Year Abroad / Adjusting to new things

With a new month comes a new blog post… hola!

I’ve been in Spain for almost a month now and since my last post I’ve managed to go on my first (and second) night out, register for classes at university, make plans for friends to visit and even make some new friends too. It’s honestly like freshers all over again, which I thought I would enjoy a lot more than I have done, and I seem to have recently developed the cold to go with it, but hey ho. Being somewhere very different to Barcelona or Madrid with its plethora of tourists means that after a few weeks, I’ve learned a lot about Spain and about myself already.

Spain as a country is very backwards

For myself and my flatmate, it was bizarre moving into a flat that didn’t possess a kettle. Yes, there’s a coffee machine, and yes, you can boil water in a pan, but I swear Spaniards have never realised the true benefits of a kettle. After a fortnight we caved and ordered a cheap one from in order to enjoy a hot drink within a couple of minutes rather than in twenty, and I have never enjoyed a cup of coffee more. Also, I have really taken for granted how many things are done with ease at university in England. I can choose modules, speak to tutors and catch up with all my work via the internet in Birmingham. Here, I had to queue up to be given a number to queue up AGAIN to register for classes. If you told me to queue up at 6am outside the Arts building in Birmingham in order to secure a place in a literature class, I’d laugh out loud and tell you to stop being so ridiculous. Yet, just a week ago I was doing just that here in Spain. It’s a miracle I woke up in time if I’m totally honest.

European men are very forward

The words ‘I have a boyfriend’ mean nothing to these people. On our first night out here, we were approached by so many men, it was crazy. I don’t know if it’s the culture or if Europeans are far more forward than us embarrassing Brits, but they have no qualms in going straight up to girls asking for their numbers. Being catcalled in the middle of the day for wearing shorts is also super fun…

Spaniards seem to run on hardly any sleep – especially when it comes to nights out

I left the club at 3:30am last Friday morning, and that was considered early. You may think we’re doing nights out in England the right way but you could be wrong… so many people I know seem to get back at 7am and class it as a mild night out. My two years of leaving Snobs at 2:30am have not prepared me for Spanish nights out. A minimum spirit measure is usually a triple, you cannot go more than five minutes without hearing some form of reggaeton and nothing gets good until at least 3am. I’m exhausted just talking about it.

Only took a fortnight to get a cheesy club photo

Zaragoza professors are kooky but adorable

It’s my third week of classes and already I’ve experienced some very weird and wonderful lectures, albeit quite difficult ones. The lecturers here are very different too. I had a panic attack in a class last week and the lecturer, José Antonio (lol how cliché) came up to me the next day, asked if I was okay and kissed me on the top of my head, claiming within days I would be speaking Spanish like Cervantes. Ha, I wish. That would definitely not be the case if the same thing had happened in one of Dave Gunning’s lectures, that’s for sure. My coordinator José (a different José this time) is absolutely adorable, one of my lit professors has an obsession with John Fowles and talks about it incessantly, while another has been giving an introduction to popular culture for six lectures and counting, complete with extra long opera videos and discussions on the difference between ‘brain’ and ‘brains’ (I still don’t know).

Changing from language to language is absolutely exhausting

I’m writing this having had three 2-hour-long back to back lectures both in Spanish and English, which I’m very lucky to be doing – most of my friends have to do all of their classes in the target language. However, regardless of what language my lectures are in, it is exhausting listening, understanding and writing down notes in Spanish, to then switch to English to speak to a friend, to switch to Spanish to speak to a fellow Erasmus student, or order a coffee, or speak to my housemates… by the time I’m home from class, all I want to do is pass out and sleep for the rest of the day. Even ordering a drink after a long day can really take it out of you sometimes. Thank God people here are understanding when you get even the simplest of words wrong or I would be crying in public every day. I’d rather the ‘are you Erasmus?’ question than someone be rude and tell me my Spanish is terrible.

At least when I’m exhausted I can walk around this place…

Having a friend who has lived here before is a GODSEND

Joanna, you’ve been so helpful during my move here that you get your own paragraph. I was so lucky to end up coming to a city where someone I knew well had lived before, and I can imagine if I was to message anyone as much as I do you for advice or to rant about certain aspects about life in Zaragoza, they would have gone AWOL by now. It’s been so lovely having a friend to talk to who understands the exact thing I’m talking about, from classes to housemate issues, to dealing with my landlord and paying rent. Even just having someone to message when I’ve understood a Spanish film or accomplished something small yet significant (for me) like find a tapas bar that sells cheap gin and tonic – it’s been a massive help, and it’s not even been so long since I got here! So I owe you a massive thank you.

All in all, I’m doing fine. It’s been hard to adjust, as expected when leaving Birmingham for the first time to live somewhere new, but I’m coping. I’m lucky to have made some really understanding friends who know exactly what I’m going through, and I know that no matter what the problem is, if I need to call home I can with the touch of a button (thank you Whatsapp, you wonderful creation). Keeping busy and studying is keeping me distracted from being so homesick, which is good, and it’s not long until Siân, Maddie, Joanna, my parents and my brother all rock up to visit (not together, I’ll add). I can’t wait!

Until next time, folks.

P.S. My friend Jordan, currently on his year abroad in Seville, wrote a wonderful post today that I think you should all read because it is accurate af: ‘7 Weird Things About Spain‘.

P.P.S. Make sure you’re following me on Instagram and Twitter!

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Shopping centre? More like amusement park…


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