Within this blog post I will be talking about my year in Madrid. The countless experiences that I have had throughout the year that’s helped me grow and feel a lot more prepared about my final year and leaving university. I will be breaking this into 3 parts. Each part will be reflecting on each term that I have completed out here in Madrid, talking about specific encounters and an overall summary of the year.
1st Term (Sept – Dec)
The first term out of all of them was the one that probably would stand out the most, from the shock of living aboard for the very first time, to visiting new and wonderful places whilst meeting so many amazing people. Being able to live free and how you want to in a completely different country was some what liberating. Being able to depend on no one else but yourself was sometimes quite scary but something that I have come to love. It’s easy being at home relying on mum or the people around you to get things done, but out here when you first move out, you can’t, you’re thrown in at the deep end. It’s something that you have to adapt to very quickly (which is ten times harder when you can’t speak the native language). You have two options in this situation, you either face it head on or you can shy away and go home. I’m not saying that I never had second thoughts within the first few weeks here in Madrid because I did, it was at times hard, but you come to love the place and settle down. I’m glad I stuck the first few weeks out here, because they shaped the rest of the year for me and made me realize that I can achieve what I set out to do when I applied back in March of 2016 sitting in my student house on a dull grim day in Coventry.
What helped me the most were my flat mates. Like me they were Erasmus students. There was a wide range of nationalities in the flat. We had two Dutch students, one polish, one Belgium and one Spanish. It sounds like a start of a bad joke. But these people taught me so much that I didn’t know before. Living on a tiny little island for 20 years of my life and being my ignorant self I thought I knew a lot about the world. But how wrong I could be. Just from these 4 different nationalities I learnt so many things that school or education couldn’t teach you about the problems these countries have faced in the past and the wonderful places within them. From learning basic words in their languages to eating some of there well known dishes I was extremely grateful to meet these people and the things that I have learnt and taught them will stay with me for a very long time.
Before going out to Madrid when choosing my modules I wanted to try something new, something out of my comfort zone. Many people that I had spoke to before coming out were choosing modules that we had already done in Coventry. This confused me because I wanted to do something I hadn’t done before. So that when I leave I could take the skills that I had learnt into the real world, the skills that Coventry University couldn’t teach me. In Coventry I study media production but the three modules I chose to pick up in the first term were Ecommerce, it was about setting up our own online brand/company. Which helped me learn about business management and what it takes to get a company off the ground. The other course combined this one and taught me about management values and what resources you need to start a business up, and how to create a business plan from scratch. The final one was my favourite, this was about logo design. A real company came in and asked us to create a logo that they would use for their company, which was great. I learnt a lot about new software that I wouldn’t of ever of used without this class and how to work with an actual client. That was one thing that was very important for me going out to Madrid. Not only learning about different cultures, meeting new people and travelling the world, it was vital for me to gain new skills that I could directly apply to a job in the future.
There were times during the first trimester that I did struggle on the course compared to other people that studied the course full time in the country that they came from and I knew going into them that it wasn’t going to be plain sailing. There were many challenges that I faced in class that I had to overcome, such as the first few tasks in the logo design module, I had never used the software ‘Adobe Illustrator’. We had to create a quick idea for a logo, it took people a lot quicker to complete the task than it did for me. I was slightly embarrassed but as time went on I learnt the software and other students went out of their way to help me. Again very similar to my flat mates I made a close bond with people in this class. A mixture of Europeans from France, Italy and Belgium. It was great meeting new people from different countries and learning the experiences in their home country and what they think of the UK. With this small group I would visit different places around Madrid, mainly different restaurants and tapas bars to find the best food from our countries. Sadly the friends that I had made in this term all left in December and wouldn’t be returning in January, which was another learning experience for me. Which leads me onto the second term in my crazy year abroad.
2nd Term (Jan – April)
Starting this term I thought would be great, energising and full of excitement, but it didn’t turn out this way. Well at least for the first few weeks anyway. It was like groundhog day. Coming back majority of the friends that I had made had left and gone back to their home countries to carry on with their studies, which meant that I would have brand new flat mates which is always daunting and new class mates. One of the biggest lessons that I had learnt about this term was about adjustments. Adjustments to everyday life. In the previous term I had an amazing time but going 15 weeks without going home was difficult at times for myself. To go back at Christmas and see family and friends was amazing. To be back in a place where people understand me. A place where I fitted in. A place where I could be myself without any cultural differences. The three weeks were amazing and at the end I didn’t want to go back. But I thought to myself ‘I’ve done it before, it’ll be easy going back’. But when I first arrived back I struggled, I got use to home life and the comforts it gave me. From the food, to having an endless supply of clean clothes, the simple things.
This was the only time in the whole year where I seriously considered going home for good. But as time went on I got back into my routine and met my new flat mates and course mates and started new courses just like I did when I first arrived in September. One thing that really helped me within this term was the adjustment time. I was then able to go into unknown situations without feeling anxious or worried. I learnt to take things on the chin and just carry on. Because the one thing that I thought throughout was ‘I’ve come this far’. When silly little things like building work waking me up every morning at 7AM, or disagreements with the new flat mates or problems with the courses at my University , even to the flood in my flat which destroyed a lot of belongings I was able to brush it aside and carry on with ease. Throughout this term I felt I was understanding more about the cultural differences due to the people that I was around. A group of friends and I would play football in the main square in which is known as Madrid’s poorest area and one with the highest crime rates. I couldn’t feel safer there, it really does feel like a community and we were apart of it. When we would play we would have people joining in and wanting to know whom the strange foreign people were, who were playing football in their square. From men to kids and even the occasional dog, everyone was friendly and very welcoming. It was also interesting to see that in the evenings of the weekend everyone would come out into the square, socialise with friends and drink and do what makes them happy. Its something you would never see in England, but something that I love. Where I come from everyone is quite distant and rarely communicate but here it seems everyone knows everyone, for an area with the highest crime rate it couldn’t differ more from the great experiences that I had there.
In terms of University. I encountered some problems, which added to my thoughts about leaving and going home. I’m glad I went through what I did at the time because I feel that it helped me overcome problems by myself. Many of the courses overlapped so I had to change courses and some of the courses were cancelled without the University telling the students. It help me adapt quickly which was tough because I joined other classes late, which was hard socially and academically. I managed to overcome this, catch up with the work, make some close friends within the class and manage to pass the class comfortably. The one fear that I have had for many years was exams and I would try to avoid doing them if I could since sixth form. I get very panicked and stress a lot about them. This term it was unavoidable. But it taught me a lot, I went into the exam confident which was a first for me, I didn’t know why but I think it helped me perform a lot better than I expected. For a class on marketing, something that I had never done before I was able to match some students that had studied it before which I was proud of.
3rd term (April – June)
For me this is a difficult term to talk about. Being so close to the end is scary. It’s hard to reflect on this year because I don’t want it to end. The third term has been my most enjoyable. Unlike the two other previous terms I haven’t had to deal with as much change. I still have all of my friends from second term here, I’ve gone into a module that I really enjoy and probably the best thing about it all is that the sun is back! The weather is back to what it was when I first joined in September meaning that I’m outside and playing sport and enjoying the weather something that I definitely wouldn’t be able to do in the gloomy slums of Coventry. The thing that has surprised me this term is my knowledge on the city. By the start of second term I was over confident on my knowledge of the city and places to go when friends and family visit. But there’s so much to take in and learn from this place that I hadn’t seen in the first two terms. So with my remaining time I’m doing as much as a can to cover the whole of Madrid and learn as much as I can about the city and what it has to offer. When thinking about my academic work this year I’m extremely proud of what I have accomplished, I’ve stepped into many different fields within Media and Marketing and attempted new subjects I knew nothing about, passing every course and even achieving some of the highest grades I’ve received since the start of University.
There hasn’t been many problems that I have faced, because majority of them I’ve already been through and defeated. This last 8 weeks is about taking everything that I have learnt about myself and the amazing city of Madrid, soaking it all up and enjoying it for what its worth. Taking my favourite experiences and reliving them. Such as climbing the mountains of Madrid or visiting my favourite cities near Madrid and taking the worst and going over what I learnt about them. Such as the homesickness in January or the culture shock when I first arrived back in September. These things are important to me because bad or good these things have shaped my year and how I’ve got through it. Even as I write this now within the coming weeks I’ll learn so much more, from the Erasmus blues that my friends that have already left have told me about, to how I adjust back to home life come June. I’m excited about going back into my final year at Coventry and using the things I’ve learnt both academically and socially to get the most I can out of my degree and my final year as student, it has given me many ideas about my FMP and I’m feeling a lot more confident about it compared to what I was thinking before I started Erasmus. Without this year I feel I would of struggled with the nerves that come with your final year and the pressures that I know you face. The problems that I’ve faced this year and how I’ve dealt with them will guide me through and I know I’ll accomplish what I set out to do when I got my scholarship back in 2014.
I feel like a kid on Christmas day when his parents tell him its time for bed. If I could have it my way I’d do another year out here. But it’s time to sit back and realise what this experience was about. It was about throwing myself into the unknown, putting myself under immense pressure and seeing if I could cope. All of the experiences have lead me down to my final year in September and come this time next year the start of the rest of my life. All good things come to an end. But unlike some of those things at least I have something to take away from it. Countless memories that will stay with me forever, a bunch of new friends from all over the world, an experience that’s changed the way I think about different cultures and the way I approach changes and opportunities that I may not of took before this year. Something money cannot buy.