I studied abroad for a year

Dom Martin studied in Valencia, Spain, for a year as an Erasmus exchange student. He tells The Mix about his experiences away from home.

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boy in valencia spain

Fact: Sunshine helps your degree...probably

As part of my Spanish degree, I had to spend the third year of my course studying in Spain or Latin America. At the start of second year, we were given a talk on studying abroad and a list of possible destinations. I wanted to go to a big city with a lively nightlife and a beach, so the University of Valencia, which was my first choice, sounded like the perfect option. I soon began to find out as much about Valencia as I could and I got in touch with a girl from my uni who was living in Valencia to get a few tips. She was very helpful, telling me where the best places to live were, and more importantly the best bars!

Arriving in Valencia

My course didn’t actually start until the end of September, but I flew out to Valencia a few weeks in advance to sort out my accommodation. The first thing I did on arrival was to go to the International Students Office. They gave me a welcome pack and told me the things I needed to do in the next few days, such as contacting my personal tutor and getting a copy of the module list. The most important thing was to find somewhere to live. I bought myself a Spanish mobile, and equipped with the flat list from the university accommodation office, I began to make some calls to landlords.

I was very lucky with my accommodation. The second flat I looked at was perfect. It was a modern, well-furnished flat a five minute walk from uni and I’d be living with a Spanish brother and sister, Alejandro and Paula. It was also just around the corner from the Valencia football ground, so I had very much landed on my feet. I moved in two days later and it was a good feeling to have a place sorted out without too much hassle. It was strange at first living with people I didn’t know and we were all dealing with new circumstances as Alejandro and Paula were both in their first year of university. They were both a bit younger than me; Paula was 18 and Alejandro 19, but we still got along well. They were very friendly and welcoming – I even had my washing done for me when their parents came to visit! Alejandro and Paula were also very forgiving of my numerous mistakes with the language, but the more and more I practised, the better my language became.

Starting my course

Two weeks later, I registered for my course and started going to lectures. It was really difficult to concentrate at first, and I could only really pick up on bits and pieces. Over time though, as my Spanish improved, it became a lot easier and a lot more interesting. I made friends with the other Erasmus students in my classes. It was difficult to get to know the Spanish students as most of them had already formed their own groups of friends and stuck to them. I did meet a few friendly Spanish people, but the vast majority of my friends were other exchange students. On reflection, I think the best way to make friends with the local students is either to involve yourself in one of the sports teams or to go to the Erasmus society at your uni and meet locals from your destination before you go.

Coping whilst abroad

I didn’t really experience too much of a culture shock as I learnt a lot about the country through my degree, but there were a few things that still took me by surprise, such as the laid back attitude of the people. It meant life moved in general at a slower pace, which could be frustrating at times, but I soon grew to love it.

I didn’t miss home too much as I kept in contact with family and friends online through Skype. It was also easy to get a cheap flight back for the weekend if I fancied a weekend of home comforts. However, I was almost always busy so never really dwelled on homesickness for long. My family came over a few times to visit and it was always good to have a fresh perspective on the city as they would appreciate things about Valencia I hadn’t noticed or took for granted.

I have many fond memories of Valencia; the days spend sunbathing on the beach, the gorgeous food, the all-night partying and the festivals. I’ll definitely go back for a weekend with all the friends I made out there and I hope to keep in touch with my Spanish friends too. I thoroughly recommend studying abroad, and although it may seem tough early on, the chances are you’ll have a great time.

Photo of student in Spain by shutterstock and posed by model

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015