¡Hola! Me llamo Celia, y estoy estudiando en Córdoba, España durante dos meses.

Hi! My name is Celia, and I am studying in Córdoba, Spain for two months. My program is called “Exploring Andalucia,” and I will be taking Spanish language classes as well as elective classes about Spain’s culture and history. I am a third year student at UCLA, studying Geography/Environmental Studies, and minoring in Urban Planning. I am from beautiful Oakland, California, I go on a lot of hikes with my dog, and I’m usually listening to music or a podcast. For the last month, I’ve been home visiting friends and family, as well as preparing for my study abroad program.

Here’s what I’ve done to prepare: 

  • Book a flight. Ok, so this didn’t happen in the last month. I booked my flight pretty much as soon as I knew I was officially accepted to my program. I decided to arrive in Spain a few days before the orientation in Córdoba. I’ll be in Madrid for three days before my program’s orientation in Córdoba, to explore and hopefully overcome the jetlag!
  • Book a hostel in Madrid. I booked through, which is definitely the best site for hostels. The website is easy to navigate, and you can sort by location, rating, price, and more! There are also plenty of pictures and reviews to help you make your decision.
  • Contact my phone carrier. Some friends of my mine who have studied abroad or travelled extensively abroad have bought a cheap phone once abroad or a SIM card for their phone, since they didn’t want to pay for an international data plan. My family’s T-mobile plan includes free international texting and data, so I can use my phone for free in Spain- just not for calls. It’s good to look into this before hand so you know what your options are-especially if you have to figure it out in a different language!
  • Contact my bank and order currency. I found out my bank’s partner in Spain so that I can use ATMs without incurring international transaction fees. To make purchases, neither my credit or debit card can be used without a transaction fee, so I plan to use cash as much as possible. I also notified my bank that I would be traveling so there wouldn’t be holds placed on my account. Finally, I ordered a currency exchange, which is easy to do online, at least through Bank of America. Now I am prepared to pay for necessities like taxis/public transportation, food, and other things without having to exchange dollars into euros once I’m there.
  • Bring all necessary documents, and make copies. I’m bringing my passport, of course, another form of ID and my UCEAP insurance card. I also made copies (paper and digital, stored in Google Drive) of my passport, credit, and debit card. This is something I wouldn’t have thought to do without UCEAP informing me, but it’s really helpful if you lose anything important! With copies made, you already have the information needed to fix the problem.
  • Ultimately, I ended up packing 7 pairs of pants (including one pair of leggings), 9 tops (short and long sleeve), 7 sweaters and turtlenecks, 6 tanks (mostly for going out), 4 dresses, 2 skirts, 4 jackets, and 5 pairs of shoes. I’m also bringing a few scarves and bandanas, some jewelry, pajamas, socks, and a pair of tights.
  • Talk to people with experience. Less of a specific task, this was something I tried to do as much as possible before I left. I reached out to friends of mine who had studied abroad, packed for long trips, done a homestay, or who had been to Spain. They all gave me invaluable information, tips, and encouragement. While I consciously made an effort to talk to people I knew would have good advice, I also learned a lot from many others. My study abroad trip made its way into many conversations in the last few months, and from just mentioning it people gave me ideas about where to travel, helpful websites, and more. Google is always a good source of information, but friends are even better.
  • Pack! This was probably the most daunting task for me. I am generally bad at “packing light,” because a) I really like clothes and b) I have a lot of clothes. Clear conflict here. The weather in Córdoba will be fairly consistent, which makes packing a little easier, but it will also be cooler, which means heavier and bigger clothes. For my flight, I have a checked bag that can weigh up to 44 pounds, and my carry on items (a 46L Osprey travel backpack and a day backpack) can weigh up to 22 pounds-and paying attention to weight limits is really important.

Other things I’m bringing:

All my luggage, minus my day backpack

a book

a journal

an attachable wide-angle lens for my iPhone

a reusable water bottle

my laptop

my phone


all the necessary cords and converters

toiletries & makeup

enough contact lenses for my time abroad

a backpack and a cross-body purse

earplugs & a sleep mask (I don’t go anywhere without these)

some pictures of my friends and family

a gift & card for my host family

  • And to prep for my flight I made sure I had lots of music, both new finds and old favorites, downloaded onto my phone. I also downloaded some podcasts and brought a book. I printed out my travel itinerary and made sure I knew how to get from the airport to my hostel.
  • Mentally prepare. This is harder to articulate and it’s different for everyone, but it’s important to do. Before you leave you will be really excited and probably a bit nervous. No matter where you are going or how long your program is, things will be different. You will have to make new friends, live in a new place, and possibly learn a new language. Take advantage and be grateful for those things you enjoy about home. Before I left I made sure to have my favorite types of food that I knew I wouldn’t be able to get in Spain. I did my favorite things in my home town, and I spent time with my family and friends (and dogs). And I got myself excited for a new and different experience!

The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba, seen from the Roman Bridge

Celia COdy-Carrese studied abroad in Cordoba, Spain, in Winter 2017: