First Days Abroad In Spain

Guest Post By: Samantha Schrantz, a Senior. She studied abroad through ABLA Barcelona in Barcelona, Spain, during Autumn Quarter 2022.

Planning the Details
My study abroad trip to the University of Navarra in Pamplona actually took years of planning and effort. After my plans to go abroad were canceled several times in a row due to the pandemic, I was looking forward to finally being able to enjoy my exchange program in Spain. I sent away my visa materials in mid-June of 2022, but my visa still hadn’t come by the last week of August. After calling and emailing the consulate every day and reaching out to everyone I could think of, I was devastated when I had to cancel my (thankfully refundable) airline ticket for the end of the month. Two days later, my passport with the affixed visa arrived in the mail. The next few hours were a flurry of activity as I rebooked a flight for the following day, bought train tickets to Pamplona, and packed my bag. Although it all worked out in the end, I highly recommend triple checking the visa instructions and sending your materials early to ensure the best chances of success!

Traveling Abroad
My trip to get to Pamplona had its fair share of difficulty, too. My flight from Seattle to Frankfurt was delayed by two hours, but luckily, I didn’t miss my connecting flight to Barcelona. When I arrived in Spain, the train from the airport to the city center wasn’t working properly. After 90 minutes of waiting to see if the trains would start running, everyone shuffled down to the metro station instead. It took far longer to get to my hotel than I originally thought, and I was exhausted and hungry after a long day. Although tiring, my travel day wasn’t all bad. I indulged in a lovely meal at a restaurant around the corner from my hotel. The next morning, I strolled the streets of Barcelona and enjoyed a pastry and coffee before trudging over to the train station for the final leg of my journey. My takeaway here: Have a general plan of action, be flexible if your plans change, and download offline maps of the areas you’re traveling to. This is especially for the first day or two when you might not have cell coverage in a foreign country! I bought a Spanish SIM card my first day in Pamplona, but my offline maps helped me tremendously when I was walking around in Barcelona.

Settling In
When I at last arrived in Pamplona, I still didn’t have accommodation beyond a few days at a hostel. I hadn’t wanted to commit to an apartment without seeing it first–or meeting my roommates. Although it made the first week stressful, I’m glad I didn’t book anything in advance. I met too many people who were unhappy with their living situation and wanted to move! By asking around and talking with the school about housing options, I ended up having several places to choose from. I ultimately decided to stay with a Spanish host family in Pamplona’s Casco Viejo to have a chance to practice my Spanish and learn more about the local culture. At this point, I’ve been in Pamplona for about a month. There are aspects of the culture that I’m still adjusting to, but overall, I’ve found my rhythm here. I love knowing I have plenty of time in Pamplona, which means I have the chance to rest, relax, and live instead of feeling like a tourist scrambling to see the sights. Learn more about the University of Navarra here to discover all the experiences it offers.