The Reality of Erasmus

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The awkward moment when you turn up in Spain homeless…

Everybody’s Erasmus journey starts differently; mine began on a bit of a whim. My friend forced me to go to the meeting and, minutes before the deadline, I had a ‘what the hell’ moment and sent in an application.

Now I’m sat in the library of the Universitat de Barcelona.

I must admit, it was perhaps not wise to determine half of my second year on a whim, but hey, at least it was exciting. The friend who had once belligerently coerced me into going to the meeting, never actually applied; this was a completely independent mission and I was definitely taking it too lightheartedly.

I got swept away with the application, and after a manic summer gallivanting round South East Asia, I suddenly found myself on the eve of my flight. Trying to work out how to tell my mother I still didn’t know where I would be living was preoccupying me; sadly Spanish universities don’t organise housing in the slightest, there are no Halls of Residence, and I had been forewarned not to pay a deposit for anywhere without seeing it. A city full of students searching for apartments made easy targets.

In terms of my mother, I was imagining a scene of raised voices and disappointment at most, but in reality it was so much worse. My darling mother, in floods of tears, practically held me hostage. The trials of being the youngest. Trying to convince my mother, and myself, that it would all work out fine when I got out there, I set off.

It was not all fine when I got out there. I seemed to have idealistically forgotten that I spoke no Spanish, was terrified of flying, homeless, and easily daunted. I arrived in Barcelona with a suitcase big enough to live in if all else failed and hand luggage I couldn’t lift. After chucking my suitcase down the escalator and nearly killing an innocent poor old Spanish man, I decided maybe my crass English ways just wouldn’t cut it for the chic Spanish.

To cut a long and stressful story short, after arriving on a Wednesday, I was moving into an apartment on the Friday. This was it; I was officially LIVING in Barcelona! My apartment was lovely, I lived with 3 other people and it was in the street next to the famous Sagrada Familia, what could be better right…

Except this big city was starting to engulf me. I could see splattered all over Facebook my friends jollying about and I was, dare I say it, starting to miss my small provincial Dorset country life. I felt like the city was drowning me and for the first time in my life I felt desperately home sick. I was on the edge of just jacking it in and returning to Southampton.

Then I had a wakeup call. Was I really, really, missing Jesters and British weather?! Ok, of course I was missing Jesters. And not only Jesters, I also missed proper bacon. And kettles. Spain, universally, has NO kettles. Making tea in a saucepan was starting to wear thin.

However, despite the kettle, and the bacon, and all the lovely people in England, I realized I was one of those very few lucky people who got to live in a different and outstandingly beautiful European city. I had the beach one side and the mountains the other. The art was amazing, the shops were even better, and the university was something I’d only expect at an Oxbridge college. Oranges even grow in the courtyards – how novel! I’d met some lovely people, in fact I hadn’t met anyone who was anything but charming. The world became simultaneously smaller, because I knew that I could go anywhere now, and yet it also opened up indefinitely… jeez, I had a philosophy of positivity!

There is a definite motive to this article. I know that the first wave of applicants for Erasmus are going through and I must say the amount of British people out here is poor; we definitely need to start representing ourselves on a European scale. Here, it is practically standard for people to speak 5 languages fluently, yet they seem to have a sympathetic nod when I say I’m from England. In such a crazy competitive job market and unstable economic climate, anything that puts you above your peers is great! We are young, we have the opportunity to live in a heaving multicultural city, to experience another culture and hopefully learn a language, plus WE GET PAID. Come of guys, surely it’s a no brainer?

I would encourage this experience to anybody and everybody. There are six different universities in Barcelona so there is never a shortage of parties and everybody is so friendly. I can’t remember ever learning more about myself and others in such an intense and short period of time.

Sometimes when I’m hurrying about between making dinner, meeting people for coffee, or being all sophisticated and reading on the metro, I realize that without even noticing I have built my life in this city. I call this place home now; Barcelona will always have a part of me.

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