9 Questions About Study Abroad Answered by an Alumna

Sometimes you have questions about study abroad that can only be answered by alumni.

USAC is happy to connect you with alumni anytime you have questions, but today we’re hearing from Amanda Castillo, a USAC Madrid alumna who took to her YouTube Channel to answer some of the most common questions she received about her study abroad. Check out the video or read what Amanda has to say below about how to afford travel, classes she took, and more.

How do I afford to travel?

  • I’m just going to straight up say that I am paying for this, a majority of it on my own. My mom doesn’t really have the money to help me out—all this travel is coming out of my own pocket. I do make money off of YouTube so that’s how I’m affording this. On top of that I didn’t decide on the whim that I was going to study abroad; I did save up for a good amount of time.

How do you travel to different countries, how much does it cost?

  • I have been taking a bus, a train or a plane to different countries depending on where I’m trying to go. For instance, I’m studying abroad in Madrid and I have a lot of friends that went to Portugal, and they took an overnight bus there because it’s very close. But a lot of times I did take a cheap flight to different countries: flights are very cheap depending on when you buy them and at what time. I didn’t buy any flights before coming and studying abroad, except one to go to Oktoberfest with my roommates. Once you start your program studying abroad, you make new friends and you want to go to places together. I recommend to not plan out every single trip until you start your program abroad.

How do you balance school and travel?

  • I typically travel on a Thursday night or I’ll go Friday then come back on Sunday. If I feel like there is so much going on with school, then I may decide to not travel that weekend-plan according to what’s worth it or what isn’t worth it.

What classes do you take?

  • I took a three-part Spanish course and a politics class. It depends on what program you do, but certain programs do offer certain classes for certain majors.

How do you text/call in Europe?

  • You should call your provider—I called them to let them know I would be gone for four months and the put my cellular plan on hold. When I came to Europe, I took out my SIM card from my phone and then I went to a cellular provider in Spain and I just got a SIM card that I would reload with money every month to give me a certain amount of GB, and I would use those GB to communicate with people while I was not in a wifi area.

Where do you live?

  • On my program you had the option of doing a homestay, which is where you live with a family, or you can live in an apartment somewhere in the city. I personally chose apartment because I wanted to have my own space and have a kitchen and cook my own food, as well as live with other people. If I wanted to go out I didn’t have to meet up with someone, I could just go with my roommates.

Did you meet any locals?

  • Yes I did, and I feel so good about it. I honestly didn’t expect to make friends with people that live here, but I definitely did, and I’m so glad because you talk to them and they tell you how life is here, where are the cool places to go and where are the best places to eat. You feel like you’re a part of the country that you’re living in because you don’t just hang out with Americans or people that just speak English.

Where did you go?

  • I went to a lot of different places—I think I counted 16 different cities and 6 different countries.

What was the biggest lesson you learned?

  • I learned so much while I was here—not only about life but also about myself. The biggest lesson I learned was that I can do anything I set my mind to. I’ve been through so many situations where something went wrong and I had to figure it out all by myself, but now I know that I can make it through these situations. I can literally do anything now and be calm during the situations. I know that I’m a smart person and I need to put trust into myself. I’m very independent now.

Tips for a successful study abroad

  1. Download City Maps directly from Google Maps for where you plan on going so you don’t need wifi
  2. Get a debit card that doesn’t penalize you for spending money in Europe
  3. Pull a lot of money at once so you don’t have too many fees
  4. Be careful with your valuables
  5. Print out your tickets if you’re traveling and if you can’t then download your tickets on your phone
  6. Bring food from home—they may not have it in your location
  7. Take a picture of your passport and visa on your phone in case something happens
  8. Ask locals where to go
  9. Websites: goeuro for busses. Skyscanner for flights. Hostelworld for hostels. Google flights for cheap flights.

To watch more videos from Amanda’s time in Madrid, head to her YouTube Channel, ItsMandarin.