Cassandra in Spain

Cassandra is a senior majoring in Spanish and psychology in Dedman College and the recipient of the Marion Tower and other scholarships. During fall 2011, she is studying with SMU-in-Spain. She is looking forward to submerging herself in Spanish culture and learning how Spain has become what it is today.

What time is it there?

I recently read this Facebook status of a friend who plays basketball: My favorite is, “I know you get this a lot [but I’ll just be an average person and blend into the rest of the world even though knowing how tall you are comes at the expense of my own individuality] but how tall are you..?” I thought it was pretty funny that he got so worked up over a simple question, but I understand it gets really annoying when you get asked the same question over and over.

Needless to say, I am now overseas, and I too feel his pain. Not because I’m 7 feet tall and people notice, but because I’m in Spain … and people always want to know what time it is.

Every fb conversation, every skype chat, and every phone call, ALWAYS starts with same question: “What time is it over there!?” You’d think they could do the math after you’ve explained a million times that the time difference is 7 hours (for Dallas, at least). But no. It never fails. Someone is always sure to ask.

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My Top 5 survival tips

It is exactly a month today since I arrived in Madrid. The ‘Ameri-euro’ transition has been a little rocky, but luckily, I’ve come up with a stress-free list of ways to make life easier while in Spain. Here is a list of the Top 5 things that have been difficult for me to overcome and my advice on how to make them better.

1)   Jet Lag – Expect to be SUPER TIRED the first 3-4 days you are here.

My Advice: STAY AWAKE!! matter how tired you are the first day. If you sleep during the day, you won’t sleep at night. Adjusting to the time difference will take longer. It’s easier to just suck it up the first day and enjoy the rest of your trip.

2)   Feeling Alone/ Homesickness– Interacting with people from the study abroad group is great, but there comes a point when you get tired of seeing the same faces. When I first got here, the first thing I wanted to do was call my mom. I bought a temporary phone from the school to initially get in contact with my parents. However, international phone calls are SUPER expensive … needless to say, I don’t use my phone anymore.

My Advice: GET SKYPE!! Tell your parents to change their settings on Facebook so that when you post on their wall, they get a text message. Tell them to GET ON SKYPE! It’s the fastest and cheapest way to get in touch with family and friends.

3)   Euro Frustration– In addition to the loss of value from exchanging dollars to euros ($1.35 = 1 euro approx.) Europe is expensive in general. It’s not the best feeling in the world when your parents deposit $100 and it only converts to 66 euros (after taxes and ATM fees).

My Advice: Don’t think about it. Spend wisely and responsibly, but most importantly…HAVE FUN. Don’t waste your thoughts and energy on something you can’t change. Just know what to expect and enjoy your semester abroad!

4)    To Travel or Not to Travel? Europe is a small continent and traveling is cheap. There are limitless places you can visit, but that doesn’t mean you need to visit all of them.

My Advice: Quality over quantity. Pick 2 or 3 traveling destinations and fit them in your school schedule. Don’t try to make the most trips, but make the most out of the ones you take. Remember to include air travel time, traveling to and from the airport, getting to your hotel/hostel, both ways when booking a trip.

5)   Keeping up with Schoolwork– Spain is full of party and adventure but, after all, you are here to study abroad. The formula is simple: Work hard. Play hard.

My Advice: Try to do that majority of your schoolwork during the school week (Mon-Thur) so that your weekends are as fun and stress-free as possible.

Now that you have your tools for survival, go out and have fun! And don’t be afraid to get lost. Literally. It’s the best way to explore!

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