What do you wish someone had told you before you went abroad?
I definitely wish someone told me not to get PicCell because to be honest I didn't even use it and yet I was paying for it. I really only used my IPhone when there was wifi and even then I was so mesmerized by the beauty and places of wherever I was, that I didn't even care to use my phone except for pictures. Plus if you have wifi you can facetime your parents. If anything there are better cell plans that don't charge you as much as PicCell.
What is the most important thing you learned abroad?
To live in the moment and that the world is so much bigger than you know. Before abroad, I had never been outside of the U.S. I was lucky enough to see 11 countries and 24 cities in my four months that I was there. The sad part is it flew by. I miss it every day because Europeans are so different from Americans. I didn't take one day for granted while I was there because there was just so much to see.
A big thing would also be independence. I had to make sure I was going to class, doing my work and taking in all that Madrid had to offer. While on the weekends, I had to make sure I had a plan of what I wanted to see, how I was going to get around as well as everything I came with because I wouldn't be going back if I forgot something at a hostel. I also had to make sure I had a budget plan and that I didn't run over. Europe can be expensive unless you budget and have a plan. Don't take away from one trip because you went way over in a different place.
What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?
I tell anyone who is considering going abroad that they have to go. Even if they are scared or afraid they will be homesick, they need to because not everyone has this chance. The things you see abroad and the things you get to experience are indescribable and if you pass up this opportunity you will never get this chance again.
It's different traveling with your good friends or even strangers that become good friends than traveling when you are done with school because when will you ever have the chance to be taught what you are learning by people who actually live there. It's just something you shouldn't pass up.
What was the hardest part about going abroad?
The hardest part about abroad is definitely the time difference. Your family will call you while you are asleep or maybe out at a club and you will call them while they are work. The same with your friends. It's hard on the weekends as well because most likely you will be traveling. You will experience FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) when your family or friends are all together for breaks but you also have to remember you are doing this for yourself and having the time of your life.
However, if you have a host family as good as mine, they made sure that my home in Madrid felt like home. I was never uncomfortable or homesick to be honest and a lot of that has to do with them. You just need to be able to step out of your comfort zone and know everything will be okay. Be brave and try new things. Do not hold back on experiences because of fear.
What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?
Hmm... this is so tough I would have to say the day I walked onto a military base. I was in Copenhagen, Denmark (a place I highly recommend you take a trip to) and I was by myself. It was my first day and in the beginning I was using a map. However, halfway through walking around I tossed the map because I decided that it's often when we are lost that we not only find ourselves but the hidden gems of places.
So with the map in the trash, I was wondering around. I ended up finding this tunnel and at the end of the tunnel was a gate. The gate was open slightly so I figured I could walk in. I started walking around and about 10 minutes later, a Danish officer approached me saying I couldn't be there because it was a military base. I apologized and said "please do not shoot the American tourist." He laughed. Before I got off the base, naturally I took a selfie and it was one of the funniest things because if you knew me, you would say "that would happen to Nick."
What made this experience unique and special?
Definitely my host family. They were my family and still are. I talk to them at least every other week if not every week now that I am back in the U.S. Without them being so hospitable, I do not think the trip would have been as great. Also, my professors. I learned more Spanish in my four months there than in my eight years of taking it in America and that is all due to the professors, my host family and the lovely Madrilenos.
It was just so eye opening and I did things that I know people will not get the chance to do if they went by themselves or went in the Spring and for that I am so grateful. I cherish that time I had in Madrid with all my heart and am constantly planning my next trip back to see my professors and host family.
Tell us about an experience you had that you could not have had at home.
Definitely meeting the cast of Teen Wolf. In a spur of the moment decision, my friend Karina (who is one of the greatest people you could meet abroad) and I found a common interest on our seminar: Teen Wolf. We heard they were having a convention in Madrid so we decided we would go for the day.
As we got to the convention we realized that we were so out of our element as people had flown in from all around Europe and stayed at the convention all weekend while we came for the day. Any who, about halfway through the convention we got the chance to get a photo op with Tyler Hoechlin (Derek Hale). He ended up speaking to my friend and I for a good couple minutes and asked us to go out with him, J.R. Bourne (Argent) and Ian Bohen (Peter Hale) that night.
Before we could exchange numbers, the woman in charge rushed us out of the room because they were behind schedule but if you ask me, it was definitely because she was jealous. So needless to say we didn't get to hang with them. I did get to talk to J.R. Bourne while I was washing my hands in the bathroom. That was pretty cool. Never met a celebrity in the bathroom before haha.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Get involved as much as you can. Take advantage of all discounted trips or events your school has planned. Go to local events in your town or neighborhood. Practice the language of whatever country you are calling home for this extended period of time. Be open to new food, new excursions and new possibilities.
You may have thought you've seen it all but you haven't. Just do not be afraid to break away from the friends you already have to make new ones with people on your trip and the locals as well. This is about finding yourself, creating memories of a lifetime and doing things you've dreamt of for a while. This time is all about you so take in as much of it as you can.
What made this trip meaningful to you, or how did this trip change your perceptions, future path?
I just never knew how different Europeans were from Americans. It definitely made me stress less about certain things and as far as my future path it made me realize that there is so much more in this world that I haven't had the chance to see yet in my 20 years of life but I know one day I'll get the chance. The traveler bug has bit me and it bit hard. The more you do and get involved the more in love you will fall with wherever you go.
Do Europeans hate Americans?
The answer to that is no. If you act like a stereotypical American then yes. Of course you will be tempted by clubs and alcohol since you are of the legal age, but be respectful. This is your home for the next few weeks or months but that place is actually those peoples homes for life. Do not trash it and do not get so trashed that you don't remember some of the best nights.
Europeans are so laid back and if you treat them with respect and sit down to talk to them, then they will respect you and talk to you. If you go in and act like a drunken idiot, then yes you will encounter problems everywhere you go. You want to remember this time, not lose it and trust me it goes by fast. So be smart and the Europeans will not hate you.