My Year Abroad

Week One?!

I had a pretty interesting time starting my classes at the Univeristy of Valencia. That is to say if within this sentence interesting is synonymous to horrific, confusing, scary and wanting-to-tear-my-hair-out. But hey, it’s just a timetable (although I wouldn’t have said that to myself at the time of the experience!) and I feel that having the past two weeks to organise my thoughts on this enormous first-world problem have been invaluable. For any of you wondering if I made it through this difficult time, it is okay, I pulled through it.

My main problem centred around the fact that I had wanted to be organised and prepared for my year abroad. At the beginning of August, when timetabled classes were released, I had spent a pair of afternoons trying to squeeze the lessons I wanted to study into as few days as possible. According to this timetable, I would’ve been able to have both Monday and Friday off and I was, I must say, very pleased with my efforts. I checked it thrice before saving my class numbers on my laptop. I left for Spain on the 20th August, pleased with my future timetable and unsuspecting of the problems that lay ahead…

I was an idiot for not checking that the class times hadn’t changed before I went to enrol in early September. To be honest, I think it was a combination of being so proud of how well my timetable had worked out and not wanting to have to spend another few hours working on it; I thought if I ignored it and assumed it to be right it just would be, surely? Or, if not, they would at least inform me of this during my enrollment, right…?

Wrong. Well for me it was wrong anyway. They did, to an extent, warn us of some timetable troubles we were trying to enrol ourselves into. My friend Tom was trying to take a class in Valencian and the lady politely asked him if he knew how to speak Valencian to which he replied no, he could not. You could say that it would have been impossible for him to take this class; impossible in the sense that how could he possibly enrol in a class where he wouldn’t understand a thing he was saying? However, impossibility didn’t seem to help me. It was only five days later, as I went to check the room where I would be having my evening class on Tuesday afternoon that I realised I did, in fact, have a class on Monday morning at 9 am, 8 hours from that moment in time. But to make matters even worse, I realised that out of the six classes I had signed up for, three would have a lecture at 15:30 on Wednesday afternoon.

Horrified, after finishing my class on Monday, I quickly made my way the International Office where I was met with the biggest hurdle of this entire experience. After braving the 4-hour queue, and being the final person to be seen before the office shuts at 14:00 (Yes, everyone behind me had to come back tomorrow) I was told that I cannot change any of my timetabled classes until 1st October.

Don’t ask me why because I don’t know why. Their advice was to go to the other classes that I wanted to be in and ask  permission to stay in the class.  I was warned that the teachers could also tell me that no, their class is full and as I failed to register for this class, I would be unable to attend it. Luckily, all of the members of staff that I approached permitted me to become a member of their class. It has to be said that the staff members did get progressively friendlier when I asked to be in their class. The response went from ‘How did this happen? Fine. Okay. Do X, email X and always be here,’ to ‘Wow you’re English, this is fantastic, we’d love you to join!’

They also informed me that I must wait until October until I can access any of the documents on the virtual classroom. This meant that I had to ask all the teachers for any information that they uploaded to be emailed to me until last Friday. In my final class of the week,  a fellow student explained to one of my teachers that she could manually enrol me. This meant that without me having to wait until October she could put me into her class and I could finally just access the documents from home like a regular person. The process was so simple, taking the whole of two minutes, with no 4-hour queue or waiting until October! I guess the International Office just likes to keep this a secret so we don’t go around pestering the teachers so they will enrol us within their class. Although, I have to admit; I’ve definitely pestered all of my teachers far more than these two minutes by asking them to email me everything.

So yes, I am alive, well and attending class. I’ve also had a lot of fun going to events and parties but unfortunately find it difficult to recount them quite as vividly as my daytime experiences.

I am having an absolutely wonderful time and even experiences like this are just helping to develop me as a person, improving my Spanish speaking skills as well as making me wiser and stronger. I did not nearly die, get sued or go to jail. At one point I was sure I’d make it, I know, but week three is officially here and I am looking forward to officially enrolling in the remainder of my classes on October 1st.

Para días grises, paraguas de colores: for grey days, colourful umbrellas.

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My Year Abroad

Barcelona

Barcelona was a city of dreams. I’ve never been in a place where the people are so friendly, relaxed and welcoming. There was also excellent food, spectacular buildings and  I had plenty of opportunities to practice my Spanish.

We booked our accommodation via Air B & B and it worked out a lot cheaper than even a hostel would have been. It was also in a prime location, in the middle of everything that we would see during our visit.

Our hosts were a Mexican couple and nothing we asked was too much trouble. They are, in part, the reason why our trip was so successful.

Before we even arrived, they were eager to share details of what were, in their opinion, the best Barcelona attractions. This meant that before we even got there I could research, plan and book how we were going to spend our holiday.

Booking was an absolute blessing for all of the Gaudí tours. Online, you can buy ‘skip the queue’ tickets which allow you to enter the building at a certain time and avoid the monster of a line at the ticket office. It was so much less stressful to be able to know that at 11:30 you would be in Park Guell and by 14:00 you would probably be finished there and could move on to the next attraction.

Apart from the Gaudí attractions, everything else we decided to do during our four days there was free.

Our greatest find whilst in Barcelona was definitely The Bunkers. Following a map, we managed to climb to one of the highest points in Barcelona. The Bunkers were difficult to find, the map seemed to point to roads that didn’t exist but then, just as we were about to turn back, I noticed a sign at the bottom of a set of steps.

Fuelled by curiosity, we continued our climb until we arrived at the most breath-taking view I have even seen in my life; a full 360-degree view of Barcelona with even the Sagrada Familia as a tiny blob in a sea of buildings.

We also went to explore las Ramblas, a long strip within Barcelona where there are stalls selling souvenirs and then, hidden on the left is a large market where they sell all types of delightful food. We bought portable fruit salad and Gazpacho Andaluz and began browsing the many items each stall had on display.

Next, we visited the gothic part of Barcelona, home to the famous Barcelona Cathedral.  Stupidly, I hadn’t realised that the Cathedral would have a strict dress code and that my sleeveless dress and Sophie’s backless top would never be acceptable attire, regardless of the 33-degree heat just outside.  However, the exterior of the cathedral still served as an interesting contrast to the Sagrada Familia that we saw earlier that day.

The Sagrada Familia was wonderful. I didn’t think that I would love it quite so much as I did. The inside also really does look like a forest. I find it really hard to comment on the beautifully complex architecture but information points told me what I already knew; Gaudí used nature to create this wonderful masterpiece and took advantage of all the spectacular things that he believed God created.

You cannot capture the magic of that place in neither video nor photograph, although many tourists, including myself, were trying their best with the cameras, mobiles, and tablets. It was a very busy place, but I think that is what Gaudí would have wanted. Having dedicated the last few years of his life to this breath-taking place I was glad that there were thousands of people milling around trying to capture some of its beauty.

Park Guell is also spectacular. You can enter a part of it for free but the main part, with the famous salamander, has ticketed entry. Again, the park is very natural and you can see many elements of nature in it, including the many tree-like structures that are dotted all around the park.

Travel to the city wasn’t too costly either. We used Bla Bla Car on our journey both to and from Barcelona. It was a really relaxing experience and we were lucky enough to find someone who would drop us off directly at our door when the tiredness and holiday blues were slowly starting to sink in.

Barcelona was even better than I thought it would be, I can only dream that one day I’ll get to go back and do it all again.

 

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My Year Abroad

¡Welcome to Valencia!

I have arrived in Valencia!

The beach is beautiful, the sun is bright and I don’t think I’ve ever been so warm in my life. I’m currently in Cullera, a small town near Valencia, with my soon-to-be housemate Alex. I’m staying with her and her family and so far, it has been incredible. You can’t imagine how lucky I have been to end up in contact with Alex.

I had every intention of travelling alone to Spain, staying in a hostel and then trying to find somewhere to live. However, over the summer, whilst working in a hotel, one of the managers (and also one of my ex-Spanish teachers) told me that his niece was looking for another girl to share the flat she had rented in Valencia. I couldn’t believe my luck; Alex is the same age as me and is going to be studying minutes away from where I have my law lectures. So, on the 20th of August I left my parents at East Midlands Airport and began a much easier journey than the one I planned when I booked my flight.

Alex lives is Cullera, a small town that is a short distance from Valencia. Her Uncle invited me to stay at her family house for two days but, as they didn’t want me to be alone in the flat, I have been invited to stay until my course starts.

After being picked up from the airport by Alex and her parents, we went straight to her house. They only have two bedrooms, Alex’s and her parents, and after knowing Alex for only a few hours I ended my first night sleeping beside her in her double bed.

Alex speaks some English but we only speak in Spanish, apart from the occasional word when I’m struggling with something and she knows the translation. I think we’re going to be excellent friends and I’m glad she’s so friendly and chatty. By day four we had done almost all I had dreamed of doing, we’d shopped, been to the beach and even visited a pool in a complex where one of her friends lives.

I am very, very thankful to Alex and her parents for allowing me to stay with them. Above all, Alex has been excellent in letting me tag along with her whenever she goes somewhere. Her family have been amazing. They’ve paid for my meals when I’ve been invited to eat out with them, they’ve cooked for me, and have made such an amazing effort to make me feel welcome and help me improve my Spanish.

Quite a few  of Alex’s friends have asked me what I like most about Cullera and I stand by the answer I first gave when someone asked me the question; the family-orientated culture that the town possess is incredible. Alex’s family all have houses within 5 minutes of each other and without warning the randomly agree to meet somewhere for breakfast within the next ten minutes. Everyone, from Alex’s great grandma to her nephew all meet if they’re available and just spend time talking to each other. As a guest in their house, I’ve always been invited to join them and have loved feeling like an extra cousin in this wonderful family.

A year abroad comes with many new experiences but also many challenges. It’s been an interesting week with lots of changes but I’m definitely enjoying everything Valencia has offered me so far!

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My Year Abroad

Hasta luego querida​ amiga <3

Dear Leah,

I can’t believe that I have to leave you. I am almost waiting for you to ring me up, even if it’s right before I go, and tell me that you’ve changed courses and are now moving to Spain for a year to build upon your GCSE Spanish.

I can’t believe you’ll be gone when I get back. I cling to the fact that you’ll be applying for a master degree at Nottingham and be phoning me to tell me all about the arrangements we’ll have to make for yet another year of living together.

Has it really been two years since that day you arrived with your Mum, Dad, and Jess and decorated out your little shoe box of a room? Since the night we took that famous Broadgate Park photo in the photo booth with Josh, Bussey, and Paulina during the welcome talk? I almost cannot believe it but we’ve both changed so much that I guess that all that time must have passed. Anyhow, I think you’ve read enough of my essays for it to definitely feel like two years for you!

I can promise you Skype calls, cheap holidays to Valencia and my undying love for you but even these would not come close to amounting to all of the help, guidance, advice, and support that you have provided me with over these past two years.

Leah, you are my best friend and I truly do not know what I am going to do without you this year. You are the most selfless, bubbly, optimistic person I have ever met. The impression that you have  left upon my life is immeasurably large and ever growing. I have to admit it, sometimes I even feel a little sick when you call me your best friend because I still can’t comprehend that you actually like me that much.

I wish you all the best for your third year in Notts and I will see you very soon.

Katie x

XTPN6579

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University Life

Why the University of Nottingham was #MeantToBe

From the moment I started Sixth Form College, I knew I wanted to do a degree in law. I was, however, torn between perusing a legal degree career or instead dedicating myself to a degree in Spanish and then doing a conversion course.

I want to say that on discovering that the University of Nottingham had a renowned Law with Spanish and Spanish Law BA degree that I knew then that it was meant to be, but that wouldn’t be true. I spent a long time chasing dreams of attending Oxford. It was only after I received a rejection from Oxford, after having an interview, that I really began to focus on other universities.

I had applied to Nottingham on a whim; the University came up as offering a Law and Spanish degree when I did a frantic, last-minute Google search to find other, ‘top for law,’ Russel Group Universities that offered such a course. When Nottingham was displayed at the top of the list, I added it as my final university on my UCAS form and then submitted the form immediately afterwards. I hadn’t even looked at the course content or the University’s campus!

The University of Nottingham was the last university to offer me a place. Before making my final decision, about which University I would like to attend, I booked a place on a UoN open day in May 2014.

Upon arriving at the University of Nottingham I was astounded by the vibrancy of the green campus, a haven surrounded by a busy city, and I immediately felt that this was the university for me. I’d already visited the other Universities that I had listed on my UCAS form, prior to submitting my application, and not a single campus could compete with Nottingham’s. The students, staff, everyone on campus had been so friendly.

As soon as I got home from that open day, I confirmed the University of Nottingham as my first choice. As the offer’s entry requirements were lower than the offers I had received from every other, (another amazing aspect of my application!) I had to decline all my other offers. So I guess that was when the University of Nottingham was officially meant to be.

I’m a little embarrassed to say that a Google search changed my life. But I do know that if that search had displayed any other top search result I would never have found the University of Nottingham, the university that was meant for me.

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Uncategorized

Univesity Expectations – #3

Total Freedom.

Night-long parties,

Sleeping late,

Living alone and no parents.

Never missing school,

Endless days studying a favourite subject,

Plenty of time before the deadline.

Lacking fresh milk,

or fresh food completely.

A few arguments over dirty plates.

The Social outings,

More partying,

The best 4 years of my life?

 

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50-Word Stories

The Harbour – #2

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He said he loved the harbour;

That the gathering of boats

Stretching infinitely out of sight,

Like hundreds of soldiers before battle,

Brought order to his chaos-stricken life.

The harmony of sea and sky formed

peace

Along with the reflection in the water,

Where he could see our hands intertwined.

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