Tate Britain, London

Last weekend, while J. took the train to East London for a football match, I decided to meet up with my friend Kam for a girly-day out in London. We have hardly seen each other since graduating from university, except for my trip to Berlin to see her, and last month when she came up for the weekend. She suggested we go to an exhibit – good – as that was exactly what I wanted to do! It’s great being on the same wavelength. I made a list, there is so much on in London, it’s so amazing, but we managed to narrow it down to one at the Tate Britain, which was not far from Victoria Station where we met up, and then have a wander round Shoreditch afterwards – blog to follow.

We went to the Tate for the temporary exhibit on Impressionists in London; this is showcasing the impressionist art of the French refugees from the Franco-Prussian War –  in particular, those of Monet, Tissot and Pissarro.

Being the Francophiles that we are, this was a good pick for us. Not only that, but I am very fond of Monet’s paintings. There was a Monet exhibit at the Tate Modern in Liverpool a few years ago which was great and the Waterlilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris are beautiful. Until this exhibit though, I had not seen his London series, so it was a new insight.

The exhibit as a whole is actually quite fascinating as it gives the viewer a glimpse into how the French artists perceived contemporary London society and culture. I particularly loved the room which focused on the outsiders’ struggle and competition to capture the London fogs – here the paintings by Whistler, an American painter, for me were the most breathtaking.

As we left the Tate Britain, it was quite fitting that a fog had settled over the city, albeit not as striking a view as in the paintings, but a fog nonetheless…

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The low-down

Where: Tate Britain, London (a short walk from Pimlico station on the Victoria Line)

Cost: £17.70 or £15.70 concessions (permanent exhibitions are FREE)

Remember: The Impressionists in London exhibition finish 7th May 2018 – don’t miss it!

 

 

French Play, Feb 2016: Sheffield, UK

Deviating from my usual travel-related posts, this update is somewhat different. This week, I am performing in The Department of French’s very own Annual French Play. We have been rehearsing since November and it really is amazing to see it all finally come together, after much hard work and many post-rehearsal evenings spent in the pub. We are putting on Épisode de la vie d’un auteur (Jean Anouilh), a farce, best desribed as:

“A play in one act, this comedy is about an author confronted in turn with suspicions of his wife’s infidelity, a Romanian journalist, plumbers, telephone interruptions, his mother, an old army pal, a housing inspector and a love-sick, suicidal friend. His housemaid can’t stop crying and, despite his best efforts to remain calm, his world is collapsing around him.”

I will be playing La Dame, an insistant lady who keeps calling (badgering) the main character, asking for my first husband. Where is he? Will we ever find out..? But this is only a sub-plot of something much greater.

It really has been fantastic to be a part of the Cast again during my final year at Sheffield; to acquaint myself with another French play in depth, practice the old français outside of the classroom (always useful) and have a laugh.

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So, if you’re in Sheffield, what’re you waiting for?  See full details below:

Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/210872902593809/

ÉPISODE DE LA VIE D’UN AUTEUR (Performed in French, English written synopsis provided). French and Non-French Speakers all welcome!

17th, 18th and 19th February 2016. Doors open at 7:00pm, curtains at 7:30pm.

Address: The Drama Studio, The University of Sheffield, Shearwood Rd, Sheffield, South Yorkshire S10 2TD.

Tickets: £5 each, with seat reservation.
Ticket Sales: Mon-Fri 12-2PM in the Jessop West Foyer.
For ticket reservations by email, contact:
d.mccallam@sheffield.ac.uk
j.dobson@sheffield.ac.uk

Venez nombreux/See you there!

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11 Months of Travel in 11 Pictures

It occuried to me earlier this week, that it has been a whole eleven months already, since I set off to France in August 2014 to start my Year Abroad. It feels just like yesterday and yet a million years ago at the same time, and it is all going to end in a week’s time, just like that.

I have had an incredible year, experiencing living abroad and documenting it all as I have gone along, and I hope you, my readers, friends and family, have enjoyed the journey to France, Spain and Portugal with me! Although it was a tough selection, I have chosen a select 11 photographs to sum up each of these last wonderful 11 months (featured image doesn’t count!)…

August 2014

Perpignan, the arrival (26th August)

Perpignan, the arrival (26th August), busy spent registering at university and opening a bank account, oh and at the beach!

September 2014

A month full of travel: Banyuls-sur-mer, Collioure, Carcassonne, Villefranche-de-Conflent and GIRONA

A month full of travel before university in Perpi became too serious: Banyuls-sur-mer, Collioure, Carcassonne, Villefranche-de-Conflent and GIRONA

October 2014

Julia, me and Kam at the Vallée des tortues near Perpignan!

Julia, me and Kam at the Vallée des tortues near Perpignan, one of my favourite day-trips from this semester! Also went to Salses, a weekend trip Nîmes, saw Émilie Simon in concert, and met up with friends in Barcelona, Aix-en-Provence, Marseille AND Avignon this month!

November 2014

Day trip to Montpellier!

Day trip to Montpellier! Also went to Barcelona this month for a second time.

December

Repas de départ. Leaving meal in Perpi before I flew home.

Photo taken from my repas de départ (leaving meal) in Perpi. Also went to Barcelona for the third time and Collioure for the Christmas Market before eventually taking my exams and flying home 😦 Was very sad to leave.

January 2015

Salamanca, the arrival (29th January). Very cold!

Salamanca, the start of the second half of my Year Abroad (29th January). Very cold, don’t let those blue skies fool you!

February 2015

Me and Becca in Toledo! Also went to Ciudad Rodrigo for Carnava, Segovia, Ávilal and Lisbon this month!

Me and Becca in Toledo! Also went to Ciudad Rodrigo for Carnaval, Segovia, Ávila and Lisbon this month!

March 2015

Las Fallas in Valencia was incredible! Also had a fantastic weekend in Bilbao, Semana Santa in Salamanca and a weekend trip home!

Las Fallas in Valencia was incredible! Also had a fantastic weekend in Bilbao with James (we are now obsessed with Basque pintxos), Semana Santa in Salamanca, a weekend trip home AND moved flats in Salamanca!

April 2015

Me with Becca exploring the beautiful Alhambra in Granada! Also went to Mérida and Sevilla this month.

May 2015

View from the Cathedral of La Universidad Pontifica de Salamanca. May was exam month, so I got to explore some more of Salamanca at the weekends.

View of the Cathedral from La Universidad Pontifica de Salamanca. May was exam and essay writing month, so I got to explore some more of Salamanca at the weekends instead of travel elsewhere for a change.

June 2015

Photo taken in Porto, during a lovely moonlit walk along the river with Nathan and Julio! Also visited Madrid this month and said “hasta luego” to Salamanca…

July 2015

July has been spent attending a Portuguese language summer course in Lisbon and exploring more of this beautiful city! Photo taken at the Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte, my favourite viewpoint in the city!

Thank you to everyone that has and continues to read/comment/follow RobynBobbingAround! 

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The Year Abroad: My Favourite Moments

Fortunately, my experience of the Year Abroad has been a positive one overall; despite being full of many positives, there has also been a fair share of challenges, all of which are expected and embraced as inevitable. This year is one in which I have learnt so much about my abilities and I have been able to grow as a person, there have even been some pretty great memories to go along with it too.

I’d like to say a massive THANK YOU to everyone who has read RobynBobbingAround during the past year and kept in touch either by following, commenting, chatting on Twitter etc. I didn’t expect myself to be so dedicated to this blog but I am so glad I did. I have enjoyed blogging about my Year Abroad journey immensely and it is something I will be able to look back on for years to come. Although I will be continuing writing this after my Year Abroad is over, I am sure I will be at a loss during my final year of university, unable to jet off for a spontaneous weekend away, but I will try my best. Through WordPress, I’ve been able to connect with other like-minded people who share a love for travel or who are also on a Year Abroad, and it’s been great to see other perspectives and know I am not alone.

I could talk about “My Least Favourite Moments.” I don’t want to make the Year Abroad look like some fairy-tale traveling adventure; yes, it has been hard at times, and it’s unfair to paint an unrealistic picture of what it can be like for future/potential Year Abroaders, but I don’t like to dwell too much on the negatives – this is not much fun for me to write about. In short, this list would include: homesickness (a lot of it), lonliness, problems with landlords/housemates and French bureaucracy (that stuff is nasty and gets all Year Abroaders in France!).

Although I wrote my Year Abroad Bucket-List with links to all the exciting things I have done during my Year Abroad (there are many!), I wanted to share a snippet of my highlights, of things I enjoyed the most this year which are condensed down:

1. Seeing Émile Simon in concert in Nîmes

Les Arènes during a weekend trip to Nîmes,

Les Arènes during a weekend trip to Nîmes,

Emilie Simon is by far my favourite French singer, and I still listen to her lasted album Mue all the time. I was so glad to see her touring in October 2014, and I even got to squeeze in a weekend trip to Nîmes which I really wanted to do as well – double score!

2. La Vallée des tortues in Sorède 

Julia, moi et Kam

Julia, moi et Kam

My visit to the tortoise sanctuary, a 20 minute drive from Perpignan was another favourite of mine during the Year Abroad! I love tortoises/turtles and it ws great to be able to interact with some during our visit.

3. Lisbon

Torre de Belém

Torre de Belém

What can I say about Lisbon? It captured my heart and I can’t get over how incredible it was. I can’t wait to return for the entire month of July to do a Portuguese Summer Course there at A Universidade de Lisboa!

4. Las Fallas

Las Fallas

Las Fallas

Las Fallas is without a doubt my absolute favourite trip during my entire Year Abroad! Despite the weather being absolutely awful, and getting a serious cold after, it still manages to be in top position! If I had the opportunity to go back to Valencia in the future for this festival, I wouldn’t hesitate to say yes. It was unbelievabely exciting, full of life and noise.

5. Hamman Al Ándalus – Granada

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I couldn’t leave out my trip to the Hammam Al Ándalus in Granada. It was such a relaxing experience, I absolutely loved it. I’ve luckily squeezed in a return visit to the Hammam baths in Madrid, before I fly home to the UK in June. If you are ever visiting Andalucía or Madrid, I’d 100% recommend checking them out if you want some worthwhile time out.


These are only a select few of the many incredible things I have been able to do during my Year Abroad. Runners-up would include my trip to historical Mérida, tasting amazing pintxos in Bilbao and spending afternoons on the beach in Collioure.

Smaller things, but just as important on the linguistic side of things, would include the times when I could feel my language skills had improved, dreaming in French, being mistaken for French/Spanish and no one realising I was actually English even after I spoke (!) and of course realising I actually survived two semesters studying in foreign universities!

I finished my last lecture at La Universidad de Salamanca today and my final exam is this Tuesday. It’s all ending so fast! I still have trips to Porto and Madrid planned before I go home which is exciting, and about 11 days in Salamanca in between to make the most of and enjoy before I return home.

Fish and chips, scones and crumpets await…

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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Comparisions: My Year Abroad Destinations

Six weeks have past since I first arrived in Salamanca, home to the oldest university in Spain, and I have a mere twelve more to go. It’s alarming to think I am already a third of the way through the second half of my Year Abroad, when it feels like it has only just started. My last semester in Perpignan already feels like it was just a dream.

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When I first got here, the weather was dreadfully cold and it was impossible to leave the house without the thick scarf, hat, gloves, jumper, coat combination. It was much different comapred to the mild temepratures of the south of France! It feels liberating to leave the house now without all these winter accessories and embrace the arrival of the warmer weather. Despite the lack of beaches in the region, we have bountiful supplies of frozen yogurt to make up for it.

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Smooy makes everything better

We have just finished Week 5 at university, and I have finally settled into my classes in the Languages Faculty. It’s difficult not to look back at last semester and compare both experiences of university life in Perpignan and Salamanca, as they are so different! So here are a few which have struck me the most.


From what I can build on from my five observations and hopefully stress to other (potential) Year Abroader’s, is that you can’t have everything in your Year Abroad destination. 

For France, I chose location over the university I studied at. For Spain, I decided that the university had a higher priority over good climate.

The inner courtyard of the Languages department!

The inner courtyard of the Languages department in Salamanca!

1. Organisation: or lack of 
I think it is fair enough to say that my university in France loses this round.
I am still chasing up documentation that I needed in December, which is absolutely ridiculous.

Registration to become a student resulted in four hours of stressful queueing. I can’t express how angry this made me, especially as the university could easily resolve this issue if they cared to address it. Everything was done with paperwork; you can’t find module information online, at all. I didn’t find out my exam dates until two weeks before the actual exams, or in one case, three days before. That was great for booking my flight home for Christmas…

Here in Salamanca, I was able to book an appointment to register – no queueing necessary!
All module information with ECTs credits is available online on the UPDATED website and the university actually uses an online blackboard platform for students to use which is useful. Oh, and I already knew the exam dates before I even registered for the classes! Win, win, win.

2. Language barriers: Spanish, why you so hard?
Unfortunately, although the university here is fantastic, the language barrier is much more of an issue for me. I have studied French for twelve years, and although I am far from being fluent, I was much more comfortable expressing myself in French which made it easier for me to make friends of other nationalities, communicate with my housemates, ask teachers questions etc.

Here, although I can understand everything that is beeing said and okay, I CAN speak Spanish, my speaking skills are so weak compared. I only took it up when I started university, so I don’t want to beat myself up about it too much, these things take time. But sometimes, I feel like it is better to say nothing, as it is just too complicated for me to try and explain what I want to say. I know this is not the right attitude, but when you are really tired at 10pm at night making tea, you don’t really want to be making life harder than you need it to be.

So much so, that when my Spanish housemates introduced me to a French friend of theirs, the two of us had a great, flowing coversation for over half an hour in French and covered topics I have never been able to touch on with my housemates. My housemates were shocked to learn that I could even speak that much at all, as I speak very little normally to them, and it just highlighted the issue even more.

I thought living with Spanish students would be great for combatting my language barrier issues, and although it forces me to speak Spanish, it has made life more difficult for myself. They are final year Medics who have their own friendship circles and lives, so I feel more like a lodger than a flatmate, just filling a room. We don’t do anything together and it’s not really what I am used to back in Sheffield or when I was in Perpignan!

Repas de départ. Leaving meal in Perpi!

Repas de départ. Leaving meal in Perpi!

I miss living with like-minded people who like to have fun, cook, chat or just hang out and it’s something I am looking forward to experiencing again when I move back to Sheffield for my final year in September. My first semester was great for all of these things though, as I had an awesome roommate, Kam, also on my course from Sheffield uni, and we spent all our time together. It feels so weird to be on the complete opposite side of the spectrum now, having to cope with the ups and downs of the Year Abroad on my own now!

Tu me manques!

Tu me manques! ❤ xxxx

Still, I haven’t been here that long, and hopefully in the next 3 months my confidence speaking Spanish will improve. I can already tell that my listening comprehension has shot up, so all in its own time and all that.

3) Erasmus student status: alien or normal human being?

I swear, as an Erasmus student in Perpignan, I stuck out like a swore thumb. On the whole, teachers are welcoming to international students in class, but they don’t really know where to start when it comes to how to assess us – which goes back to the organisation issue. In many of my classes, I was the only foreigner. I was often picked on by the teacher as ‘hey, let’s see what our English Erasmus student thinks!’ when I’d rather just hide in a corner at the back of the class instead of 30 wide-eyed French teens stare at me, acknowledging my existance for the first time, at 8am in the morning.

In Salamanca, there are thousands of international students, much like Sheffield, which is a stark comparison to the few studying in Perpignan. The university is better informed and more prepared for our presence which makes the whole thing a lot easier, and students don’t stare at me which is a bonus. I mean, my Spanish literature teacher addresses the fact that there are many international students in his class, and makes sure he explains difficult terminology on the board for his ‘estudiantes extranjeros’ which is really nice, it’s reassurring to know that he knows we exist.

In France, I asked my literature teacher if she could write important terminology on the board, as I would often get lost and miss the important points to take note of which meant my essays didn’t focus on the things she wanted; she just responded that ‘I am not much of a ‘writing-on-the-board-kind-of-teacher, and you will have to make do.’ That is just NOT helpful, but thanks for listening.

4) Location: all the travelling 

I specifically chose Perpignan last year for one reason: the location.

I had never visited the south of France before and Perpignan is as south as you can get. It also had the best climate on mainland France out of all our university link options which was also tempting. Perpignan was equally incredible for travel. It is so close to many day trip options and I was never short of somewhere to go at the weekend: Girona, Barcelona, Montpellier, Nîmes, Villefrance-de-Conflent, Collioure, Carcassonne… I could go on for days. It was amazing! And relatively cheap to travel too!

Oh you know, just a day trip to Collioure...

Oh you know, just a day trip to Collioure…

Salamanca, was a strong candidate because I had never visited the North of Spain before, the university was good and I was told that the accent in the region was ‘the best’ to learn. Still, it is difficult to organise a day trip independently. Madrid is just a little too far for a day-trip unless you want to leave at the crack of dawn, but is the best connecting city from Salamanca. Luckily the ESN Salamanca does trips which make the stress of finding public transport all that little bit easier, however these trips can be on the expensive side as they can add up. I doubt I would have gone to Segovia or Toledo any other way though, so I am grateful for its existence.

Acuaducto de Segovia

Acuaducto de Segovia

Salamanca doesn’t have the best direct bus/train routes, or even if there are, they are quite expensive. Oporto is 4 hours away but it is just as expensive to get to Madrid and fly there as it is to get a direct bus. Santiago de Compostela, why are you so difficult to get to? Seville, there should be a direct link to you as well! Strangely though, I managed to get return bus tickets to Bilbao for a weekend for 10€ (!!!) which is a 5 hour journey (hello país vasco!). Spain, I don’t understand your logic. Despite some frustration in getting to the places I would like to visit this semester, I have nonetheless managed to see a fair bit of Spain already and I have trips to Valencia for Las Fallas and a weekend in Bilbao lined up later this month, so it isn’t all that bad!

One thing which I like about both cities though is cost of living. Perpignan was cheaper than what I was used to in Sheffield but Salamanca is even better! I am paying an average of 40€/week for my flat, which is pretty impressive (more reasons to love Spain!).

Although both Perpignan and Salamanca have their pros and cons, I am so glad to have chosen these two very contrasting cities for my Year Abroad. If given a chance to choose again, I would stick by my initial decisions! Of course, no where is perfect but it’s the opportunities and challenges posed by living in these places that have shaped my Erasmus experience up until now. 


Year Abroaders, what made you pick your Year Abroad destination(s)? Can you relate to any pros/cons ? Please share in the comments below 🙂

Hasta luego,
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Au revoir Perpignan: 6 Things I will miss

The last four weeks back in England have indeed flown by and although I am eagerly anticipating my upcoming semester in Salamanca, I am sad to say that my semester in Perpignan has come to an end. So here I have highlighted a few of the things I will miss from my time in Perpi.

1. Les montagnes (the montains)

The views of the Pyrenees never failed to take my breath away. As the colder weather crept in during December, the snow began to settle on the mountains which made it even more spectacular.

View of the Pyrenees from Perpignan.

View of the Pyrenees from Perpignan.

2. Rousquilles

Always in the supermarket, patisserie or gift shop, the rousquille, a soft, crumbly wheel-shaped biscuit covered in icing is very paticular to the region and I will miss being able to buy a pack of these after a stressful day at uni.

Recette des rousquilles à l'ancienne

Rousquilles

3. Le bus à 1€

Throughout the Pyrénées-Orientales region, the ‘bus à 1€’ initiative allowes for extremely cheap travel to nearby towns and cities. I traveled to places such as Collioure, Banyuls-sur-mer and Salses this way. It was a great excuse to do a day trip as it didn’t cost more than 2€ to travel somewhere for the day.

 bus collioure

Le bus à 1 euro

4. Le français

This goes without saying. Four weeks back home and I already miss speaking French every day.

5. L’épicerie (the grocery shop)

During my time in France I frequented a local grocery shop where I bought all my fresh produce. The owners always recognised us, maybe because Kam and I were the only regular customers who were under the age of 50 and foreigners who intrigued them, but they always greeted me when I passed in the street and that felt nice. Also, the black grapes, raspberries and clementines from the region, vous me manquez déjà…   

6. Le climat (the weather!)

Last but most importantly NOT least: the weather. How could I write a blog post about the best of Perpignan without talking about the weather? It’s the south of France, it’s near the beach, it hardly ever rains… what is not to love? Even during December on my final day, I remember walking around outside in the sunshine without a coat and it was glorious.

Since returning back to the UK, what I have struggled to adjust to the most is the lack of sunlight. Any hardy Northern spirit I had accumulated in the last 20 years has seriously deteriorated. My trip last week to Sheffield only confirmed this further. How I managed to live the last two winters in Yorkshire is beyond me because current me could not cope! Hidden behind what feels like constant cloud cover in the Merseyside region, I feel like I am already lacking in Vitamin D, my tan has degraded by 10 notches and I can barely manage to get out of bed before 10am; whereas I was always up by 8am in France, greeted to beautiful blue skies (99% of the time!).

So there we have it. I loved the four months I spent in Perpignan with the great people I met. If you ever see yourself visiting the south of France, don’t neglect the charm of Languedoc-Rousillon, and especially, the Pyrénées-Orientales! I’ll round this post off with a few picture highlights from my stay in France below

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