A Letter from The University of Alcala: Journey


Finally I’m strapped into my seat on a packed out plane hours away from my Year Abroad in España; Kindle in one hand and a bag of Haribo in the other, I quietly survey the clumsy mis-communication about baggage allowance between some impatient Spaniards and some uni-lingual easyJet flight attendants.

For some reason there was enough room on board for a bistro and a gift shop filled with easyJet Teddy Bears yet not enough space for every passenger to store their luggage in the overhead lockers. Go figure the logic of that. The Spanish lady next to me was opening her 50 Shades translation and others were relaxing into the purposefully uncomfortable cabin chairs. All I was worried about was getting my generous 17kg hand luggage into the locker without having to pitifully ask the help of a chivalrous young man. Luckily I gathered the strength from somewhere and despite nearly knocking myself out when removing it, my journey was rather successful.

I was peaceful. At long last. And yet after a two year build up everything seemed so surreal. The airport was calm and passengers moved about in blurs. Every snippet of conversation was in Foreign, which rekindled my passion for languages and spurred me onto the plane. I moved through it all without turbulence except a few family tears at the “goodbye gate”. Now seated on the plane I felt entirely trapped in a time warp with no way of turning back and no idea what would happen when this rickety plane landed on Spanish soil. Suddenly all I could think of was the size of my carbon footprint. For a language student I guess there’s no choice. Perhaps I’ll plant a tree somewhere.

It was an amazingly clear evening and I surveyed what seemed like the whole world and its atmospheres from my window seat. We flew over the gem that is the Isle of Wight and my heart pulled as I remembered many a bike ride there; the cars as beetles below us carried on their daily lives oblivious to my adventures until we were so anonymous we became parallel with the clouds: so fluffy and majestic inviting the oranges and purples of a European sunset. Magnificent.

During the flight I quickly built up a list of things I had forgotten: toothpaste, sleeping bag, writing paper, Spanish vocabulary, the preterit tense… I wasn’t too worried because I’d already got a place to stay for a month with a delightful Christian family who were meeting me at the airport! Looking back it was the biggest relief to collapse into the arms of my new Colombian Mama who helped me on the 45 minute bus journey from Madrid to Alcala de Henares, showed me to her flat and even fed me supper before allowing me to rest in an overly tired slumber for the next twelve hours.

#MyAdvice. Before you fly: 1. Book accommodation, 2. Get someone to meet you at the airport/ plan your journey to the very last detail. 3. Revise your language! 4. Pack your best loved things, for example photographs, marmite, tea bags, a few grammar books and an adaptor. 5. Bring enough euros for at least a month’s rents plus transport costs and food (approximately €400).


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