The Croft Magazine // Epigram Travel is looking at students' experiences on their year abroad to help prospective year abroad students get to grips with this unique yet daunting opportunity. In this edition of Epigram's Guide to the Year Abroad we focus on Spain.
Jasper (3rd Year Spanish and Italian) is working in Madrid.
Late starts, siestas, and plenty of coffee. Working in Spain does in fact live up to what you might hope and expect. On my first day working in Madrid I turned up to the office at 9am sharp, keen to impress, only to wait around for the next 20 minutes for the first person to turn up. It is also very normal to get at least an hour and a half for ´lunch´, in, especially during the hotter months, people end up heading home for a quick nap. Alternatively, this is a designated gym time, so that as soon as work finishes you can be straight on the cerveza down at the local. A quick beer after work with your colleagues is a great way to learn some informal Spanish and acquaint yourself with the local tapas.
Despite the relaxed nature of the offices, this does not mean that the speed of speech is particularly tranquil. It definitely takes a few days to get used to the relatively quick spurts of conversation and banter that flies around the office regularly. The difficulty is further compounded by the different accents, but after the initial shock (and a few requests for them to speak a bit clearer) it certainly becomes a lot more manageable. During my first couple of days I struggled a bit to engage in any conversation other than the classic GCSE style questions, but my colleagues tried really hard to get me involved, and now, despite speaking a bit slower than them, at two weeks in I am able to keep up with conversation.
The one piece of advice I can give is just throw yourself in and don´t worry if you don´t get your grammar absolutely perfect, half the time they don´t even get it right!
Hannah (3rd Year French, Spanish and Italian) is studying at University of Salamanca.
I arrived in Salamanca adorned with no apartment, no friends, and a healthy dose of Bristol-related FOMO – a slightly daunting start. Fast-forward a week, however, and I found myself in a fabulous, cheap as chips apartment, surrounded by amazing people and a lot more optimism for the first term of my year abroad.
Salamanca is the perfect place for a semester of study: cheap and the perfect size for students. There is something comforting about knowing that you will bump into a friendly face on your way to lectures, whilst being able to discover more and more about the city. Having said that, I would advise any prospective YA students to go to as many locations as your Year Abroad coordinators allow. This is one of the only opportunities to have a semi-subsidised (Brexit-pending) year in another country, so use it wisely!
Studying in Spain is certainly a different experience to studying in the UK. Everything is done with good old-fashioned pen and paper. It’s an administrative minefield. Remember, however, that all Erasmus students are in the same boat and the university secretaries are somewhat understanding if the odd form goes astray.
The studying itself has been a pleasant surprise – I have actually found it really interesting. Here, however, I’ve been able to dip my toes into a range of different subjects that I’ve never tried before, without the pressure of knowing my eventual degree certificate relies on it. Learning for the sake of learning is very rewarding, especially in your second language. On the other hand, Spanish students tend to stay in their cliques. Although my Spanish is decent, I am yet to be able to crack jokes and truly put across my personality in another language! Luckily you can always rely on your trusty Erasmus pals.
I have very much enjoyed adapting to the Spanish lifestyle. The best bits include being late to everything, eating patatas bravas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and taking daily siestas!
You should be prepared for you year abroad to be stressful and to miss Bristol. And yes, it will seem like a setback when you forget your Spanish alphabet and end up making a dinner reservation under a name that isn’t even close to your own. But it’s all part of the experience. It is such a unique and valuable opportunity, so make the most of it!
Featured Image credit: Unsplash/Daniel Prado
Find The Croft Magazine inside every copy of Epigram Newspaper