Reflections on a Year Abroad in France and Spain

Bonjour/Hola/Olá/Hi, I’m Robyn and I study BA Modern Languages (French and Spanish with Portuguese) at Sheffield. I’m currently on my 3rd Year Abroad as an Erasmus student: I studied at L’Université de Perpignan last semester in France and now I am currently at La Universidad de Salamanca, Spain.

Perpignan, centre ville

Perpignan city centre

This post is an introduction to what I have experienced so far on my Year Abroad. It has had its fair share of highs and lows but I am very grateful to have had this enriching opportunity to live and study abroad as part of my degree at UoS.

It’s difficult to know where to start, especially as so much has happened in the last eight months: I moved abroad not just once, but twice, I have got to call two new cities “home,” even if just for a short while, I have been thrown into two different cultures and languages, made friends from around Europe and beyond, and managed to travel to more places than I can count. Still, there is some university work thrown in there – classes and exams in a foreign language can be stressful!

Salamanca

View of the Cathedral from the Roman Bridge, Salamanca

Being able to spend my Year Abroad in two countries, although it was obligatory for my degree course, has been particularly great because I have been able to do all of the above and more! However, after only four months living in France, I had already grown slightly very sentimental; even now, I miss speaking French daily, going to my local boulangerie and spending time with the friends I made, who are still all there in Perpignan this semester, without me. Still, I am having a fantastic time in Salamanca, and the opportunity to change my surroundings again in February, gave me a second fresh start during my Year Abroad. The university (which can be described as the Oxford of Spain) is absolutely beautiful, extremely organised and clean and it puts my university in France to shame (sorry France). My Spanish is definitely getting there, I don’t know how, but I think it’s because of all the tapas I have consumed – breathing Spanish culture!

The inner courtyard of the Languages department!

The inner courtyard of the Languages Faculty, Salamanca

The two universities, as you could probably deduct from above, have provided me with very different experiences. Still, the locations for both have been incredible for travel and I have improved my French and Spanish, which has been the main goal for this whole Year Abroad thing from the beginning!

In France, Erasmus students at our university were treated rather like aliens, especially as the teachers never seemed to know what to do with us. When the teacher mentioned “Ahh! Mes étudiantes Erasmus!” a little too enthusiastically in class, the rest of the students would turn to me and my friend, like they did not know of our existence until that moment, staring at us blankly. I did everything I could to blend in – this included wearing skinny jeans and woolly jumpers in 30 degree heat when all I wanted was a t-shirt, shorts and flipflops. How they manage this is beyond me. Still, making friends with local students was anything but easy and it is more often than not less hassle to stay in the “Erasmus bubble.”

Coming to Salamanca, one of the major “student cities” of Spain, there are thousands of students here and so many of them are international, which means I don’t feel out of place. There were only 50 Erasmus students at my university in France which made us a rare breed amongst the 3,000 students found on campus. Salamanca has definitely been more prepared for its Erasmus students, and I am quite shocked by how smoothly everything has gone until now after the drama of last semester. There is still time though!

Plaza Mayor, Salamanca

Plaza Mayor, Salamanca

So what’s happening now?

Well, it’s the final countdown. I only have seven more weeks in Spain before I fly back to the UK – it has come round so fast. Albeit, it is only going to be for a month before I go to Lisbon to take a Portuguese summer course in July. What is most shocking is that I only have three more weekends free of travel before exam season arrives, and I have to swap uncomfortable coach journeys at ungodly hours for revision. I, along with many other Year Abroaders, admit to having caught the travel bug!

Me on a trip up north to Bilbao during Semana Santa (Easter)

Me on a trip up north to Bilbao during Semana Santa (Easter)

The next two weekends I am heading south, first to Mérida in Extremadura to see some of the most impressive Roman ruins found in Spain today. Then, I’m heading to Sevilla and Granada which I’m extremely looking forward to.

I blog reguarly at robynbobbingaroundeurope if you would like to read more about my Year Abroad adventures.

Until next time,

Robyn

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One response to “Reflections on a Year Abroad in France and Spain

  1. Pingback: All Good Things Must Come to an End | Global opportunities·

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