Hola! My name is Annie, and I spent my Year Abroad in Madrid, Spain, where I worked in Recruitment for the first half, followed by Investment Strategies in Private Equity in the second. I also worked during the evenings as an English tutor to three young children to earn some extra money, by the end they were like family to me and helped me with my Spanish and taught me how to cook typical Spanish food. This photo was taken by Puerta de Alcalá, one of my favourite spots in Madrid, not only because it is right next to the Prado and Retiro, but because when I first arrived in the city, it immediately caught my attention. Choosing to go to Madrid was the best decision I made for my year abroad, not only because it is a bustling city, but because I was able to travel around Spain and Europe to visit my friends who were also on their year abroad. Before coronavirus hit, I was lucky enough to have went to Malaga, Venice, Paris, Bilbao and Milan. I would say to students going on their year abroad, travel travel travel! You will never have this time again and it will go by so quickly, that is what the student loan is for anyway!
‘Hi everyone, I’m Alexandra and I’m a final year Italian and Spanish student here at the University of Reading. My year abroad was split into two semester so I spent September to December in Bologna, Italy and February to July in Seville, Spain.
My photo is a partial skyline of Seville from the view over the Guadalquivir river. I wish I could capture the feeling I had taking that photo and the many times I walked over the bridges in Seville. The city completely captures you in it’s beauty and I was always completely mesmerised.
During my time in Seville, I studied at the University of Seville until quarantine was announced on March 14th, however, I made the, now, best decision of my life to stay there during the strict regulations of the lockdown. University abroad is always a whirlwind, there will certainly be times when you feel like pulling your hair out, especially when it comes to scheduling your own timetable (which was a massive surprise to me). In the end, I managed to find modules that didn’t all clash and I was interested in. Despite the tricky times and trying to get yourself understood, it pays off massively. The students in Seville were so welcoming and a couple offered to help me by sending me their notes of the classes!
Of course, we go on our year abroad to study/work and it is very rewarding, however the true Erasmus experience comes from making international connections. I was in a flat with 10 other Erasmus students from all over the world and, it’s safe to say, I have made friends for life. We all went through the struggles together of attempting to understand our teachers, waiters/waitresses and any person who tried to communicate with us in the thickest Andalucian accent! But once we got the hang of it, we felt so proud of ourselves
My first night in Seville, I went for a walk by the river at sunset whilst I called my mum and cried. They were tears from being so overwhelmed as I could not believe how lucky I was to live in such a beautiful place, it was nothing like anything I had ever seen before. Coming from a low income background, spending time abroad is not something I was widely exposed to and it really changed my life.
Seville is truly enchanting and I, normally, wouldn’t be so poetic but the city really takes hold of you. It is full of vibrant culture, stunning buildings and citizens who are always willing to help you. Every corner you turn, there is something new to look at or to learn about and there are a million places for impressive photo opportunities. My greatest advice, if you plan on going to Seville, would be to lose yourself in the city – go in the morning when it’s not a million degrees, and just walk around all the streets as you will discover so much, you will hear the natives communicating and just immerse yourself in the culture.’
Hey, I’m Harry West and I study Spanish and Economics. I was in Seville studying Filología Hispánica. It was something of a shock, Spanish taught in the classroom is something else to what is spoken on the street, and I remember thinking to myself “what on earth has 6 years of Spanish done for me?!”. But 12 months later here I am, with a great group of friends from all sides of the globe, from Mexico to Poland; and a Mexican-Sevilla-argentine accent. I wouldn’t look back and regret a thing.
Sevilla, the capital of Andalucía, is renowned for its flamenco, La Feria (a huge festival celebrated every May) and of course, Cristobal Colón. It is a city full of things to see and do, aquariums, a replica of the first ship to circumnavigate the globe is moored on the Guadalquivir, Las Setas gives you a panoramic view of the city, and of course, FC Sevilla, champions of the Europa league have its stadium there.
I lived just outside of the old town, so the Giralda was only 15 minutes away. I would recommend trying to live somewhere near the centre as this is where I spent most of my time with friends, in local bars and restaurants, and under normal circumstances, the nightclubs. Sevilla is well connected to the rest of the country, AVE can take you to Cordoba within 40 minutes, a bus can take you to the beach within an hour, and through ESN, you can get to Morocco within 4 hours.
The photo which came in at third place is the town of Chefchaouen in Northern Morocco. It is a beautiful town with almost every surface painted this rich sky blue. It was inhabited by Jewish people after their expulsion from Spain back in 1492 so it´s rich in history. For any cat lovers, this is the place to be. You go into a restaurant in the central plaza and you will have cats playing all around you. I also wouldn’t be too surprised if a few of the locals ask to have photos taken with you either, as this happened to me on multiple occasions for whatever reason that was. I made some great friends on this organised trip to Morocco, we had beautiful food and we even got to ride camels in the Sahara. It was amazing.
Some advice I would give to students who are going on their year abroad would be to make sure you sign up to ESN ASAP. They have probably already organised events for other Erasmus students before you even arrived, and this is how I met most of my social group, and how I went on this fantastic trip to Morocco.
Another piece of advice would be, don’t get too comfortable with other English speakers. I know it can be stressful trying to get involved in a conversation with other speakers, but, just swallow your pride and get in there. Even though you will be making mistakes, calling a drawer a cojón, they will find it funny and it´s an ice breaker.
So, whilst on your year abroad, sign up to ESN or another group that organises events for students, and get involved with locals or other Erasmus students, this is the only way you will improve your Spanish! Finally, jump at every opportunity that comes your way, be it an invitation to grab a coffee, go to the beach, or to go to Morocco, you only get this year to have these opportunities, so make the most of it!