Volunteering in Spain

Interested in working with Non-Profits? Junior Alex Jackson talks about her experience volunteering with one in Madrid, Spain on the Summer Global Internship Program.

One of the great things about working with a non-profit organization is you can actually see the impact you have on the people you serve. Although I spend most of the time in the office I was able to visit Hospital Niño Jesus and volunteer with our ‘Aladinos’,who are children with cancer the Fundación Aladina supports. One of my coworkers let me go with her on her weekly visit to the hospital, just to spend time with the patients. I also visited the hospital midway through my time in Spain, this was a perfect way for me to see what the organization actually does and how what I work on daily would help the children.

When I arrived at the hospital, I was given a tour and able to see the wing of the hospital. There was a room full of toys, board games, and a TV for the students to be able to play with. At the end of the hall, there was a relaxation room for the parents of the patients. It had comfy chairs, TV’s, and its own bathroom. When I ask why it was created, it was for the parents to take a break from all the emotions that can come with a child in the hospital for so long. Also, each child’s room was designed for the patient to have the most comfortable experience while they are battling their cancer. It was also very colorful and the children’s artwork was on the walls in the halls and in each of their rooms.

While I was there we played charades, in Spanish. This was both fun and difficult for me because I had to really think about my vocabulary and make sure I even knew what they wrote down. One word I had to describes was ‘guitar’ and that was hard because I knew barely any vocabulary about music. One of the kids offered to help me! I would whisper the word describing a guitar in English to him and then he would whisper is back in Spanish. What made it more interesting was that the kids were speaking to me in English, but I was speaking with them in Spanish. This helped me with my Spanish and also helped to improve their English. When I would respond in English they would all say “OOOO NO ENGLISH” and then make me say it again in Spanish. The kids were having a blast and I could see my volunteering was good for the family too. The parents were able to relax, take a break, or have fun with the kids  while the volunteers were there. I was able to see that what Fundación Aladina does, really impacts the families lives with both the volunteering and the facilities they provide.

Also, since my visit was midway through my summer, it helped me to see why they had me doing the work I did. It reminded me of why I was there for the summer too. The work I was doing could bring in more funds for the organization, which meant the more children they were able to impact. My volunteering gave the kids a break from the doctors and let them be kids again for a little while. I started feeling a little homesick around this time because the “thrill” of living in a new place was wearing off and I was in a routine every day. The visit let me see that my work had purpose and even helped me create new ideas for my summer marketing project at the organization. I also started visiting new parts of Madrid I had not seen to remind myself that I was in Spain. This helped with my homesickness because it reminded me I would not be here forever and to enjoy every moment I had!

Sports in Spain: ¡CAMPEONES, CAMPEONES OLÉ, OLÉ, OLÉ!

Sports in Spain! Hear Junior Alex Jackson’s experience of being in Madrid during the country’s biggest soccer game of the season, while interning on the Summer Global Internship Program.

Sports are a huge part of Spanish culture! One of the first places I went to when I got to Madrid was the soccer Stadium, Santiago Bernabéu. It is a huge stadium that has many great restaurants across from it. There are also tours you can take in the stadium, I never got around to doing that but some of the other students did.

Since soccer, or fútbol, is such a huge part of Spanish culture we were lucky to be here during the Champions League Final game of Real Madrid versus Juventus. This was a huge deal because if Real Madrid won the game they would be named League Champions! There was a lot riding on this game and luckily all of our employers made sure we understood how big of a match this was. To get in the spirit of this momentous game, a huge group of students decided to go to a local bar to watch the game. We wanted to be able to experience a Spanish soccer game just like the fans, and we were not disappointed!

When we first got to the bar, it was already packed and we arrived three hours before the game. The atmosphere was contagious, I even bought a Real Madrid soccer jersey beforehand so I could join in the fun. It was great to see how an entire country could rally behind  one team and how they had so much pride! Although Real Madrid was favored to win, it was still a great game. The fans cheered the entire time and when Real Madrid scored the first goal, the crowd went crazy! Similar to Ohio State football games there was screaming and chanting, friendly taunting to the other team it was definitely a site to see. The crowd also sang different songs and chants throughout the entire game, which is a little different than OSU games. At halftime the fans from both teams trickled into the street and a couple fights almost broke out, both fans were chanting and excited to see the outcome of the game.

The final outcome, Real Madrid won! Everyone stormed the streets and ran to the main square. It was complete chaos but it was so much fun! We were able to meet up with the rest of the internship students and we all danced and chanted ¡‘CAMPEONES, CAMPEONES OLÉ, OLÉ, OLÉ’! The atmosphere was incredible seeing people hugging, jumping up and down, and being extremely proud to be Spanish! 

The rest of the night we decided to all stay together and take in this huge win! We went to multiple places for food and were able to connect with the people of Spain more by celebrating the streets. Being a part of this soccer celebration showed me the pride Spain had for its team and that everyone could join in the party! However, the celebration was great but we had to be conscious that we were still in another, at the time, unfamiliar country. By staying in a group we were able to watch out for each other and truly enjoy the experience of being CAMPEONES!

International Travel Tips, from an International Traveler!

Working hard all week, calls for international travel on the weekend! See how Junior Alex Jackson balanced the two and her tips on traveling abroad while abroad on the Summer Global Internship Program in Spain.

The great part about having an internship abroad is that you are abroad! This means you get to travel on the weekend with your friends and see the rest of the world more easily and usually less expensive than you would if you left from the United States. It is also a great opportunity to get to know other students on the trip.

The first weekend I decided it would be best to stay in Madrid and just explore the city I would be calling home for a couple months. I was able to find some great restaurants and hang out at the tallest rooftop in Madrid, Círculo de Bellas Artes. We were able to relax, take pictures, and see how beautiful of a city Madrid really is. Besides Madrid, within Spain I also went to Granada, Barcelona, Valencia, and the island of Mallorca. My favorite out of all these places was Barcelona! It was just like Madrid but with a beach, and we were able to see La Sagrada Familia and Park Guell. Fun travel tip: If you want to see all the big landmarks of the city book a bike tour, it is a great way to get exercise and see the entire city!

Traveling outside of Spain was a little more expensive for us. I think if we would have booked those weekend while we were still in the United States it would have been cheaper. However, a group of us got together and booked the trips! They were a little expensive but definitely worth it because I was able to explore the world. Outside of Spain I went to Portugal, France, and London. Portugal was a ton of fun because almost everyone from the internship program went on the trip. We all stayed in a hostel together and were able to experience the celebration of Saint John, the patron Saint of Porto, Portugal. At this festival there were food trucks, drinks, and hammers! As part of the tradition, people hit each other over the head with hammers during the event. Originally, you only hit those you wanted to ‘court’ with a hammer, but today it is just fun for everyone to do! It was so much fun to be able to experience another culture! Beside Portugal my favorite place was France, more specifically Disneyland France! It was a great time and was a smaller version of Disney World Florida.

From all this traveling I learned two things: to plan and be flexible. It is important to come in with a plan, but you also have to be flexible with it. It can be hard to be flexible when something goes wrong because you have limited time, but if you worry about what you are missing you will miss the entire trip! However, it is important to plan the excursions like the bike tour or even tickets to a museum. Also, many times the hotel will have pamphlets for you of things to do while in country. If you run out of things to do for the weekend ask a local, they can tell you where the best spots are to eat or visit! 

Getting the Job Done Right!

After a successful first weekend in Spain, Junior Alex Jackson talks about adjusting to working in an international environment as she participates in the Summer Global Internship Program. She shares her observation on the differences in business norms between Spain and the U.S.

Although my title is as a Marketing and Communications intern, they have me doing much more! It is nice though because some of my other friends on the trip are having trouble staying busy at work. My main function is to work on the website as well as my final marketing project on ways Fundacion Aladina can expand its image and into the community. Although it may not seem like a large task, working on the website and translating it from Spanish to English was helping the organization expand into English speaking markets, mainly the United States, because non-profit organizations are more common here. This is huge for them because a lot of their business runs on donations, so it is important for them to build relationships with as many people as possible.

Although I was mainly working on the website, I was able to see many different parts of the business. I was able to sit in on interviews to fill new positions, pack and ship merchandise to customers, and help plan a movie premier. It was really cool to see how a non-profit functioned and the multiple “hats” my colleagues would put on to accomplish their daily tasks.

Seeing these interactions in the office made me realize a couple of comparisons between business in the United States and in Spain. First, that time was not as important. Many times, meetings would not start on time and no one was offended. My coworkers would continue working until the meeting arrived and sometimes they would even continue working until they were ready to meet. In the United States time is very important, there is even the saying, “If you’re on time you’re late”. Another thing I noticed is that the organization was very friendly with their clients. They would all chat as though they have known each other for a long time and would greet each other with a hug. I do not know if this is because  I am at a nonprofit organization or if it is just how business is conducted in Spain. I also found it interesting that all of the meetings were in the morning before lunch. After I asked some of my co-workers, we came to the conclusion that after lunch people may have other obligations such as family, health, or social. The work life balance in Spain is very important and I even noticed this with my boss when I was sick she told me to take the day off and get checked out. It seemed as though the person came first and the work came second.

These differences in the workplace were refreshing to see, because in the United States it seems like the job comes first and then the person. Or that we are very business oriented and worried about time that we do not get to know those we do business with or the best thing for the employees. The friendly and truly team-oriented culture, made me want to do my job even better because I know my work truly mattered. I also realized that jobs are not always about the money, but you have to fit well with the people and overall culture of the company. When looking for an internship for next summer, I will definitely make sure the company has good values and company culture.  Although I think this idea is changing in U.S. business culture it was heavily a part of the business culture in Spain.

New Country, New City, New Experiences!

After just one week in Madrid, Spain Junior Alex Jackson discusses the excitement of moving to a new country and navigating your way around the city.  

The first week has been full of activities, adjusting to work, and exploring the city! The flight to Madrid was long but it was funny running into other people on the trip when we landed in Madrid because we all looked a little lost with our phones out looking for directions where to go. We were all bussed to the accommodations and they were beautiful and in a perfect location, Moncloa! Moncloa is a part of town with multiple metro stations, popular restaurants, and shopping within walking distance. They were very similar to a dorm but we had dinner included, our rooms were cleaned while we were there, and it was a 5 minute walk from two metro stations.

The partnering agency did a great job at making sure we adjusted well. They planned a welcome reception for us where we were able to meet all the students in the program! They then went over what the 10 weeks would look like for us and how to get our metro cards activated. After this meeting my friends and I decided to settle in and then wander to find the nearest McDonald’s. I know finding a McDonald’s in Spain?! The one thing I have learned from traveling so much is to always find the nearest McDonald’s!! Not to eat at all the time but sometimes it is just good to eat food that reminds you of home!

Day 2 in Spain my roommate and friend bought a 2 day metro pass to go get our month long passes. This was a task! First, we got turned around and walked 15 minutes in the wrong direction. When we finally got on the metro station, we were not paying attention and missed our stop! We had to double back to the metro card office where we waited for a short period of time until they were able to help us. We took our pictures and got home without a problem!

The day before work we traveled to our new work sites to make sure we could get there on Monday morning. I ran into a little trouble, but the partner agency was very helpful and escorted me to my site Monday morning, so I would get there safely! My first day of work was nerve wracking and fun at the same time. My office was so small, but everyone was so nice! They took me on a tour of the office, helped me get situated, and even took me out to lunch! They spoke in Spanish the entire time, but this is what I wanted. It was a little overwhelming but I was able to understand enough to learn about my co-workers and the job. I worked from 9-2 everyday, so I asked them to make a “What to do in Madrid” list that I could do after work! On the first day of work, do not be nervous, dress your best, and ask questions! Remember that they picked you to intern with them for a reason and that first impressions are the most important. Treat the internship as a way to figure out what you like and don’t like, ask questions to get to know the company, employees, and their everyday jobs.

Besides work, the partnering agency had so many activities planned for us the first week! We went to some of the staple places in Madrid like Parque Retiro, Temple Debod, and the Royal Palace of Madrid. These were just the places I went to but it was optional to go. My favorite was Parque Retiro is was huge, beautiful, full of activity! People were walking, running, reading in the grass, and playing music in open areas. The park was peaceful and full of life at the same time. The group had a picnic there and took so many pictures together. My first week was great and if it is a precursor to the rest of my trip I would enjoy it!

Summer in Spain? Don’t mind if I do!

Summer Global Internship Program Participant, Alex Jackson, talks about her anticipation of working abroad in Madrid, Spain! She also shares some insights to the process of being matched up with companies.

I was just accepted to go to Spain for the Summer Global Internship Program! I am excited to learn about the culture in Spain as well as improve my Spanish speaking skills. That is the main reason why I decided to study in Spain, because I think it is important to know another language. I have been taking Spanish since I was a freshman in high school, but do not get to use it much at school. I am hoping through this experience I will be able to come back speaking more smoothly than I do now!

The job hunt process for the program was fast and easy. The partnering agency was personable and really wanted to make sure I was placed in an internship I felt I would enjoy! The first interview was with the partnering agency getting to know me, going over my resume, testing my Spanish, and figuring out what I wanted in a company. Be honest during the interview, because you are interviewing for what you want to get out of the internship. Also, know your resume, they will ask you questions about it! Because of my previous history with speaking Spanish, I was able to be placed at a company that only spoke Spanish! This was exciting for me because I knew I would be fully immersed in the language and Spanish culture. My preferences for a company were a little difficult because I wanted to work for a small nonprofit organization, because I wanted to see the differences between working at a for profit company and a nonprofit. Although they said it might be a difficult hunt, they were able to find an organization for me! The search for an organization took about three months, I actually forgot I was going to be working in Spain for a little bit! However, the wait did not disappoint!

The partnering agency was able to find two non-profit organizations who were willing to have an intern for the Summer! After weighing my options I decided to go with Fundación Aladina, a nonprofit that supports children with cancer. When I decided on my organization, I took to the social media to find out more about them. They were VERY active on social media and their Instagram was beautiful! I could tell by their interaction with the followers and office pictures they posted that their organization was like a family. I then had a follow-up interview with Ishtar Espejo, who is the director of the organization and fortunately we hit it off! She enjoyed my energy, was informative, excited to work with me, and was very clear of her expectations of the internship. The interview with my boss made me even more excited to go! She expressed that she wanted my internship to be a learning experience for both of us. This reassured me that I was going to have a great experience because the organization wanted me there as much as I wanted to be there!

All while I was waiting to hear back from the partnering agency, all the students going to Spain were taking a class on Spain and what to expect. This was very helpful because the campus coordinator for the partnering agency came to a couple sessions and we were able to ask her so many questions! The most informative class for me, was when students from the previous summer came to speak to us. They were able to give us tips, such as, do not leave your phone on the table when you eat and good places to visit in the city. In the class a lot of students seemed nervous to be traveling so far for so long, however I was so excited! Traveling has always been a passion of mine and being able to travel and gain more experience in my major was a win win!

T-Minus One Week until Global Immersion…

Who is to say she is ready? With only one week until she embark on a five month exchange to Spain through the Fisher Student Exchange Program, Madi Deignan is beginning to feel the intensity of this life-altering journey. If you feel stressed going abroad, read her blog to help you through this major transition!

This spring I will be traveling to Madrid, Spain, to study through the business school at La Universidad Pontificia Comillas. I would like to say that Ohio State was the only inspiration in me journeying to Madrid, but this dream began many years ago.

I grew up outside of Chicago, in a city with a high population of native Spanish speakers. My parents enrolled me in an elementary school with a bilingual option to aid the students who had yet to learn fluent English; my parents seized the opportunity to enlist their kids in a similar path: to become fluent in Spanish. As I grew and learned basic language, math, history, social science and other topics, in Spanish as well as English, my understanding and appreciation for Spanish culture grew. My parents loved seeing my progress with the language, and my dad lamented on his time abroad during college in Madrid. I knew I wanted to follow a similar path, and aspired to study abroad in Madrid during my college experience as well.

The sunset on the Guadalquivir, the river running through the city, and the fifth longest in the Iberian Peninsula
My friend Macie and I while visiting El Alcázar de Sevilla

My interest in Spanish did not decrease despite leaving elementary school and moving to Cleveland. I traveled to Spain and studied in Sevilla and Cádiz the summer after my Junior year. One month of exploring was not nearly enough, but it did reignite my dream of studying in Madrid during college. I knew then that no matter where I ended up for school I would need to find a university that was able to supply me the means of fulfilling this dream.

Finding the right program was not easy, despite my determination in studying specifically in Madrid. In fact, I almost missed the deadline for the Student Exchange Program! On chance, while visiting with my adviser about my schedule, I mentioned in passing my desire to study abroad, and discovered the deadline for second semester Junior year for this program was within the month, and there was an option to study in Madrid. I quickly applied, and when I met with the Global Education Adviser, emphasized my dream of being in Madrid.

Over Winter break last  year I received the email that I was accepted for the program along with five other students – I was extremely excited, and began to work on preparation. Over the last year I have researched the city, traveled to Chicago to obtain my Student Visa, read multiple travel guides, composed packing lists, secured housing, and locked down my flights. Now, with only one week until my departure, I am beginning to finally feel the anxious nerves hit me; living in this city with such independence and freedom comes with a lot of responsibility. For those who are experiencing a similar nervousness, I have compiled a short list of things to help in this transitionary time.

  • RESEARCH! The more you know about your destination, and the more planning that is done, the more comfortable and confident you will be upon arrival. The world works in similar ways, regardless of your location, and the key characteristic for success is confidence. Don’t be naive – this is a big transition! The best way to feel truly confident and have a strong attitude, is to do ample research. Memorize your new address, check out nearby amenities, plan for weekly trips to the store, figure out your daily walk… Come up with simple ideas to feel more like a native in your new home.
  • RELATE! Think about the similarities between your cultures, and begin to prepare for the emotional and mental journey that is about to begin. Understand that many others are in the same position as you, and think of the exchange students that you have encountered at school. The sooner you can relate to the culture you are immersing into, the more comfortable you will feel.
  • RELAX! Stressing out can be very easy, but more importantly, it can be brutally time-consuming. Stressing out too much is truly a waste of your valuable time before you leave. Easier said than done, try to do some relaxing activities before you leave, and use valuable time with loved ones before you embark on your journey. As the saying goes, let the chips fall where they may; it is no shock that this will be a difficult transition, but it is better to approach it level-headed and relaxed, rather than uptight and stressed out. Come to the table with an open mind and a light heart!
The views of the Atlantic Ocean from Cádiz were incredible

So: Am I ready for this trip? Can anyone truly be ready for such a culture change? What I can say is I feel very prepared, and I definitely feel ready for the semester of a lifetime.

Why You Should Create a Study Abroad Blog

“I am going to tell you why I chose to blog and why you should too.” says Samantha Ludes, as she studies at Universidad Pontificia Comillas in Madrid, Spain for a semester on the Student Exchange Program. How will you document your time abroad?

There are endless ways to document your time abroad but it ultimately comes down to what works best for you. Is it keeping a written journal? Or an Instagram account? Or a combination of the two? Upon my arrival in Spain I had decided that I was going to have an Instagram account where I posted photos from my travels. What I didn’t like about this route was that I found myself not including details about the places I went and primarily just sharing pictures. I decided that this was not the best option for me, so I moved to journaling. The issue with journaling is the lack of convenience as well as the inability to share photos. This was when I decided I would try out a blog.

The benefit of blogging is that you can do it anywhere you have access to technology, I often write posts on my phone and then use my computer to add photos and tag restaurants. There are also many sites that offer free blogs but I found that I liked WordPress the most. The themes are endless and you can personalize it to your liking. I spent a bit of time playing around with my site until I settled on a theme I loved. Now I write a post on every trip, my favorite places to shop, and whatever else that comes to mind. If you don’t want people to see your posts you can password protect them.

WordPress can seem a bit overwhelming at first but you can Google just about any question and there should be an answer. Whenever I go on a trip I make sure to start a post with the date and place so that it serves as a reminder to work on it. After a weekend trip I go through my photos and put them in an album under the location so that when I am working on my blog I can Airdrop all of the photos to my computer with ease. WordPress has a really great app that is super simple to use and if you want to write down notes during your trip, this is a great place to store them. Also, if you don’t feel comfortable with everyone viewing your posts, then you can password protect them.

At the end of the day, find some way to capture your memories and experiences, you will thank yourself later. Don’t worry about grammar rules, just write your posts how you would share your stories. My blog is primarily for myself and my family but when I share it on Instagram or Facebook I can see that over 200 people have visited my site that day. The one thing people always say to me after they read my blog is that they read it in my voice, which sounds funny but that is ultimately my goal; to share my stories as if I am sitting across from you in person.

I chose the name “No Pasa Nada” for my blog because it best represents my time here in Spain. “No pasa nada” means “don’t worry about it” in English and to me, this embodies the relaxed Spanish culture.  People here take longer lunch breaks, grab coffee with friends, and always stop to say hello. They don’t worry about rushing places and go about life with less urgency, something I have worked on adopting. I decided that I am going to continue my blog (as well as the “no pasa nada” lifestyle) when I go back to the states. I have found that I enjoy keeping my memories in one place and I can’t wait to look back and see everything I have done and all the people I have met.

Are you homesick yet?

Although Spain is a wonderful adventure, Nikki Matz also recognizes the difference from the U.S. She shares the things that she misses from the U.S. from her experience on the Student Exchange Program.

As a student studying abroad, one of the most-asked questions aside from “where are you from” or “what are you studying” is “are you homesick yet?” I have never been someone that gets homesick easily, I didn’t even get homesick when I went to college my freshman year. I wondered if the case would be the same when I moved across the world to live in a foreign country. After living in Madrid for 3 months I have decided that I may just miss a few things about home. I’ve compiled a list of a few things that I miss the most about America and home. I found it best to schedule a time to talk to people and if you can’t call texting can be just as useful.

  1. The people- At first I was very good about keeping in contact with friends and family at home, a 6 hour time difference meant I usually called people around 11 or 12 at night. As my friends and I got more busy with school and other things, I have found it harder to spend an hour on Facetime a couple times a week. Weekend trips will take ALL of your energy and the weeks have to be dedicated to all the schoolwork I don’t do on the weekends. 6 hours isn’t a lot, but it makes communication much more difficult than being in the same time zone. I found it worked best to set a time when you will try to call people, and it helps a lot to know other peoples schedules. For example, my parents would not get home from work until almost midnight in Spain, so I remember that when I wanted to call them.

2.The culture- Spain is not what I would consider a stereo typically cold culture, the people are generally nice and always willing to help, but I miss the friendly good mornings of American strangers when you are walking down the street or striking up conversations with people in the grocery store. I never realized that Americans were stereotyped as overtly friendly until I talked to people from other countries and they told me they thought this, and then I began to realize that it is very true. People generally consider Americans to be friendly people.

3. Free water/American service industry- I will be very relieved to order water with my first meal back in the States and to not see a charge for it on my bill. Europeans pay for all beverages on the menu and I have sadly eaten many meals without a drink because I am too stubborn to pay for water. In addition to the water dilemma, service in Europe is very different from the service in America. Waiters and waitresses in Europe are salaried and paid fairly well, so they do not have the motivation to give you excellent service because tipping is for the most part non-existent. You must get the waiters attention if you want anything, and sometimes they may still take 20 minutes to come to your table. In Europe it is rude to keep checking on a table because you may be interrupting conversations and it seems like you want to hurry people along. I found that I would spend over 2 hours at restaurants almost every time just because no one is checking on you and you don’t feel rushed.

I never appreciated the things that I love about America until I left and realized that I missed them. I am so happy that I have the chance to live in a culture so different from my own, and I really enjoy being able to see the differences in cultures across Europe. The truth is almost everyone abroad will eventually succumb to some kind of homesickness, missing a restaurant in your hometown or friends from college, but homesickness can easily turn into a good thing, because it makes you appreciate the things you miss even more than you already did. Keeping in touch with people helps a lot with homesickness and it helps you still feel connected to home. I also have found that a lot of the things you might miss (especially food) are available if you search hard enough. For example Bagels and many cereals that I like are not typical in Madrid, but I have found special stores such as Made in America or even cereal and bagel shops that serve some of my favorites. It won’t be something you get everyday, but every once in a while it is nice to have a bagel to remind me of home.

Some of the food I have enjoyed in Europe (without water)

Pizza on Foccacia with pesto (Cinque Terre, Italy)
Fresh pasta with pomodoro and pesto (Florence, Italy)
Pizza Margharita (Naples,Italy)

P.S. Of the 10 countries in Europe I have visited, Italy had the best food!

Advice on Traveling While Abroad

Nikki Matz, studying in Spain on the Student Exchange Program, shares her advice and tips on how to go about traveling while abroad for a semester. Check out her list of helpful Apps and webpages, as well as ways to get discounts!

One of the most exciting parts of studying abroad is the ability to travel around the area you are in and see a different part of the world. Being in Europe makes it quite convenient to visit a lot of countries very inexpensively. One of the best things to do when booking weekend trips is to do it early. I was able to get several flights under 100 USD just because I booked them early, and when I booked trips later I had to pay much more. For my school, I didn’t schedule my classes until December, so I wasn’t able to book very many trips early. It is important to think of other costs associated with booking trips, sometimes a flight may be cheaper but you may have to pay more for other things. For example, my monthly metro pass takes me to the airport for free, but the metro is closed from 2-6am, so if I have a flight early in the morning, I have to pay for a taxi. The cost savings on flights sometimes aren’t worth the hassle.

Some helpful tools and websites to use when booking trips:

  • Google flights: Make sure to open an incognito window, but it lets you see many cities at once and their prices, and you can track prices for different flights. Sometimes I would open two tabs to purchase 2 one way tickets.
  • Rome2Rio: once you are in a country, you need to get from the airport to your accommodation, and you also may want to move around the country. Rome2rio shows you all the ways you can get from point a to point b, with prices include. It is very useful to see the time it will take for different methods of transportation and their costs.
  • Bookings.com: I used this many times to book accommodations, they list hostels, B&Bs, and hotels at very discounted prices. It is always worth checking because you can find steeply discounted prices for very nice accommodations.
  • Hostelworld: Hostels are a staple for youth travelers, and if your goal is to save money you’ve got to use them. Hostelworld shows you how far places are from the city center, ratings, pictures, and other information. It makes comparing hostels very easy and is very easy to book through it. (Bring a padlock with you for hostels just in case they don’t have them, and I would also recommend a quick-drying towel and refillable toiletry bottles.)
  • Skyscanner: Skyscanner is another flight search engine, a lot of students utilize this to find the cheapest flights. I personally have used google flights more, but Skyscanner is very popular as well.

These are a few of the tools I found most useful, there are also often discounts for students such as the European youth card or ISIC that give you discounts on airlines such as RyanAir. It is good to be aware early that you can purchase a youth card for a few euros and get discounts on travel.  Traveling on the weekends is an integral part of studying abroad, it is exciting and exhausting at the same time. Being prepared makes everything more enjoyable and less stressful.

Pro tip: Try not to schedule classes at 8 am on Monday mornings (speaking from experience) best case scenario is ending class early on Thursday, no class Friday, and late class Monday.

Tétouan, Morocco

Copenhagen, Denmark