Enriching Your Study Abroad Experience Through Travel

Anna and friends exploring the Spanish countryside. Anna Matthews

I wish I had realized the importance of exploring sooner during my time away.

Sitting in Buen Retiro park in Madrid writing this as I bask in 22-degree sunshine in March, I feel worlds away from the not-so-spectacular weather that I’d usually be enduring in England at this time of year. I can hardly believe that in less than two months’ time, my year abroad will be over and I’ll be catapulted back to reality.

A huge tip I’ve learnt recently during my time here (and I wish I had realized it closer to the beginning) is the importance of travelling during your time away, even if it’s just for a weekend or day.

During my first semester, my friends and I here didn’t branch out of the city an awful lot. I suppose that speaks to Madrid itself, since there really is so much to do here; we didn’t necessarily feel the need to spread our wings and venture further afield. However, after Christmas we made a pact to explore more of the country and the rest of the continent while we have the chance. It would be silly not to since public transport in Spain is incredibly well established and short-haul flights really don’t break the bank.

Only a couple of weeks ago I got back from Lisbon, where I’d been for the weekend with seven of my friends, exploring the city and making the most of its coastal location. It was probably one of my favourite weekends of my year abroad so far; not because I necessarily preferred it to Madrid, but because it was so nice to experience a new place with my close friends, all while knowing we wouldn’t be heading back to rainy England afterwards, but to the Spanish heat I’m currently enjoying right now.

While in Portugal, myself and one of my friends decided to extend our stay an extra day and head to the beautiful little town of Sintra, about 40 minutes out of Lisbon. The town itself and especially the Quinta de Regaleira area—which was a magical wooded area with caves and waterfall was spectacular, and not something I ever would have experienced without venturing out and really making the most of travelling out of Madrid.

My four days in Portugal were amazing, but taking trips in the same country is equally as rewarding. Next weekend I’m heading off to Malaga in the south of Spain for Semana Santa, followed by a five-day trip to Andalucía a couple of weeks later.

Exploring the country you’re staying in really does enrich your study abroad experience as a whole and I’m so glad that I am now taking advantage of the fact that I can easily see so many incredible places on the Iberian Peninsula. So during your time away don’t get too comfortable in the place you’re in, make the most of the fact you have new places to explore both on your doorstep and further afield.

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Anna Matthews

Anna Matthews is a 21-year-old English Literature and Spanish student at the University of Leeds. She is currently undertaking and Erasmus study placement at the Universidad de Alcalá, just north of Madrid.

Website: https://www.instagram.com/annaamatthews/

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