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10 tips for moving to the first destination of LEINN International

Dear Newbie, welcome to the Basque Country! A land of pinchos, northern spirit and rich heritage… to some the capital of bureaucratic nightmare, to some a pleasant experience much faster and more efficiently than in their home country. Here are a few tips to settle in quicker, avoid some mishaps we already made and make the most out of this beautiful country. Here is a little guide from your older sisters and brothers, who have already been through this journey.

  1. My paperwork has paperwork, so you better get organised.

Before we get to the exciting part, make sure you get practicalities out of the way. Moving to a new country to live in for an extended period of time always comes with paperwork! We suggest you a) Adopt a Spanish Speaking teammate!!
The Basque are pretty good at speaking English but for anything bureaucracy related, make sure you have someone with you who speaks Spanish, paperwork by itself is complicated enough and the Spanish tend to enjoy verbal communication rather than using signs and written explanations. *A strategy we suggest is to share your Spanish speaking teammates in-between all those who need help, so one of you is not overwhelmed.

Now the actual documents: Make appointments as early as possible, the process can take quite long if anything goes wrong. Make sure you get copies of all the paperwork and keep it in a folder. Figure out exactly what you need and why you need it! Whether that is Visa, NIE, GreenCard, Padron or if you need to finish anything with your UNED.

  • Padron – This is the number 1 document that everybody needs, general registration to say you are living in your student apartment!
  • Visa – This is for everyone outside of the EU, you will need a visa to enter Spain, but make sure to keep in mind when your Visa expires, and what are the requirements for renewal. We suggest you call up any older sisters and brothers from generations before you to be aware of specific things that you might need to put some extra attention on.
  • NIE – This is for Europeans, a secondary identification document that you can or cannot make depending on your needs. Even though it’s not mandatory since everything is going to be arranged according to Spanish law it would be better for every team member to have it. Although start making it early and try to be done with it in the first half of your school year.
  • Digital Certificate – Since you are going to be travelling and must probably be unable to come to Spain to sign any legal documents whenever it’s needed it would be great for everyone in the team to have this since as its name says it’s a digital signature that allows you to sign up or sign any legal document and be validated by the Spanish government.
  • BaQ – Similar to the digital certificate, this is a digital signature that works locally in the Basque Country. Not all team members need this but if you have any troubles with the digital certificate it would be a good backup plan to have this one instead.
  • Health Card – With the help of a Spanish speaking person go to the nearest health centre in your neighbourhood and together with your Padron and Passport/NIE you can ask for health care. This will guarantee you health support whenever you need it and it’s going to make things easy and less expensive for you.

Even though the university will support you, this is entirely your responsibility.

2. Money doesn´t grow on trees so get your finances in order.

Bank accounts, rent, expenses, incomes etc we hope you are ready to start adulting…we have a few tips for you. Hope you love excel, or at least get organised in Notion ( Leinner’s favorite tool) Research personal finance and count all you spend, this helps you practice. Believe us, when you start first with yourself it’s a great practice for when you need that for your company! 

Bank Account – Currency Exchange, safety etc. What are your best options? Well, you can always get a local bank account but it might be a little annoying as you move every year so potentially next year you would need to get a new one? You could always keep your countries bank account, but that can be a bit of a pain if you need to do transfers in-between international banks to pay your teammates, house rent etc so we suggest you find your favourite international bank like Revolut, N26. 

3. Happiness is the highest form of health but when you need medicine…

Spain has a decent healthcare system, depending on which country you are coming from. If you have any needs for medical assistance having a Health Card comes in handy. The country carries all the medication that you need, but those needs have to be authorised by a doctor; after getting your Health Card, you can ask for a doctor’s suggestion for needed medication and you can buy it in any pharmacy. Keep in mind that as culture changes from country to country it also happens the same with meds. Before joining on this journey make sure that the pills that you need are found globally and not only where you come from. In case you need something and it’s only available in your country, make sure to buy enough for you to not run out of it. Or you can always learn the main component and that way pharmacists can help you find something similar to what you were taking.

4. ¿Hablas español?

Are you still home? Perfect. Use that to do a little “pre-work” for your new exciting life ahead, alone (without your parents) abroad. LEINN life can be overwhelming, so simplify your life and organise the basic things. These things might seem obvious and very overwhelming, but they are essential to your survival!

5. Life is simple but we insist to make it complicated, so we suggest uncomplicating!

Are you still home? Perfect. Use that to do a little “pre-work” for your new exciting life ahead, alone (without your parents) abroad. LEINN life can be overwhelming, so simplify your life and organise the basic things. These things might seem obvious and very overwhelming, but they are essential to your survival!

Food:
LEINN International life can be stressful so healthy supporting habits are essential to get through without burning out! If you are from outside Europe, seek ways to make your food here or how to adapt yourself to what food is made here.


What do you eat? – Keep in mind that the things you eat might not be available in other countries or they might taste different and be even expensive. Because of this, think about your diet and see if the countries you are going to visit are going to offer you what you need and if not, try new things so you can get used to the new cuisine beforehand.

How to make it? – Each culture has its own unique and traditional food. If there are certain dishes you can’t live without, learn them before coming! Keep in mind that most probably you are going to live with other people that don’t know how to cook that plate that you like so much, so wouldn’t it be lovely to have a cultural day in your flat to share the food and costumes that you have grown up with?

Is it healthy? – Life in college can be overwhelming and in a way unsustainable for your health. Food should be something that gives you the energy to do your daily tasks. So when learning how to cook and when you are doing your meal plan keep in mind that you need to keep it balanced with all the nutrients that you want and that you need.

Some tips to help you with your meals:
Meal planning – depending on what you would like to achieve with your LEINN life, you might find yourself in lack of time for cooking, plan! Before going to the grocery store know what is that you need for yourself. In that sense, you will be saving money and time since you will focus on the things that you know that you need and don’t deviate from your plan.
Know the local grocery stores and find your favourite – seems kind of obvious but there is lots of exploring to do in a new living situation. Learn how to cook!! We tend to forget the simple fact that far away from home we don’t have someone else cooking for us, learn what we can at home or embrace recipes online.

Sleep: Don’t underestimate the value of sleep, figure out how much you need and keep to it. Oftentimes you will be easily irritated by your teammates or find yourself falling sick because you didn’t sleep as much as you needed. Sleep affects many aspects of your life so if you don’t get enough of it you will find yourself in a very unpleasant situation in almost every aspect of your life.

Exercise: Usually the first to be sacrificed for you to do other things. Exercise might be time-consuming but in most cases when life gets rough there’s nothing to help you organise your head and emotions like exercise. If you find yourself feeling weird and you have tried all of the recommendations above then you might need to move your body a bit for all the things to align and for you to get out of that place. If you are a gym person you can sign up at the Metropolitan or look around the different gyms options that you have besides that one. An affordable option would be Bilbao Kirolak. If paying for a gym doesn’t sound like the thing you can run around your neighbourhood. Bilbao might have its hills so if you are not up to that challenge you can always go for a run along La Ria and enjoy the pleasant view of the river.

Lastly but not least ask your local teammates and go to the mountain with them. The Basque Country has some amazing looking ones so there’s no better way to know than through locals.
Schedule & To-Do Lists: These 2 are essential to keep up with the diverse program ahead of you.
Get cosy with productivity apps: Notion, Google Calendar and anything else you can get your hands on!

6. Make your house a home with roommates from each continent…

Living together with your generation mates can bring you closer together or divide you apart. Like everything for a great cohabitation it requires a bit of work:

Rent & Utilities: We suggest you figure out together when who and how the rent payments are done and how you help this person in this. The house is the responsibility of all of you not only this person, it takes time to do the accounting, appreciate it. Remind each other of upcoming payments! Pay that person before your payment date to avoid any kind of money confusion. It can add extra pressure you want to avoid.

Rules! We love rules and boundaries. Since we all come from different backgrounds and have different needs let’s try to be as straightforward and clear as possible. Speak up, ask, and meet each other halfway. And please be clean and respectful!

Cleaning: for some of you this might be your first time having to clean the spaces you are living in without having another person there to pick up after you or to go deeper than you are used to. Cleaning is everybody’s business and it’s easier when everyone is collaborating.

Make an effort and talk about how many times a month you are going to clean, who is doing what and how are you going to divide the expenses for the cleaning products. For those who have a bit more experience with this, remember that you too needed to learn at one point how to clean, if someone is not doing it right explain where they need to get better at and don’t lose your patience too quickly.
Talking About Uni: If you can bond over other topics than university we suggest you do that since you live together it can quickly become a lot since it feels like you are taking your work home.

7. Why make some friends outside of the degree?

A warm suggestion from your brothers and sisters from previous years: Make friends outside of LEINN International! Your team might be the best and the most amazing ever, but at some point, you are done talking, thinking, breathing LEINN. To clear your head and make the most out of your experience, having outside friends can be helpful. 

Start with Erasmus! Bilbao has a wide network of Erasmus students and activities to easy to join and bond with other international students. Or mingle with LEINNers from LEINN Bilbao, join an MTA community event (like We4All, AfricaBasqueChallenge etc ask your coaches) to widen your network. Don’t be shy about getting to know the local LEINNers.

8. Make the journey feel like home!

The Basque country is beautiful, totally different from what you might expect from coming to Spain. Make the most of it, plan trips around the villages, if you enjoy hiking, surfing, and outdoor activities there is a lot to do. 

  • Plan your trips to your calendar and just go for it! Too much focusing on university work will quickly burn you out. 
  • The city itself is known for its cuisine so embrace the local taste opportunities and try out all kinds of different food options
  • Map out free days and figure out when you will have holidays with your team company so you can explore the rest of the country, keep an eye out for Ryanair deals as you can get far with flights cheaper than 10euros! 
  • Spain has a really interesting history. It might be a painful topic (especially here in the Basque Country) As an outsider you can get many different answers to the same questions depending on who you ask. So if you are an enthusiast of history, dig a little and ask questions to those who are open to talking about it.

9. The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.

You have heard about the famous Siesta from Spain, right? Well…It doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is napping. Siesta was created here in Spain as a way to “run away” from the sun in summer and many centuries ago it’s become a well-known thing that from 14:30 till 16:30 approximately most places like restaurants or service shops are closed.

And then there are holidays, the Spanish love holidays. As an international, it can be a bit difficult to navigate since we don’t always know the right days and might end up taking a walk to the store just to realise it is closed. Good for you also the University is closed on those days so you will have a bit of a reference and just remember all Sundays are for rest too! (As an exception few things that might be open will be the Chinese shops that say Alimentacion or groceries stores.

For public administration stuff, it usually goes from 8:00 till 14:00, things like Padron or going to the bank falls under this.

10. Sometimes we never know the value of the moment until it becomes a memory so document it. 

As you go about your everyday life, all the things you get up to can feel like it’s too much altogether since there is always quite a lot ahead to get done. Few of our coursemates document their learnings and life abroad in blog form, pictures or videos. Pick your favourite medium so that later on, you will feel a sense of accomplishment going over your milestones and achievements. 

In a conclusion, what can we say as our last advice to you, embrace the unknown at the beginning of your Journey in LEINN, but make a plan of action when you get to know what to do, for the second half of your year. If your beginning is anything like ours, where the mission was to “get comfortable with the unknown”, easy to say, much harder to do, we worried a lot. We pondered about our existence and next steps. Don’t do that. We suggest you use your time in the first half to: 

  • Get yourself organised in the beginning, individually and team-wise. 
  • Enjoy the different cultures by learning, sharing and comparing as much as you can. Read the CultureMap! As different, as they may be.
  • Explore the city & meet the people.
  • Just have fun.
  • If you want more structure, make it for yourself, don’t wait for someone to give it to you. They won’t. The journey is on you now.
  • Contact us, years before you!

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