money to eat, travel, shop, buy alcohol and go out at night.

Of course it helps when your parents are helping to finance your study abroad experience, but you should still work out a system with them, beginning before you go. You should talk about and agree on a weekly/monthly budget and you should do your best to stick to that budget. If you do, minus a splurge here and there, you'll be fine.

Again though, this is an experience that occurs outside of the classroom and often without you even realizing it's happening. However, it ends up being another extremely important life skill that you can learn really easily by studying abroad and paying attention.

And, most importantly...

10. you'll learn about yourself

And he's 3/3 on the Will Ferrell gifs. Nailed it. Gif courtesy of (Also, no, I did not actually visit that tumblr page.)

And he's 3/3 on the Will Ferrell gifs. Nailed it. Gif courtesy of (Also, no, I did not actually visit that tumblr page.)

That's right, time to get #deep. When you study abroad, you're placing yourself into a situation that you've most likely never found yourself in before. You're living in a foreign country, you might not know anyone, there could be a language barrier and there will be a bunch of problems and obstacles along the way that you never thought you would have to face.

It forces you to do a lot of growing up and finding yourself in a very short period of time. By the end though, you'll emerge a completely different person than when you started. Not in a bad way, you're just more mature because you've faced all of these new challenges. Sure, they might have seemed scary or daunting at the time, but now little things like doing your own laundry don't even phase you. 

I guarantee you will end up meeting some incredible people along the way and some of those people are right by your side, experiencing all these new things with you. That means you'll almost never have to face things alone.

You'll look back on your study abroad experience as some of the best times of your life, and that's because you took the time to study, learn and to get to know yourself and the amazing world in which we get to live each and every day. 



The Only App You Need When You're Abroad

I want to preface this post by saying that this is in no way, shape or form of an advertisement for or endorsement of TripAdvisor. If they were paying me to write this, you would be the first to know. Unfortunately, they're not paying me a damn cent.

But, this app is something you need to know about. If you're studying abroad, or just traveling to a new city in general, you need to download the TripAdvisor City Guides app A$AP ROCKY. Whether you're looking for some place to eat, a good club or bar or just want to see some sights, this app has it all.

Don't waste your time with all those other travel apps, trust me. Photo courtesy of

Don't waste your time with all those other travel apps, trust me. Photo courtesy of

The best part though–it works offline. That's right, you don't need an Internet connection for this baby. I have no idea what sorcery TripAdvisor is using to do this, but it works great. You simply download the city you're going to on the app, and boom, everything's there. Right at your fingertips. 

It even has a "point me there" feature that gives you directions to where you want to go. Easy as pie.

So, if you have no sense of direction like myself, this app is going to save your ass more than a few times. Also, we prefer the term "directionally challenged."

Edit: Another fun fact, you can also save all the places you go into the app under the "My TripJournal" feature. This comes in handy to remember where all your favorite spots are and also lets you take notes on each spot if you're a hip blogger like myself. Or if you just like taking notes, don't worry your secret's safe with me.

Edit #2: Shout out to my friend Ben for the recommendation.

How to be an Awesome Traveler

Now that I'm all settled in my new home for the next four months in Barcelona, I decided it was about time for my first post. Being a great traveler really isn't that difficult. Despite this reality though, you're going to see a lot of idiots meandering through the airport on any trip you decide to take. Please don't be one of those idiots. Use these five tips to up your travel game, STAT.


This is probably the most important. That's why it's numero uno on this list. If you want to have the best possible experience you can, you're going to have to burst that bubble of yours and expand your horizons. I know that can seem daunting at first, but trust me, traveling is what you make it. So, do it up right. You can thank me later.

Photo courtesy of audweezy on Tumblr.

Photo courtesy of audweezy on Tumblr.

Make an effort to learn and (attempt to) speak the local language, try that new food that somehow made it onto your plate because you didn't understand the aforementioned language and step out of your comfort zone to make some new friends.

I promise, even if you make an attempt to do any of this, your time in your new destination will only be that much better. 


Part of being prepared to travel to a new place is studying up on that place beforehand. Now I know everyone hates homework. Believe me, I'm the first person to put something off if I think I can get it done tomorrow (or next week, or the night before it's due, or five minutes before it's due).

Gif courtesy of

Gif courtesy of

However, I can't stress enough how important it is to research the place you're traveling to. Especially if it's a foreign country and you're going to be spending an extended period of time there, i.e. my four-month stay in Spain this semester.

Before you go, be a nerd for a few weeks. Buy the little travel books and that stupid little phrase book you swear you'll never use. I promise they'll come in handy. Google up some restaurants and check out the neighborhood around where you'll be staying.

It's not hard, won't take up too much of your time and, unlike that 10-page research paper that you put off until the night before at 3am, this type of homework is actually enjoyable.


Now, I'm definitely not the first person to talk to when it comes to packing advice. That's why this tip has nothing to do with it. All I recommend doing after you stuffed your suitcase to the brim without folding anything (don't worry, no judgments here, this is a safe place) is that you set aside an outfit that you'll be comfortable and confident in when you're traveling. Even though you're not an international businessman, you can still dress stylishly and comfortably at the same time.

For my trip to Spain via DC-->London-->Barcelona and for most of the trips I go on, I usually go with jeans. While traveling in sweatpants is more comfortable and definitely the surefire way to let everyone know that you don't give a shit what you look like, jeans are still comfortable and imply that you give at least half of a shit. 

I also recommend wearing a short sleeve shirt with a sweatshirt or other type of jacket. That way, if you're cold on the plane or in the airport, you can keep it on. Alternatively, if you're sprinting through London Heathrow at 7:30am trying to catch your connecting flight to Barcelona, you can take it off. Obviously make sure you wear underwear, socks and comfortable shoes. But you already knew that. Freaks. 

It's also important to have the weather of your destination in mind. While it's snowing and in the single digits in Baltimore, it's sunny and 60 in Barcelona. You need to dress with both of those forecasts in mind so that you're comfortable at all times.

Note: This mainly applies to men's style because I am, spoiler alert, a man. For my readers of the female persuasion, check out Hashtag Jetlag's packing list posts for some options.


While I already admitted that I'm no packing genie like my mother, I do know a thing or two about stuffing a backpack with everything I need. First thing you need to know is that when you're flying, you don't only get your normal rolling carry-on bag. You also get what airlines affectionately refer to as the "personal item."

They say this has to fit under your seat, but I say F that. As long as it fits comfortably on the ground under you while still giving you some leg room, you're not going to get hassled by any flight attendants. So, I opt for a backpack that I strategically place everything I need in. 

Sorry, no cat in my backpack.

Sorry, no cat in my backpack.

In my backpack for Barcelona, I had the following items, yes all in one backpack:

  • Full change of clothes (for the off chance your bags get lost, more on that in another post)
  • Headphones
  • Laptop
  • Chargers, adaptors and converters
  • Snacks (more on that later)
  • Medicines and liquids
  • My Nikon D3200 Camera in travel case with extra lens, batteries and battery charger
  • 32oz Brita water bottle
  • 2 pairs of Ray Ban sunglasses, in their cases and regular glasses in their case

There was actually more, but you get the idea. Think of it like a game of Tetris. You can fit everything in there, you just have to put it in the right way and in the right spot. Before you go, think of all the stuff you want with you at your seat on the plane and try to stuff it into your backpack.

If something doesn't fit, see if you can buy a smaller version or stuff it into a different compartment. If it still doesn't fit, you might have to reevaluate and find something you could do without having with you.


For me, this is an absolute no-brainer. While everyone always raves about how awesome airline food is (they don't, that was a joke), it helps to have some other options. On my flight to London, I literally saw a woman who packed herself a full, home-cooked, three course meal in tupperware containers and didn't eat the inflight meal. If that fits in your backpack or carry-on, more power to you.

My bag of snacks for Barcelona. Yes that's a full jar of peanut butter and yes this fit in my backpack too.

My bag of snacks for Barcelona. Yes that's a full jar of peanut butter and yes this fit in my backpack too.

On the more likely occasion that all of that doesn't fit in your backpack, snacks are more likely your best course of action. I personally like to go with pre-packed and portioned snacks that I like to think are healthy. Think Fiber One or Nutri-Grain bars, little bags of almonds and fruit leather. Also, make sure you have a pack of your favorite gum on deck for the takeoff ear-popping orchestra.