by Alba Gallardo Escudé
Alba arrived as an Erasmus student to Southampton last semester. This is her story of living in a new country, speaking her third language.
20th September 2011
This time tomorrow I’ll be on my way to Southampton. I wonder what next year has in store. It might be the time of my life; it might not. At the moment I’m not sure if I made the right decision when I decided to go on an Erasmus exchange at the Unviersity of Southamptn.
I’m excited: I’ll discover a new city, I’ll meet new people and I’ll discover a different culture with its own habits and traditions. I’m nervous: who knows what I’ll find there. What if I don’t like what I find and I don’t adapt to my new surroundings? I’m sad: I know I’ll miss my family and friends. I’m happy: I’m lucky because I’ll have an experience that is not possible for everyone.
I’m lucky because I’ll have an experience that is not possible for everyone
But the best thing is that I’ll improve my English. It is my third language since I’m bilingual in Catalan and Spanish.
20th January 2012
After having lived in England for four months I can say it’s a home from home. But the arrival wasn’t easy. It was difficult to find student accommodation, to get used to the different weather (here a sunny day is unusual, in Barcelona it’s the norm), to live with complete strangers with different cleaning habits, to find out that olive oil is barely used in cooking, to change euros into pounds.
But the most important thing I’ve realised is that despite taking English lessons at school since I was ten years old, I wasn’t actually fluent. I arrived to Southampton and, when talking to my classmates, all English-native speakers, the only things that I understood were some words in between sentences, to which my answer was always a half-smile to make it seem that I had understood them.
Here a sunny day is unusual, in Barcelona it’s the norm
However, the lessons at the university – where I was warmly welcomed by both teachers and classmates from the beginning – together with several events and parties organised for Erasmus students, at which I met new people, helped me to improve my English. Now, as time has passed, I can hold a conversation without having to focus on what the other person is saying in order to understand them. I’ve started talking with more fluency and I think that my pronunciation is not unintelligible anymore.
What is more, apart from improving my English, living in a new country for a year – far away from family and childhood friends – helps one to mature, grow personally and professionally, take your own decisions and have an open mind.
Now I can say it: I wouldn’t change a thing about my experience in Southampton!