Before I leave on a trip, I like to reflect on what I’m trying to get out of it. Setting goals is one of the best ways to follow through with plans, among others (notably, investing money). Accountability is another great way to push through, which is why working with groups is so wonderful.
Obviously, with Sol Abroad you attend classes at either the Academia Buenos Aires or the Universidad del Belgrano. Despite it being summer, though, I find it easier to get more work done when I’m busier. There’s a saying in business that if you want something done fast, give it to the busiest person in the office. So I’ve signed up for online classes as well, one in English and one in Spanish.
Immersion has been clearly demonstrated to be the best way to learn languages, which makes the value of travel and study abroad almost tautologically clear. So I’m bringing along books in Spanish – some Spanish high literature, some translations, and even a cheap paperback. Exposure is good. Eventually I’ll get around to switching my music library on my iPod as well. Journaling can help with this as well as being a fantastic way to ground yourself in a new culture – culture shock can be a problem.
I like to get to know places. I have the history books, of course, but nothing compares to getting a little lost off the tourist path. I’m not advising going into sketchy alleys (been there, done that, still amazed I survived) but I always remember an experience I had in France. My brother and I ditched the tour group to go find a bathroom, and once we got beyond the nice old city, supported by tourists, we found a town that didn’t look that prosperous. Graffiti reappeared, as did local ads. My hot destination for Buenos Aires is El Ataneo, a bookstore located in an old theater, but I plan to explore a great deal.
So those are my general plans. If you’re considering studying abroad or even just traveling, you should take steps to understand what you are trying to achieve and lay out your plans to achieve that.
Now to decide whether or not to bring two more books with me…