Have I told you about my year abroad?

Image courtesy of Amelia Carpenter

Much to the annoyance of all my university friends, I have become a cliché. A person who just won’t shut up about their year abroad. Although my time was condensed into ten months, I had the most amazing experience.

I began my journey in Oviedo, Spain, where I spent the majority of my time socialising. The Erasmus Student Network (ESN) became the base of all my friends, as we’d have nights outs, trips and events. At first, I felt lonely and overwhelmed arriving in a foreign country by myself, knowing no one but the moment I joined ESN, I felt right at home. The people I met instantly became my family and were my rock through challenging times. They organised everything from trips to Madrid, wild nights out, movie nights, and weekly Tapas Tuesdays – my personal favourite and one event I never failed to miss.

Image courtesy of Amelia Carpenter

Choosing to study in a smaller city allowed me to meet so many amazing people from all over the world and on top of that, a not so no tourist hot-spot means lower prices.

Price wise, it was worth every penny. The Erasmus grant covered my rent and then the student loan paid for all the good times. I shared a central flat with four other Erasmus students only costing me 280 euros a month, all bills included. 12 Euros got you a three-course meal and a glass of wine at our local restaurant. You could even buy two shots of tequila for 1 euro if you were brave enough, which of course, I was.

My only regret would be not spending more time with native Spanish speakers. Of course, during classes – which are important, and you do need to attend them alongside all the fun – you listen to your lecturers and have brief conversations with peers, but it is not enough. Initially, I was too embarrassed to speak to Spanish people, in fear that they would judge and make fun of me for my language mistakes. I could not have been more wrong. As my confidence grew, I realised that my language skills were better than I gave them credit for.

The second part of my Year Abroad, however, was a totally different experience. Leaving the ‘young, wild, and free’ lifestyle behind, I travelled to Argentina and fully immersed myself into the culture, living with a small family in the centre of, Buenos Aires. Image courtesy of Amelia Carpenter

Things started off smoothly, as the mother introduced me to her private language institute where I would be helping teach English for the next five months. I also got to visit The Borough, a small destination just outside the capital, where I

ran English immersion camps with other volunteers like myself. At first, it was ideal; only working three hours a day, with one weekend a month playing games and doing crafts in the countryside with the children of the camp. I was able to explore Buenos Aires to the full. However, after three months it became a little tiresome having the same routine day-in day-out. The four-year-old boy I lived with turned from adorably cheeky to a whiny pain.

During my final month, I moved to my other supervisor’s flat and spent more time in her institute. Despite sharing a very small room with her two teenage daughters, I appreciated the change of scenery and company. I can’t complain though, as my accommodation and food were paid for and, above all, I got to travel throughout Argentina.

Ultimately, the purpose of a student’s year abroad is to develop your language skills. During my time, I travelled from the cold, mountainous southern region of Patagonia, to the most northern province of Jujuy, then to one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Iguazú Falls. On top of these wonderful experiences, my language skills improved dramatically.

Living in a different country is a challenge. You do feel lonely and overwhelmed at times, but the experiences and skills you gain outweigh the negatives. If you have the option to do a year abroad, go for it. It is not something that you will regret.

Image courtesy of Amelia Carpenter