“Hi, I’m Frankie, I’m 20 years old and I study Spanish.”
I’m sure I’ll be saying that a lot over the coming weeks, as I settle into Valladolid, where I’ll be studying this year… but in Spanish! After a long car journey from Yorkshire, I am currently on the ferry from Plymouth to Santander, which takes a day. And it is going to take another week to get to Valladolid. You see, my parents have decided to take advantage of my moving to Spain and travel around Castilla y León, stopping off at Valladolid to have a nosy at where I will be spending the next 10 months of my life. Actually, I do appreciate the free travel and have taken full advantage of the fact that there are no weight restrictions in a car!
I’m lucky as in I’ve already been to Valladolid twice to stay with family friends, so I know my way around (the bars) and I already have friends there who can help me settle in. AND I know how t9o pronounce the name! Still, I am leaving 6 weeks early so I can get to grips with Spanish before lectures start and I find that actually, after 5 years of learning the language, I can’t speak it at all. This is my biggest worry, along with the fact that I will somehow waste the experience. I have to say, the pressure is definitely on for me to grab this opportunity with both hands and make the most it. So, to kick-start this ambition, I am spending the first few weeks with a group of Spanish archaeologists, excavating a tomb near Soria.
This may seem organised of me but I must explain how difficult my experience of my Year Abroad has been so far. The problem is that I’m actually disastrously indecisive and highly unorganised, which has caused me to miss deadlines and make the wrong decisions. My first advice to anyone going to study abroad would be to not be too adventurous! I wanted to study in Spain until Christmas and then work in South America, so that I could experience EVERYTHING. But this was a bad idea and I am now an Erasmus student for one semester only, meaning that in Semester two, I not only lose out on the grant, but I have to pay half fees to Edinburgh as well as fees to Valladolid! I’ve learnt my lesson, and must accept that the year abroad will be what I make of it. I don’t have to travel across the world to have a wonderful experience.
Maybe I wouldn’t have been so confused with my options if I’d had clearer information from Edinburgh at the start. I study English language as well as Spanish which, unfortunately, has made things so unnecessarily complicated! Because of poor communication between staff members, it has literally taken me months to understand how many credits I must bring back and in what subjects. I’m still not 100% sure! I feel that both departments, but particularly Hispanic Studies, have been unsupportive and uninterested, which is crazy considering that for years on end, all 3rd year Spanish students have been going abroad to study or work. On the other hand, the International Office has given me a glimpse of confidence that if I have any problems whilst I am away, then someone in Edinburgh might help me, and the Universidad de Valladolid has so far been really helpful, friendly and efficient, having offered me accommodation as early as May, designated me a really helpful mentor, and responded to my emails straight away.
After all the hassle I am now anxious to get to Valladolid and start my new life. I don’t just see this as a year away from home, because I know that when I return to Edinburgh things will be different. My friends may not be the same, as some are staying and others are going off to all parts of the world, and after getting used to another culture, I may just see things differently. I’m not scared by this, just excited. But there’s no doubt that the night before lectures start, I’ll find it difficult to sleep!