Tips for first timers

First time in Salamanca? … We have a few tips and trouble shooters for you. (Of which the author does about a quarter… on a good day).

Living and studying in a foreign country is rather different from simply travelling through. Stocking up at the supermarket (and lugging it all back to your flat), going to a breakfast place where the barman says “hola”, having a Spanish mobile with a few Spanish numbers in it - little things that make you feel more citizen and less sightseer. It can feel a bit scary at the beginning but the best things usually do.

First Timers Guide

1) Read up about Spain! It doesn’t take long to build a box of the basics that you can fill with all your new experiences when you get to Spain.
2) Research events/attractions that you don’t want to miss out on/might need to book for (Alhambra, festivals etc.).
3) Check with your phone company that your phone is activated for roaming. You will want to get a Spanish phone here but you do want your home phone to work too.
4) Make sure you have a visa and travel insurance if from outside Europe. Europeans should bring an EHIC card.
5) Leave a copy of your passport with your parents/other responsible person.
6) Tell your VISA/Mastercard card company you are going abroad.
7) Get a plastic file with sleeves and stick in: 

  • ISLA emergency numbers
  • Any important numbers you can’t remember by heart
  • Details of your homestay or flat share
  • Arrival instructions
  • Coach ticket
  • Air ticket and boarding passes
  • Photo copy of passport
  • Other ID with a photo (student card, library card)  - useful for when paying with a credit card
  • The exchange rate in different amounts for quick reference

1) If you’re not sure if you need it, you don’t.
2) If you’re pretty sure you need it, you don’t.
3) Clothes, shoes and toiletries are as cheap as chips in Spain so don’t be scared to travel light.
4) Take fewer pairs of shoes.
5) Your airline’s baggage allowance is a limit, not a challenge.
6) Do bring a rucksack as hand luggage for weekend escapes. Do not bring bum bags that are beyond stupid for obvious reasons.
7) Apart from phone and camera chargers bring adaptors, check voltages. Bring an extra memory card.

1) Arrive early. Do not nip off for a little look at the shops. Airports are boring, missing your flight more so.
2) Jokes about security are hilarious. Spending time in jail is less so.
3) Surprising as it might seem, yours will not be the only black suitcase on the conveyer belt. Customize it!
And for our long haul travellers:
Earplugs, eye mask, toothpaste, change of underwear, good book, snacks are all your good friends.

1) On arrival in Salamanca or at your flat. Do not hide in your bedroom. Smile. Things will be different to how they are at home. That’s kinda the point. Accept all offers of chats, drinks, strolls with flatmates/host mother however tired. Do not go to sleep if it is not bedtime and don’t eat if it is not a meal time.
2) Wait to call home until you have a positive or fun experience to tell them about. Use emails rather than Skype – you'll enjoy writing them almost as much as the folks will enjoy reading and re-reading them.
3) Keep your passport and other valuables in your suitcase and not under your mattress (where it will still be while you are checking in at the airport). Salamanca is super safe but never walk around with your passport (take your Blockbusters card as ID) or large sums.

1) First Day at school. Remind yourself when to get here (if you live with a family she will bring you). Check when your lessons end and when the welcome meeting is.
2) Get a Spanish cell phone! ISLA will tell you where.
3) Don't miss the welcome drink at ISLA however tired you are. Remember that everyone has had a first day once upon a time and there is someone for everyone. Integration, tolerance and international friends are what it’s all about.  
4) Find out if there is an ISLA Whatsapp group to stay informed about what people are up to.
5) As well as the pool, picnics, the nightlife, join in on as many ISLA activities as you can – this way you’ll get to see the sights, learn a skill, have exposure to Spanish outside your lessons and keep yourself busy.
6) Get out of your comfort zone. Eat, drink and do things that you wouldn’t go near in your normal life.
7) If something is bothering you – speak up and get it fixed.  Everything is fixable.
8) And finally: Do your homework: you will notice the difference.