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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