life update: adiós Salamanca

07:50

Adiós Salamanca

My Facebook feed is currently filled with fellow Erasmus students waving goodbye to their year abroad and saying hello to reality back home, and I can't believe it's now finally my turn. True to what everyone tells you before you go, it honestly feels like this year has whizzed by, and I'm now coming to terms with the fact that Salamanca will no longer be my home. I will reflect on my feelings and thoughts that I've experienced over the course of my year abroad.

When I first arrived in Salamanca, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I'd researched enough about the university and the night life, and I knew it was the oldest in Spain. I felt taken aback by the size of the city at first and a little bewildered, all thanks to my horrific sense of direction. Unlike a lot of Erasmus here, I had arrived without knowing anyone beforehand, so it was really just me, myself and I for the first few nights, which reminded me a little of first year at university in Southampton.

I met one of my flatmates, an Italian girl, the night I arrived which helped me to dive head first into speaking Spanish on a regular basis, and for that reason I'm still glad that I chose not to live with people who all spoke English. The first few hectic days of sorting a flat with her eased me into speaking Spanish for long periods of time since we gradually got to know each other as our confidence improved. I also live with an Irish girl which meant at times I speak English in the flat, and although it's a welcome relief if I've had to speak Spanish a lot during the day, we always spoke Spanish if all three of us were there.

I would also say that in the first few months, that if I hadn't had my flatmate around to speak Spanish too, I would've struggled to practise it regularly. There is a very large misconception surrounding the year abroad that simply being in the country is enough to enable you to be speaking the language all the time. I had a few friends asking in the few months if I was fluent yet, which is an easy assumption to make if you do not study languages. Yet, you will find that many Erasmus do not push themselves to make native friends in the other country, especially if lots of people of their own nationality are also there. With this in mind, you could quite easily spend the whole year abroad without speaking any Spanish!

Being honest, the hardest part of year abroad has been finding Spanish friends. The separation between Erasmus and standard university students is extremely pronounced, and I found it hard to feel like I belonged in my classes until second semester, when I recognised some of the faces from the previous semester. Until you get quite close to the students, you can feel the invisible wall between themselves and you, even if they are mostly friendly people.

Another huge pressure that any Erasmus student may likely feel, is the need to have lots of friends, the wildest and craziest nights out of your life and to be living entirely differently to how you would at home. Reality is a little more depressing, but essentially I have been enjoying my year abroad in the same way I would back at my university at home, albeit with much nicer weather. Sure, lots of Erasmus have had the craziest year of their lives with plenty a tale to tell when they come home, but that has never been for me.

Instead I've enjoyed lazy and long lunches with friends, countless walks around the city, far too many coffee and cake breaks, lots of weekend trips around the country with the odd fun night out thrown into the mix. I've become close to a small group of people of whom I hope to remain in contact with and hopefully see again in the future!

My largest gain by far from year abroad has been my confidence when speaking. Before heading off to Salamanca I had very little enjoyment in speaking Spanish, and I was too scared to make mistakes to push myself with the language for fear of looking stupid. Within a few months this fear had completely evaporated, and I've never felt so comfortable and happy speaking another language, a mindset which I hope to take with me into my final year.

There are so many reasons why I would recommend a year abroad to anyone looking to improve their languages, but I would say that it takes a lot of perseverance and courage to push yourself further with the native people to get to know them. That said, the pay-off is completely worth it! Erasmus friends are amazing but to really get to grips with a language, you must try and continue trying to learn from them, if you want to improve your language properly.

My experience in Salamanca has been truly unforgettable and I will look back on this year with happiness. I will miss the Golden city and it's extremely cheap tapas but all good things must come to an end.

Have you been on a year abroad? Do you have any advice for future Erasmus students? Thanks for reading!

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Image Source: Martius/Flickr

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2 comments

  1. I am also ending my Erasmus, I am in Germany and we finish in July-August, so I still have a couple of months, but I get you. I can't believe time has gone so fast... So many things have changed, me included, and I feel like a totally other person, mainly because I have been able to travel a lot! I have learned a lot and it is a dificult, beautiful and incredible experience :)
    Me alegro de que tu Erasmus en Salamanca te haya gustado y espero que hayas sido muy feliz en España <3

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  2. I definitely feel your sorrow, I can still remember how heart-wrenching it was for me to return from my Erasmus. Coming back to uni in England was a shock to say the least! I struggled with the Erasmus/native students divide at first too, but weirdly after leaving I've kept in touch with some of the French students who were in my class. I'd also recommend staying in touch with the international friends you made and planning trips to meet each other in your cities; it's a amazing to have a local tour guide!

    Sinéad ♥ fabuleuse, toujours ♥

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