Salamanca, te echaré de menos

(Salamanca, I will miss you)

I have had a fantastic time living and studying in the beautiful ciudad dorada, Salamanca, for four months. It is a small city but it is absolutely beautiful. I’d like to share nine of my favourite things to do since living here:

9. Tapas

What is Spain without tapas? My favourite spots are: La Mariseca on Rua Mayor (I love their mini burgers) and Atelier which is a veggie/vegan tapas bar.

8. Casa Lis

The Casa Lis is an Art Deco/Art Nouveau museum in the most beautiful building with incredible stained glass windows and ceilings.

Casa Lis ceiling

Casa Lis ceiling

7. Climb up the towers of the Universidad Pontifica de Salamanca

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Personally, this gives the best panoramic views of the city but the climb up the Cathedral Towers nearby is also worthwhile.

6. La Universidad de Salamanca

I loved studying in beautiful surroundings every day at university. The Languages Faculty, spread across three buildings, is a tourist site in its own right (El Colegio de Anaya). Not only this, but the main university building in the Patio de Escuelas is magnificent and even holds a museum about the history of the university inside, the oldest university in Spain! Next door to the Patio de Escuelas is Escuelas menores, a small courtyard which also holds El Cielo de Salamanca, a beautiful painting fromt he 15th century.

The famous main facade of the university

The famous main facade of the university

The inner courtyard of the Languages department!

The inner courtyard of the Languages department!

5. Micro-theatre at La Malhablada

I only discovered La Malhablada in May, which is a shame as I really enjoyed going! From Thursday-Sunday, they hold “mini-plays” of 15 minutes which you can see for 3€ each. I have seen three so far and would like to go see some more this weekend before I leave Salamanca. It’s especially good to practice listening to Spanish, but of course, if you don’t speak Spanish, this isn’t going to be of much interest unfortunately.

4. Relaxing in Huerto de Calixto gardens

A hidden gem

A hidden gem

It’s very difficult to stumble across these gardens unless you are walking around or have already heard of them. Huerto de Calixto is a small garden, tucked away in a corner near the cathedral on the remains of the city wall. It is never overly busy and is a great place to go to sit, read, have lunch and enjoy nature. Although Salamanca has parks, it doesn’t have much greenery in the center amongst the golden buildings, so this is a nice little haven.

3. Dar un paseo al lado del río

Relaxing by the Rio Tormes

Relaxing by the Rio Tormes

(Walking along the river). The River Tormes is a great place to stretch your legs: walk, run, jog, rollerblade, it’s the place to go. It’s lovely and sunny during the day to sunbathe and cool in the evening.

2. El Laurel

The best nachos and guacamole ever (we got free refills!)

The best nachos and guacamole ever (we got free refills!)

Dessert

Dessert was glorious

When Spain is characteristically known as the land of jamón, it is unusual to find not only a vegetarian ta

pas bar, but also a vegetarian restaurant here! El Laurel has been one of my favourite restaurants here in Salamanca – great quality food and I will probably spend my final meal here. Best to book in advance because I have been turned away as they were all full up before now!

1. Plaza Mayor (usually coupled with a frozen yogurt)

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The Plaza Mayor is the central hub of the city and rightly so. It’s where you go to meet up with friends in the evening, it’s great for people-watching, it’s extremely clean so you can just sit on the floor in the sun – it’s just so pretty to look at. I especially love walking through during the evening when it is all lit up. There is a reason why Salamanca’s Plaza Mayor is the most beautiful in the whole of Spain.

So, this is it! The next few days, I will be doing a combination of a few of these things here before I leave.

What do you like most about Salamanca?

Hasta luego,

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The Best Panoramic View: Salamanca

It’s officially summer! I finished exams today which means I have completed my semester studying at La Universidad de Salamanca. Now, I have that normal “post-exams feeling” where I don’t really know what to do with myself; I don’t need to procrastinate from the work I all of a sudden no longer have to do. I can just indulge in Netflix without feeling guilty, which seems a lot less wild than it felt a few days ago…

I posted about my Final Five Week To-Do List which as the title suggests, is a bucket list of things to keep me occupied with during my final weeks in the Golden City, which don’t involve Netflix. I can confirm I am doing well with checking things off – actually, I have done six out of a total of eight which is pretty impressive. All I have left is a revisit to the Casa Lis to see the Coco Chanel exhibition and pop into the General Archive of the Spanish Civil War next door. But today I want to talk about my visits this week to the Torres de la Catedral and also the Scala Coeli Torres de la Clerecia at the Universidad Pontifica de Salamanca.

Before tucking into my beautiful Chinese takeaway on Saturday evening whilst watching Eurovision (I was rooting for Italia if you were wondering), Becca and I headed out to climb up the Cathedral Tower at 8:30pm. We went up way back in February when it was freezing, so it was nice to go back when the weather was more forgiving and I actually came prepared with my camera. They have started allowing reserved access at specific times on weekend evenings for the summer season, which is worth knowing if you are only visiting for a few days..

We had a guided tour but I didn’t expect it to last so long! I was craving my duck pancakes the entire time…. We ended up missing most of the acts in Eurovision but arrived in time for the last seven and of course the voting. We learned that the climb up the tower is “una ascención de la tierra hasta el cielo” / an ascent from the ground towards the sky (in a spiritual sense) and that the climb allows us to get closer to God. It just reminded me of Danté’s journey from Inferno to Paradise but without the Inferno part, which is probably a good thing. Anyway, there are amazing views at sunset, so it was pretty cool:

View from the Cathedral

View from the Cathedral

The interior of La Catedral Nueva

The interior of La Catedral Nueva, lit up

The Torres de la Catedral in Salamanca, known as “Ieronimus” is a popular tourist destination in the city and is considered the best place to go to get a good view of the city according to TripAdvisor. However after climbing the Scala Coeli Torres de la Clerecia this afternoon at the Universidad Pontifica de Salamanca, opposite La Casa de las Conchas, I will have to contest this statement. For a similar price (3€) you have access to even better views where you can actually see the cathedral nearby.

View from La Universidad Pontifica de Salamanca with a well-timed bird shot

View from La Universidad Pontifica de Salamanca

Both the Scala Coeli Torres de la Clerecia and the Torres de la Catedral have similar priced entry fees (3€). There is more to see in the cathedral as you can see the interiors of both the Catedral Vieja (my favouite) and the Catedral Nueva (if you are wondering, there are two cathedrals joined together, not confusing at all). You can visit the cathedrals at ground level for a seperate price but if you just want to peek at the interior, it’s best to pay to go up the tower as you can get great views AND see inside the cathedral – 2 for 1.

There are interesting original manuscript collections in the cathedral and information about its history throughout the tour. I was able to test out my new knowledge of reading medieval French and Spanish texts from my History of the French Language class here, and it was cool to be able to put the skills to use because I don’t know where else I am going to use them for the time being.

View of the cathedral from La Universidad Pontifica de Salamanca

Panorama view

The Scala Coeli Torres do offer some information but it feels a bit “forgotten in time,” and not a lot of effort has gone into the collections which are very spaced out, especially as we saw the interior of the chapel area which was cornered off and coated in dust. It just looked creepy, sad and neglected but must have looked magnificent “back in the day”. Still, the  Scala Coeli Torres offer the best views in my opinion of Salamanca and it is worth the climb just for that. I enjoyed both visits but they each offer different experiences.

Hasta pronto,

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An Afternoon at The Alhambra in Granada

After our wonderful visit to the Hammam Al Ándalus Baths the night before, we spent the majority of Saturday afternoon exploring the Alhambra.

First of all, after breakfast at the hotel, we made our way to the Alcaiceria, the Arab Market near the cathedral. It is easy enough to find, but the entrances are not very obvious and you don’t expect to find all these little market shops when you walk past! The passageways are so narrow, so if it is busy it can be impossible to walk around. I’d recommend getting there around 9-10am and you’ll have the shops all to yourselves! There are so many shops all selling more or less the same things but it is worth having a root around to find anything that strikes your eye. Tea sets, leather bags, jewellery and lanterns are probably the best buys but there are some strange things like boomerangs and sombreros thrown in the mix that are not very “authentic”.

I ended up buying some lovely earrings for 4€ but other than that, it wasn’t my day for shopping there. There are a few high street shops nearby though and I managed to buy a small blue daysack for only 20€ which felt like a bargain, especially as it meant I no longer have to drag around my massive daysack for sightseeing which I mostly use for transporting my laptop when I am flying. I also found some Moroccan Mint tea I had been wanting since the Hammam!

At around 3pm we met up with Floorke who took us to a bar she likes near uni. The great thing about Granada is that if you order a drink, you will receive a free plate of tapas with it, so you don’t even have to worry about ordering any food! After a Fanta orange and a tinto de verano, we received portions of Paella Valenciana, pimientos de padrón and cod croquettes. It was so good.

View of The Alhambra from Mirador San Nicolás

View of The Alhambra from Mirador San Nicolás

Soon, it was time to make our way up to the Alhambra. We walked to the Plaza Nueva and caught the C3 bus for 1€20 to the palace. We considered walking there but soon realised how far/steep it would have been in the heat when the bus drove up there. I’d recommend getting the bus up because there is no point being all hot and exhausted before you have even started to look around!

We spent about three hours around the Alhambra which is the recommended amount of time to visit. Our ticket allowed us entry between 2-8pm, but we arrived around 4:30pm. In hindsight, with the Alhambra being so big, I’d say three hours isn’t enough! If you want to just see the main sights, sure three hours is plenty, but we really enjoyed taking in the amazing views of the city, marveling at the intricate designs on the walls and of course, taking many, many pictures and time just flew by. We didn’t manage to see everything which was a shame but we saw the main points of interest (Generalife, Nazrid Palace).

View from the Generalife

View from the Generalife

View from the Generalife

View from the Generalife

Important to note: You cannot buy tickets on arrival at The Alhambra. It is recommended to book several weeks in advance as it can sell out!

Our tickets included a time for when we were allowed inside the Nasrid Palace, (6:30pm). This is the only place where you have to go in at a certain time though.

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The intricate ceiling in the Nasrid Palace

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The ceiling in the Nasrid Palace

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Me at the Nasrid Palace

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Overall, I would say I prefer the Alcázar in Sevilla over the Alhambra. The Alcázar in Sevilla is of course a tourist attraction and it can get pretty busy, but it feels less spoiled, less of a “tourist trap”. Entry is much cheaper (2€ for students, not 15€ at The Alhambra) and there is no time limit on entry and you can spend as much time as you want there. You feel less rushed. Still, the intricate designs in the Nasrid Palaces at The Alhambra and the panoramic views over the city were absolutely spectacular – you can’t compare it elsewhere and it is a photographer’s dream.

That evening we had take-away lasagna at the highly-rated Cacho & Pepe on TripAdvisor which I’d recommend. It is small though and the menu can be limited. The weather was still lovely so we found a nice bench by a fountain to plough into the yummy food. I don’t know why, but I am a bit obsessed with Italian food here in Spain…!
The following Sunday morning we walked up to the Mirador San Nicolás which gave an incredible view over The Alhambra – it was well worth the climb! It wasn’t long though until we had to catch our coach back to Sevilla, to then eventually get our night coach back to Salamanca. 2am, driver’s radio blaring away trumpet music and all lights on, it’s safe to say I am glad I will not be traveling by coach overnight for a while! I thoroughly enjoyed my extended weekend trip to Sevilla and Granada and I only wish it could have been longer to see more of Andalucía, but it gives me an incentive to go back in the future (Córdoba, I’m looking at you).

Me and Becca at the Nasrid Palace

Me and Becca at the Nasrid Palace

After arriving back to Salamanca in the early hours of the morning, I was up early to prepare for my Skype interview a few hours later. I was quite worried how it would go with being so tired, but the interview went well as I have since found out I have been accepted for the role! I will be working as an Information Assistant during Intro Week in Sheffield in September which was excellent news.

The weather has since greatly improved here in Salamanca, and I am currently hiding in my room, away from the heat (and pollen which is especially bad today). At the weekend, my flatmates put out the summer furniture on our sun terrace and I have been making the most of it by sunbathing during the last few days! I love our terrace because we have a great view of the cathedral and it means I can sunbathe without even leaving the flat:

View from the roof terrace of my piso!

View from the roof terrace of my piso!

Now, it’s time to focus on uni work mixed-up with a bit of sunbathing until I finish my university obligations here on 26th May. I have also been busy ticking things off to do from my Final Five Weeks in Salamanca To-Do list – mostly just the food parts so far though!

Hasta luego,

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Hammam Al Ándalus / Granada

After a wonderful day and a half spent in Sevilla, next up was our three-hour coach journey to Granada for the second half of our trip. As I mentioned in the last post, we had managed to get tickets on a Premium Alsa Bus, which included a lunch box, leather reclining seats and wifi – such luxury after some very uncomfortable overnight coaches (why can’t they all be like this?!).

Continuing with the theme of comfort, our first major activity when we arrived on the Friday evening, as you can tell by this blog title, was to go to the Hammam Al Ándalus baths.

My visit to the Hammam is without a doubt one of my top ten life experiences in my head right now – yes, it was that good! I wish I could go back already, and that they expand further to other cities in Spain (*cough* Salamanca, and maybe to the UK too! We need some southern comfort up north too, y’know).

I met up with my friend Floorke on the Saturday, a coursemate studying in Granada this semester who I also visited in Provence last October! She admitted that she still hadn’t gone to the baths (much to my horror), but since my visit, she has booked to go to the Hammam soon, so all is okay. I bet that if I lived there, I would be there at least once a month.

On the way from our hotel, which was more or less a 5 minute walk to the Hammam, we walked over a little bridge with a stream. It was possibly my favourite spot in Granada – it felt so quaint and cosy.

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Hammam Al Ándalus

If you ever find yourself in one of the cities where the Hammams are located (Granada, Córdoba, Málaga, Madrid), if you are looking for some time out and relaxation, this is the place to be! I’m considering a little trip to Madrid in June just for this (okay, and maybe a visit to the cat café…).

It is 25€ with a student card, but you should reserve in advance (email or phone). There are also other tariffs for non-students. The entry allows you to have a session in the baths for 90 minutes with a 15 minute massage included! There are several slots available during the day to go to the baths and we opted for the 10pm slot. It’s fair enough to say I slept really well afterwards! It was just what I needed.

When you arrive, before you enter the changing rooms you are offered some Morrocan Mint Tea and it is divine. It is also available in a certain room inside the baths which, of course, I took full advantage of. When I went shopping the following morning, I made sure that I bought a packet to take home with me. I have yet to taste it but fingers crossed it lives up to my expectations.

The baths are extremely clean. You are provided with blue plastic shoe covers when you enter in order to keep the changing areas spotless. The lockers were even alluminated as the room has low lighting, so you ould see where your things were, the lockers are then locked by your choice of passcode. All you need to bring with you is a swimsuit/bikini as they provide towels for you.

During the bathing experience, there were attendants available if you had any questions, needed help, and they were always relighting candles and making sure people were not talking too loudly. When we first went in, one attendant showed us each area of the baths before we were allowed to explore. The Hammam has a variety of hot, warm and cold pools, a hammam steam room which smelled like mint, trickling fountains and everywhere is lit by candlelight. It felt like true luxury.

I was given my massage at the beginning, which was a great way to relax and get in the mood of the hammam. You have the choice of several scents – I chose red amber which I liked, but of course as I went in the pools afterwards, the scent did not stay.

When the hour and a half is over, an attendant rings a bell to let you know it’s time to leave the hammam and return to reality. The hammam is a truely special space because it allows you to completely let go of the outside world, your stresses and troubles for a little while.

I’m so glad I went during my time in Granada, and I would go back in a heartbeat. I would recommend anyone to go if you enjoy time out in a beautiful place. It was the perfect remedy to relax after many hours traveling by coach and I felt refreshed for my next full day exploring Granada and The Alhambra.

Would you squeeze in a visit to the Hammam Al Ándalus into your itinerary for Andalucía?

Hasta luego,

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Sunshine in Sevilla

This was my last major trip at the end of April before I had to start focusing on exams (cue sad violins). I am so glad to have experienced a bit of the south during my time here in Spain and soak up some sun (albeit still no beach!).

This was my second visit to Sevilla, and it was lovely to return to all the sights I saw four years ago, even though not much had changed. This time however, instead of it being an unbearable 45°c, it was only 32°c (only)! All in all, it was much easier to enjoy my time and walk around without the sensation that I was about to faint.

My favourite place in Sevilla is easily the Alcázar. Unlike the Alhambra in Granada, you don’t need to book tickets in advance and entry is only 2€/students which is a bargain. It can get busy with tourists but it retains its charm and feels unspoilt. I’d love to spend hours upon hours in there with a good book, in some quiet corner and just enjoy the gardens and the sun/shade. It is a little paradise hidden right in the middle of the city. We spent more or less three hours there this time, and one of which I had a siesta on a bench which was very much needed – we had just arrived from Salamanca after an 8 hour overnight coah journey with minimal sleep and I was exhausted!

IMG_1211 IMG_1252 IMG_1223We also visited my other favourite of Sevilla, La Plaza de España. This is by far the most beautiful Plaza de España you will ever see. The equivalent in Salamanca is basically a massive roundabout and it is quite ugly, which is depressing. However, Salamanca does have the Plaza Mayor, considered the most beautiful in Spain, so we can’t have everything!

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Rainbow!

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The Plaza de España in Sevilla was built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, in the Parque de María Luisa. It is a large half-circle which holds much symbolism for Spain with its bridges, alcoves and design. By the walls of the Plaza are tiled alcoves, each representing a different province of Spain. This did not have much significance to me when I first visited four years ago, but since moving to Spain, I now have my own “home province” and it was fun to find the Salamanca alcove and get a picture!

Salamanca!

Salamanca!

We were lucky to catch up with Freya who is doing her Year Abroad in Sevilla. She took us to a great local place which we wouldn’t have found otherwise, called Coloniales. It does great tapas for good prices but is that popular so you should expect to wait for a table. I surprisingly really enjoyed the Chicken in Almond Sauce, which is weird as I hate almonds, but it was delicious.

Our final morning in Sevilla was on the Friday, we went up the Cathedral tower which is something I also did four years ago. It gives a great view over the city, and what I love most about the actual climb, is that it is a ramp all the way up, not horrible steep, spiralling steps, so I don’t feel like I am going to slip and fall to my doom at any moment.

View of Sevilla from the Cathedral

View of Sevilla from the Cathedral

During our visit, we were there for the Feria de Sevilla. Although we didn’t have time to see the actual Feria, it was amazing to see all the men, women and children dressed in their finery. For the women, the traditional “trajes de flamenca.” Some looked absolutely beautiful and I really wanted to have my own outfit, although apparently they can be very expensive (minimum 200€!). Maybe not.

The vibe down south is so different to that of Salamanca. For one, it doesn’t seem scorned upon to wear shorts and a t-shirt in the hot weather, and it was a nice change to walk around letting my skin soak up the sun for a change. You’d never see people doing flamenco dancing in the streets and I am sure if you were caught wearing a flower piece in your hair (traditional with the flamenco outfits for women), people would look at you funny and shake their head when you walk past. Fashion and tradition is so different and it’s amazing to see such a stark difference just from a 6 hours-drive south.

Soon, it was time to say goodbye to Sevilla and head to Granada for the second-half of our trip! We somehow managed to get tickets for a “Premium bus” which included leather seats, wifi and  a packed lunch!

Stay tuned for the next installment on Granada and my favourite activity of the entire trip, the visit to the Hammam Al Ándalus baths.

Hasta luego,

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The Final Five Weeks To-Do List

It’s come as a surprise that I only have five more weeks left in Salamanca, before I pack up my room and head home. When I first arrived, I was full of energy – eager to see all the sites and places of interest in my new city. Since settling in back in February, I started seeing it more as a home instead of a place to explore and there is still so much to see and do! So here’s to my last full month in Salamanca, and hopefully this list will give me some inspiration for distractions to stop me going insane during the exam season…

1. Climb up the Cathedral Tower at night: 23/05/15

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Streets of Salamanca

2. COMPLETED!  Go to Atelier (tapas bar) and El Laurel (restaurant): these are both veggie places and I have been recommended to go to both by quite a few people. I couldn’t leave without going to them at least once! El Laurel was especially great and wwill return before I leave. I loved the onion soup and the gaucamole was amazing – and normally I hate guacamole!

Next: La Hoja restaurant

3. Visit the Museo Taurino: bullfighting museum. I’d find this interesting, especially as it is an important part of culture here in this region, and also after experiencing Carnaval de Ciudad Rodrigo. Plus, my Year Abroad Project title has been accepted which is on bullfighting, so maybe this will come in useful.

3. General Archive of the Spanish Civil War: this is right by my flat, it’s free, doesn’t take long to visit (20 mins), I should take a detour and go in one day on my way home.

5: Climb up the tower of the Scala Coeli Torres de la Clerecia: another gem plain in sight that I have yet to do.

6. COMPLETED: La Malhablada: this is a place that offers 15 minute “micro-theatre” plays. Something different to do one evening.

7. Go inside the Casa Lis one more time: I have been twice already and it is my favourite place in Salamanca. The building itself is absolutely beautiful.

Casa Lis ceiling

Casa Lis ceiling

Casa Lis

Casa Lis

8. Go to the cinema again: I’ve been a few times already, but it’s a great way to listen to Spanish and relax for a few hours. – La Famille Bélier, Suite Francesa,

I doubt I will be able to do all of these things, but it shows that although Salamanca is a small city, there are a lot of things to do. Despite it not being included in the list, I also intend to eat a lot of frozen yogurt becuase, frozen yogurt.

Hasta luego,

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What My Year Abroad Has Taught Me

The Year Abroad is more often than not coined as “the best year of your life,” and so, you may have quite high expectations about what it’s going to be like. It is great when you are off traveling every other weekend in the sunshine, but adapting to life in a foreign country away from everyone and everything you know is not easy.

Always learning

Personally, a better definition for the Year Abroad would be that it is ‘an education.” Be it living away from family and friends for the first time, coping with a long-distance relationship or getting to grips with a foreign language and culture, the Year Abroad teaches you things about yourself and the world around you that you can’t learn from a textbook.

Still, despite the coined phrase, the Year Abroad doesn’t have to be the best year of your life, but you can give your best shot nonetheless – saying yes to opportunities that come your way, travel whenever and wherever you can, meet people from different cultures – it is definitely a year you will be reminiscing about for years to come, for all the best and worst reasons!

See my Year Abroad Bucket List

Julia, moi et Kam

Julia, moi et Kam at the Tortoise Sanctuary near Perpignan

Leading a more minimalistic lifestyle

When I first moved to Sheffield to start my first year of university, we had a car and trailer packed with all the things I needed and probably didn’t need for 10 months.

Boarding my flight to Carcassonne in August 2014 to start my semester studying in France, I felt so vulnerable with just a suitcase, cabin bag and rucksack for 4 months. Obviously I was able to buy things when I got there though (duvet, pillows etc!). When I finally left in December, I was able to give things away that I didn’t need anymore.

Moving again in January 2015 to Spain, I was better prepared and I managed to pack even less as I knew what didn’t use in France. Looking around my student room in Salamanca right now, I have very few belongings compared to my housemates who have x30 shirts or x10 pairs of shoes, but I don’t feel like I am missing out on much, except maybe some variety in outfit combinations.

I have one mini-dictionary and one book to read and that is the extent of my book collection here which is a shock for anyone who knows me. My wardrobe is quite bare; anyone who sees my photo uploads will probably know I am always wearing the same things. It can be frustrating, as I only have one jacket, two pairs of jeans, three t-shirts, for example, but I have come a long way since first year, and I am sure I won’t need that trailer when I move back to Sheffield in September. But I will make sure to bring plenty of woolly jumpers at least (it’s freezing, okay?!).

Me at the top of Les Arenes, Nimes

Me at the top of Les Arenes, Nimes

I’m not going to become fluent in 5 months

I knew this already but there is always that dream that I am going to wake up one day and just be fluent. I mean, this is my degree and what I am aspiring towards, isn’t it? All these things take time though and I am progressing.

I am lucky that I get to split my Year Abroad to immerse myself in two different cultures and languages. However I feel slightly envious of the Single-Honours and Non-Language Dual students who are spending the entire year focusing on just one foreign language and who can probably go that little bit further than I can.

I’m sure that if I were to have stayed in Perpignan this semester, my French would have continued to only progress and I would be going back to Sheffield in September more confident in the French language, instead of being in a ‘language dip’, which is how I’m feeling now that I have shifted my focus on to Spanish. Yet, if I were to have stayed, my Spanish would not have improved at all and that was something that seriously needed attention as when I arrived in Salamanca this January – I could hardly string a sentence together!

I should note though, that I still consider my French to be much stronger than my Spanish, and if I meet a French person and start conversing with them, I feel a serious sense of relief to be able to express myself with ease.

Either way, friends in both France and Spain have told me that my communication skills in *insert foreign language here* have greatly improved since I first arrived. The fact that others have noticed my progress is more than I could ask for and whether or not it is a lot or a little, this Year Abroad hasn’t gone to waste.

The world is a lot less scary than I once thought

Moving to a new city when I was eighteen for university was the scariest thing I had done at the time. New city, new people, living away from home – big life change. The idea of possibly living or working abroad after my degree was overwhelming and I didn’t know where to start.

After living out of a suitcase for eight months so far and moving to two foreign countries, the idea of booking a plane ticket and landing in a new place is not so crazy anymore, it’s strangely the norm. I know I can get by like this now. When people realise I’m not local, they are so friendly and do their best to help me feel welcome.

When I nearly fell down the stairs in Narbonne train station with all my luggage when I moved to France in August 2014 (no lifts/escalators), a lady helped me with my things and even offered me a car ride to Perpignan. I mean, how nice is that?! Strangers can become friends, unfamiliar surroundings can become a second home but you also have to be open to this change.

Still, the sense of achievement when successfully giving somebody directions in your new city and in the foreign language hasn’t died down just yet…

Of course, home sickness sets in, sometimes I just want to see films at the cinema in English, instead of dubbed Spanish versions and although the local cuisine is divine, nothing beats a chippie tea.

Carcassonne

Carcassonne

Learning to forget the plan

I pride myself in being a very organised person, possibly the most organised person I know other than my mum (I obviously get this trait from her!) and I like to plan things months in advance.

The more I travel though, the more time planning takes up and the need to do this has died down. I’m much more open to arriving in a place with no fixed plan except a few ideas of what I might like to do and take it from there.

I found accommodation for Salamanca all the way back in June 2014, way before I came here. I opted to find accommodation before I arrived because the idea of turning up with nowhere to live still unsettles me. However, despite organising everything to the final letter, I realised a little over a month in to living in the flat, that I wasn’t happy there, like seriously not happy. Accepting that things weren’t going as planned, acting on the knowledge I could do something about it was the best decision. Now I am spending my final 2 months here in a lovely, sunny flat on the other side of the city. I did have to go through a nasty confrontation with the landlord to let me move out though but it was worth it.

Salamanca

Salamanca

It’s the people, not the places that count

I have been lucky enough to spend my Year Abroad in two fantastic locations: Perpignan and Salamanca. One on the Mediterranean, with a beautiful beach nearby and close to so many incredible places to visit. The other, home to the most beautiful Plaza Mayor and the oldest university in Spain.

Canet-La plage, beach near Perpignan

Canet-la-plage, the beautiful beach near Perpignan

Despite becoming attached to these two locations, it is the friends I have made and shared this Year Abroad experience with that have made the journey so enjoyable – soppy but true!

On the other hand, it is much easier to befriend other travellers, Erasmus students or people in the same mind-set who are reaching out for friendships and people to talk to. Although this is wonderful, it is frustrating that it is so much harder to make friends with local students who already feel secure and have friends. I am still not 100% sure why this is a thing. It is such a shame that as an “Erasmus student” I can be reminded that I am “different.” “foreign,” “not from here,” because people in class choose not to acknowledge my existence, even though I can speak their language. Yet, when there have been international students at my home university in the UK, myself, other classmates and teachers have made them feel comfortable and included by engaging with them. It’s something that has perplexed me during my time abroad that I want to challenge.

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‘Travellers’ and ‘Tourists’ are different

I was first introduced to this idea when I visited Lisbon. The idea is that travellers are more involved and experience the places they visit more than see them: try to speak a bit of the language with locals, eat the local food or just move slowly enough to really absorb the feel of the place.

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Lisboa

 Travel is addictive: good thing, bad thing

The more I travel the more I want to continue doing it and I know I am not alone on this. I have caught the travel bug. My travel wish list is so long, and I am always looking online searching the ‘next possible thing’. So far on my Year Abroad I have visited many places, for example: Marseille, Barcelona, Villefranche-de-Conflent, to see Las Fallas in Valencia all the way to Bilbao and Lisbon! Although this has been an enriching experience, the more I travel, the more I realise how far I am from my home and family.

 Of course, it’s incredible to be swapping rainy England for sunny Spain and I count myself fortunate for this experience, but my Year Abroad has also given me a different perspective. I am British; I miss having a kettle in the kitchen, politeness, people smiling in the street and our culture’s ability to form a queue in an orderly fashion. I have an even greater sense of appreciation for my family and friends at home and what they do for me, that there is nowhere better than “home.” I hope to return from my Year Abroad to make the most of my time in the UK and not sulk when staring at all my amazing Year Abroad photos in 4th year. Okay, I can’t keep my word on that last one!

What have you learned from your experience living abroad?

If you haven’t lived abroad before, is it something you are considering?

Let me know in the comments below 🙂

Hasta luego,

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