The main focus of this blog, for the next year anyway, will be my experiences on my year abroad. As a student of French and Spanish, this means that I will be splitting my time equally between the two countries. The first half of my adventure will be in the Spanish city of Salamanca and the second in Pau, in the French Pyrenees.
Hopefully, by the time I return to England for fourth year, I will be a fount of knowledge regarding all things French and Spanish. However, as my travels have not yet begun, I thought that, in true journalistic fashion, I would turn to someone with more experience in these matters.
My brother, Sam, completed his year abroad two years ago. Sam spent the year in Valencia, Spain, working part time as an English teacher in a primary school. His trips home for birthdays and Christmas were punctuated by declarations of love for the culture and complaints about the British climate. Needless to say, he thoroughly enjoyed the experience!
Here is his advice for anyone embarking on a year abroad.
- What do you wish you had known before you left on your year abroad?
That it’s okay to make mistakes. People don’t mind if you make mistakes and will always try their best to understand a ‘guiri’ (foreign tourist) who refuses to speak English and tries to speak their language.
- What were the highlights of your year abroad?
Visiting loads of different cities, travelling in Spain is cheap and quick. My favourite cities included Salamanca and Granada. Also, learning and getting an official qualification in the regional language.
- What difficulties/struggles did you face abroad?
Adapting to living in a new country and a new job at the same time. I advise that you go early, it helps to find a house, learn the area etc before starting university/a job.
Spanish bureaucracy isn’t as efficient as ours, setting up a bank account and getting the residence permit was a struggle but persistence (and help from a Spanish contact) prevailed.
- What did you learn/gain from your experiences?
Determination, inner strength and a newfound self-confidence when speaking the language. This included a B1 level in Valencian- there is always time to improve your CV.
Travel in Europe is really cheap, I could go to and from Valencia for less than it cost me to get home from London.
- Do you have any advice for anyone planning to embark on a year abroad?
Throw yourself into the lifestyle and culture of the country. Also, be aware of any regional dialects/customs so you don’t feel stupid when you don’t understand something or make a cultural faux pas.
Even if you can’t remember a word, don’t be ashamed to speak the language. If you get it wrong, no one will judge you and you will have something to laugh about later.
Ask if you don’t understand something, it’s how you learn.
Know the difference between ‘pollo’ and ‘polla’- only one is acceptable to order at a restaurant!
If you have experience of, or advice about, living in a foreign country (including embarrassing and/or amusing anecdotes), feel free comment below!