By Danielle Ferguson
- For any student who gets the opportunity, studying abroad is one of the best things you’ll ever do. It’s the one chance you get to experience life in a new place, adopt a new culture, make new friends and become a “new” person, so to speak.
During the first semester of my third year I seized the chance to participate in the Erasmus programme and study at a Spanish university. Having studied Spanish since school I felt I could only learn so much of it in the UK; the key to grasping it was going to the native country – and so I did.
Working up until the day before I departed, I had no time to really consider what I was doing; that I would be living on my own and away from my family in a country that was not home and hardly speaking my mother tongue for months. However if i'd of had time to sit and think about it I would’ve found a way to talk myself out of it and miss out on an amazing one-time opportunity – plus if there’s ever the time to experience life it’s definitely during your time at university.
As expected my departure was emotional, with the reality of the situation hitting me as my parents and younger brother said goodbye to me at the gates and again when the plane took off. On arrival I felt sure that the years I’d studied Spanish would be enough to get around; surely after countless classes and one-on-one sessions with native speakers as teachers at secondary school, college and university I would be more than prepared – but was I wrong! Stepping off that plane was as if I’d stepped into another universe; here everyone spoke with such rapidness and ambiguity that I understood absolutely nothing. My first interaction was asking for directions for where to get the bus to get to the train station and I smiled and walked away having not understood a thing. Was it the bus to the left or right of me? Which stop should I get off? How would I get my ticket? I had no idea, but I found myself on the train to Córdoba from Seville where the real fun began…
I caught a taxi to the hotel I had earmarked and the receptionist asked if I had a booking. I hadn’t booked in advance as one of the Erasmus staff at the University of Córdoba had told me it wasn’t necessary, but the way the receptionist stared at me told me the complete opposite. He explained that it was full and that I should’ve booked but still full of energy and positivity I headed off in sight of another hotel – but the next hotel was full, and the next one, and the one after that. I have never seen the word “completo” so much in my life. Unbeknown to me there was a festival that weekend which was why all hotels were full, and as I trudged along the cobbled streets of Córdoba half dragging half pulling my heavy one-wheeled suitcase (one of the wheels were broken in transit from London to Seville) my heart sank and the realisation hit me: I was going to be homeless on my first night. I passed an alleyway, thinking that may be my bed for the night, and then saw a taxi up ahead and ran towards it. Thanks to a compassionate taxi driver I managed to find a place to stay for the next few days.
Despite my first night of trauma the time I spent in Córdoba was life-changing. Taking myself out of my comfort zone brought out the best in me; not only did my language skills and confidence flourish but I gained a deeper sense of independence, broadened my horizons and made lifelong friends that I still speak to – one of which I spent my 25th birthday with in Milan (can’t be bad). I returned home with a real sense of achievement, feeling like I had made the most of the experience by immersing myself into Spanish culture. Choosing a rural part of Spanish, living with Spanish flatmates and joining the University Volleyball team (in which I was the only non-native on the team) all forced me to speak Spanish, even when I didn’t want to, which was the main objective.
Ways Córdoba is different from London:
• small (you could walk to most places)
• rural (not very multicultural as population was a lot of natives)
• a mix of old and new architecture (fascinating and beautiful aesthetics)
Things about the university:
• great professors
• set in the middle of the Jewish square by the Mosque-Cathedral
• made amazing friends (hence many new cheap holiday destinations)
• infamous “botellóns” (parties)
• increased confidence in speaking ability
• first night, homesick (as I’d never lived alone)
• coming home (because I’d had such an amazing time
Find out more about Studying in Spain.
More information on study in the European Union.