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

¡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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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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Zero to Hero

Writing my first 50

So I’m rather new  to reading content on other blogs, but today I found this amazing blog about a boy with a hat, that everyone else has probably seen before; but if not it’s definitely worth a read!

I also found a related writing challenge and just could not resist having a go at it because I know how much I blab on when I blog. But I think I actually managed it, my first ever fifty word blog post.

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Zero to Hero

Today’s assignment: consider what you want to accomplish with your blog.

I blog because I find it hard to express myself to people in person. It’s definitely been a very handy tool for me when trying to arrange and process my own thought pattern. In all honesty I normally start with a phrase and then bulk up the post around that idea until hey, I’ve got enough material down that someone else might actually enjoy reading it, or trying to relate to how I feel. I like blogging because people don’t judge me. I feel I can talk about whatever I want to and no one is going to embarrass me by trying to discuss my rant of the month. Nobody can ‘dislike’ my posts and everyone here has always seemed very positive with their feedback. If my blog was  going to exceed my widest of dreams I’d post every day. I always feel better when I hit

POST.

It’s like I’ve grabbed a giant iron from the shelf and smoothed out the current problem that’s been eating away at me. I’d love to have followers, but I’d really just like people to like what I’m writing about. Or, if they don’t like it, I’d like them to tell me what I could change. So here are my three concrete goals that I want to achieve. 1. Post often. I always said I was going to try and make it at the very least I weekly thing! I want to be comfortable in the topics I  write about and then actually get round to writing about them. 2. Comment more. I always say I wish more people would comment of what I write, but then I think I’ve only ever posted a handful of comments on other peoples blogs. I’d like to comment more so people are encouraged to continue pleasing me with their blog posts. 3. Gain some followers. Because I’ve always been so hopeless at this on every other social networking site. I mean how do people actually become Facebook famous? It’s beside me. I’d like to gain more followers so I actually feel like people are pleased to read my blog posts. I already feel better for blogging, but I’d quite like people to say they’re backing me on this blogging journey, that they too are in it for the long run. So,

Let the challenge begin!

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40acts, Uncategorized

Day: 10- Talent Show

So today I had to post my list I made on day 3… Ermm, I already did that… Bit of a cop out? Anyway, I could at least still do the second part of the act so I chose to (admittedly indirectly) use my computer skills.

I always forget how hard it can be for older people to understand computers. I mean don’t get me wrong, I myself was not born in an age where everyone had one. I’m not even sure if my folks had a computer when I was born… I’d probably say they didn’t, although I do remember our first.

I was talking to my mum about it the other day and she said that we barely used it for the internet! I can barely believe it now, the internet is pretty much my life now, and I know my mum couldn’t live without it. She said the internet was connected to the phone bill? So you were charged more per minute or something, but I really have no recollection.

Anyway, my first computer spent its days in our study and it was a beast, absolutely huge! My favourite game was Noddy which you needed a disk for, and I loved painting pictures on, wait for it… Colour magic, anyone? However I did grow up learning or sort of self-teaching myself about computers, the internet and programs so I get on rather well with technology and I can normally figure something out in the end.

Now back to my day 10 act. I study Spanish and I’m time tabled to have conversational classes with a Spanish man, who I think would be in his latte fifties. Oh and bless him, he didn’t know that you could set a language preference on Word so every time he typed something in Spanish to his wife (or whoever) he’d battle with the computer to try and get it to stop changing his words.

I’d never noticed. I felt so bad it took less than 1 minute to save him hours of frustration and he was so grateful. Honestly, if someone had waited that long to tell me I’d have been so disappointed, but he was just so thrilled to have his problem solved.

So to all you people out there, who aren’t sure if they can set the world on fire with a small talent, just find the right person at the right time and they’ll see to the rest. Chin up and keep trying to make a difference!

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40acts

Day 9:- Listen actually

Well, I always said I was more of a listener than a talker, and it was time to put this to the test. It’s very difficult when you especially try and concentrate on what every individual you encounter is saying…

I wish I’d gone to see the man they had last year who sat on a settee in the middle of a town with his ‘I will listen sign’. I remember watching the footage of people having a good old chat with this friendly fellow and wishing I could just tell him all my problems.

Listen man

It’s funny though, even though I know he’d listen, I’d still wanted him to be interested, or give me dive… you know, prove to me he actually had listened? If I’d actually seen him, would I not just have walked on by? I hope I’d have admired you deeply for trying.

I found the second part of the act even more difficult, not to be judgemental. It’s something we all do when listening to a story, we take to facts and we store them and from them we form an opinion on a topic.

So unfortunately I-will-listen-sofa-man, my statement this year was alas, not quite as bold as yours, but after listening all day I was genuinely shocked by what some people have to say! So much for thinking I was already a good listener.

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