For those of you who weren’t previously aware, I’m currently studying for an MA in French and Spanish at the University of Glasgow and I’ve just spent my third year abroad working as an English language assistant in Alcalá de Guadaíra just outside Sevilla in southern Spain. It’s now been almost a week since I flew back to sunny (ha!) Scotland, so I thought it was time to briefly round up my year abroad, so here goes…
Things I learned
Most people are inherently kind if you ask for help politely. But be careful about playing the hapless foreigner card…don’t let yourself be taken advantage of because you can’t speak a second language as well as your native one.
People in Spain stare. A lot. Especially if you’re not in a big city and you’re walking about speaking English. Sometimes in confusion, sometimes in pity, sometimes in curiosity. It varies. Not necessarily a bad thing.
I am a lot more independent and patient and laid-back than I previously gave myself credit for. I mean, I knew I was fairly independent prior to moving abroad due to having not lived at home since I was 18 (now 24, for context), but there’s something about not living in the same country as pretty much the entire rest of your support network (family, friends, etc) that kinda forces you to become even more independent. Also knew I was fairly patient and laid back prior to this (even though prone to anxiety, apparently I’m good at hiding that from other people…not sure if that’s a good thing), but I didn’t raise my voice or lose my temper once while working this year. Sure, I wanted to, but I was able to remain chill enough not to.
Things I’ll miss about Spain (besides the people I met, obvs)
The weather!!! As I’m writing this, it’s currently 14 degrees and pouring. Welcome home, right?!
The food. Specifically how cheap it is. See also: three euro mojitos.
The rubbishy telly. Special shout out to Pasapalabra, Cámbiame, and First Dates.
Things I definitely won’t
That feeling when I can’t say what I want to say in either English or Spanish and it somehow comes out in French instead and none of the people in the conversation (myself included) are really sure why and we’re all very confused. This happened more than I care to admit.
Here’s hoping by the time I go to France/a French-speaking country around April next year, I’m confident enough in both languages not to confuse them. We’ll see…
Five second pauses in conversation as I try to figure how to say what I want in Spanish and make sure it’s 100% correct. Yeah, I know, this is kind of my own fault for being such a perfectionist. Also it’s nice to know that this did actually get a lot better as the year went on.
So, how was the year? Good experience? Bad? Did my Spanish improve? Were there any major disasters or awkward moments? Should I now abandon the last two years of my degree because I’m now completely fluent and don’t need university anymore?
Well, yes, the year was a good experience. And yes, my Spanish definitely improved noticeably (to me, at least), but I’m gonna continue with my last two years of studies, thanks. No major disasters, but plenty of awkward moments. One stand out: my landlord is replacing the light bulbs in the kitchen ceiling and asks me to pass him a cuchillo to get the glass covering off, I open the cutlery drawer and deliberate for a good ten seconds before handing him a spoon, he glances at me with a look of pity and jokingly shouts ‘knife’ in English. Dammit.