The first week in Barcelona: your guide to acclimating in a new country
September 16, 2019

I have been living in Barcelona, Spain for a week now. Honestly, it feels as though I’ve been here for months. Arriving in a new country for the first time can be a bit overwhelming, especially when you know you’ll be staying in this new country for an extended stay. Here are some tips for the first few days acclimating in a new country:

Drink lots of fluids and get some rest!
I know this is very common knowledge, but it’s easy to forget. Make sure you bring a reusable water bottle! Ask your program coordinator if the tap water is safe to drink and if it is, then fill up and stay hydrated. In Barcelona, there are water fountains located around the city that you can use so bring your water bottle around with you so you can save money and stay replenished.

Exploring in Barcelona – found La Casa Batlló

Contact your family members!
Being in a new place can be very anxiety-inducing, make sure to contact your friends and family back home as it can help ground you, and they can offer support to encourage you going forward in this new journey.

Explore with your roommates!
Having roommates during your abroad stay is so useful because you are all in a similar boat facing these new challenges. Don’t be afraid to talk with them about how you’re feeling and spend time with them outside of the apartment! My first night in Barcelona, my apartmentmates and I went to get tapas with another SAI student, and it helped distract me from any homesick feelings, and gave me a chance to explore my new home alongside friendly faces.

A beautiful view and sunset from our balcony

Don’t be afraid to speak the language of your host country
It can be intimidating if you’re not fluent in the official language of your host country. I think the language barrier is something I’m still adjusting too, but google translate is your friend and also practice practice practice! It’s okay to ask questions or attempt to formulate sentences in a different language. Shop owners and locals are very forgiving when you are being humble and earnestly trying. They will most often be more than willing to help you practice your Spanish!

Try as many new things as you can
Whether it’s navigating the metro by yourself for the first time, or learning how to make paella, there’s something to new to try around every corner! Open yourself up to new experiences and you’ll find yourself becoming more and more comfortable in your new surroundings. Plus, think of all the amazing memories you’ll be making!

Trying new foods : These are sardines, a popular seafood item in Barcelona

Have patience for yourself and for others
Change takes time. Be patient with yourself; you’re not going to completely overcome culture shock in one day. There will be moments when you feel completely fine, well-acclimated and excited. But there may still be times when something small like a language barrier can feel like an overwhelming hurdle. Just remember to have patience with yourself and reach out for help when you need it. Your program advisors are here for you, and so are your fellow peers!

Good luck on your adventure!


Cassie is a fall 2019 Barcelona student from Virginia Commonwealth University.

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