Having booked my flights and sent of the last (I hope) signed form, the reality has suddenly hit me – I will have to pack my entire life into a meagre 20kg of baggage allowance. In less than a week I will be off to Europe in an attempt to improve my language skills, experience living abroad and perhaps even add some more recipes to my small repertoire. I’m Nikki, I study Spanish and Portuguese at Edinburgh, and am about to head off on my year abroad. I’ll be doing Erasmus exchanges in both countries; starting at the Universidade de Coimbra in Portugal and then moving on to the Universidad de Alcalà in Spain – the birthplace of Cervantes. What a fitting destination for a Spanish student.
My first stop will be Coimbra and to be honest I am rather excited about getting to know this medieval town. According to Wikipedia it is the oldest university in Portugal which bodes well for my academic prospects, but also for the weird, wonderful and somewhat wacky traditions which take place there. Around November there is the Recepção ao Caloiro – meaning the Freshers’ Reception. This is when all the Freshers are ‘baptised’ into university life; in order to become fully immersed they must take part in the Festa das Latas – The Tin Can Festival. Here tin cans are tied to their legs and they are forced to parade around the city centre towards the river where presumably the ‘baptism’ takes place. However, it is not just the first years that are subject to these public displays – second year students are also forced to undertake one… something about carrying a turnip around with you all day in order to get a ribbon from your faculty. Things like this make me really excited about my year abroad as I’ve never heard of any second years walking around Edinburgh carrying turnips! There may even be something for international students…
On a more practical note, I feel I should mention something about accommodation, as this has been my only apprehension about my year abroad. In a desperate attempt to avoid going back to catered halls and memories of bunk-bedded rooms in Pollock, I have not gone for accommodation at the uni and am planning on finding a flat out there. I’ve booked a hostel for when I arrive, yet everything was pretty full so I could only book a handful of nights; undoubtedly everyone has had the same idea. This is good as I can meet potential flatmates, yet on the other hand, I will be part of a mad rush to find a room before being chucked out of a full hostel. I’ve explained this plan many times at various family farewells and goodbyes, but each time I explain what I am going to do, I get a bit more nervous. My previously calm, casual outlook of finding a flat has somewhat changed as the question, where are you going to live? echoes around in my head after hearing it a million times. I know I won’t hear the end of it until I get one. Oh well, I suppose this is what being thrown in the deep end is all about.
Until next time, when hopefully I will have a permanent roof over my head.
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