TRAVELING OUTSIDE OF YOUR HOST COUNTRY:
When traveling during covid it is a lot harder to plan. Every country has different covid restrictions upon entry and some “must-sees” in your desired city might be temporarily closed. My advice is to make a list of all of the cities outside of the country that you would ideally like to visit while you’re abroad. After doing so, buckle down and do some research: requirements to enter into the city, price of covid tests, covid testing appointments, the city’s covid restrictions on dining, nightlife, and landmarks, and when those restrictions are expected to be lifted. After you’re familiar with each city on the list, rank the most desirable based on your trip bucket list and budget compared to the added expenses and restrictions of covid. For example, if you have always wanted to come to Barcelona because of their nightlife, now is not a great time to make that trip and you’re better off prioritizing a city whose covid restrictions do not interfere with your goals. Once this analysis is done you’re in good shape to plan out some trips, and you should have a much better idea of which cities are more desirable to visit at different times.
STAY-CATIONS IN YOUR CITY/COUNTRY:
It is very common to spend a lot more weekends than originally planned in your host country because of the difficulties associated with traveling during the pandemic. I have managed to make the most of weekends by making bucket lists of things in Barcelona and neighboring cities that I want to do or see before leaving. SAI offers a lot of free excursions which are all incredible experiences. I highly recommend taking advantage of every single excursion that piques your interest and then filling the remaining days of the weekend with an itinerary of bucket list items. On those bucket list days, I treat myself to one meal out at a restaurant on my bucket list and usually 2-3 activities. To be efficient, and make the days extra fun I look at things that are geographically close and plan to do them on the same day. For example, my roommates and I had a wonderful day in Barcelona yesterday by taking a cable car up to the Castillo de Montjuic, walking down through the parc de Montjuic to the Estadi Olimpic, visiting the Museu Nacional d’art Catalunya, and finishing off at the magic fountain. All sights were within a 20-minute walk of each other and with packed lunch, the day was less than 15 euros. We then treated ourselves to tapas at Sensi Tapas and crossed 6 things off our bucket list! While a huge advantage of being in Europe is visiting the nearby countries, “bucket list days” encourage me to seize every second in my city and experience just as much adventure.
In certain cities, there may be capacity at restaurants indoors. This causes a much higher occurrence of eating take-out or outside. My advice here is to take note of the weather and make dining reservations in advance if you want to eat somewhere on a chilly day. My other piece of advice is to cook! Of course, while being in another country you want to try all of their delicious cuisines, but I recommend learning how to make local dishes with the local groceries during the time in which eating out is difficult. This way you can save extra money to dine at restaurants when the covid restrictions are lifted and enjoy the experience comfortably. My roommates and I went to our local supermarket and made homemade paella, it was such a cool experience. What I encourage the most, though, is if it is a nice day out (which is typically the case in Barcelona) grab some take-out and a blanket and head to any of the many beautiful parks, sights, or beaches and make a picnic of it! Play some music, enjoy the fresh air and experience the natural beauty of your city.
The learning experience during the pandemic is very different. Thanks to Zoom and Jitsi students can tune in online, however, school absences will affect your grade in the class. Because of this, it is important to take the pandemic guidelines seriously. This is where a lot of students face a trade-off: between experiencing your city and social distancing. My advice is to always wear a mask regardless of if it is required, keep physical proximity with strangers in mind, and seek out outdoor activities. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so do not waste it by locking yourself indoors, but definitely be safe! With a doctor’s note, you’re likely to be excused for your absences so long as you participate online, but it’s everyone’s goal that you remain healthy while taking advantage of your time abroad.
Grace is a Spring 2022 Barcelona student from the University of South Carolina.