Hate to break it to you, but this is not a year abroad blog. I’ve had this thing for a few years and have dipped in and out of it from time to time. This post, however, is a post about my first term of my Erasmus year in Alicante, Spain. I’ve not done this in a while, so here goes…
The thing is, I’m writing this post as a form of procrastination with a cup of caramel hot chocolate in my hand – jealous, right? If I were to talk about every single observation that I’ve made since being here, I would genuinely be here all week and would therefore miss my flight home for Christmas… here then are the first five talking points that spring to mind regarding my first 3 and a half months in Alicante:
Logic-less builders… (that I can hear as I’m sat here typing)
I moved into my flat on 1st September at around midday. At the very moment that I got out of the taxi, I clocked that there were road works signs positioned at various points along my street. Little did I know that, over three months later, these very same road works would still be going as strong as ever. I have reached a point where the sound of pneumatic drills is as much a part of my day-to-day life as breathing, sleeping and drinking (alcohol). You would have thought that they’d close one tiny section of road at a time, to get it done quickly and efficiently, and then move on — what, with them having dug about 5 meters downwards to replace what seems like sewage systems and then re-laid both the tarmac of the roads and the brickwork of the paths — but nope! What seems like half of my postcode is basically a car-free zone because they’ve been doing bit work on various parts of these roads around my flat ever since my arrival. My conclusion? Having always driven on the continent on family holidays, it has always been clear that the English approach to roadworks is by far the worst… Spain, however, seems to provide strong competition for that title.
It’s a universal aspect of student living, isn’t it? Everyone discovers something that a) tastes great and b) is an absolute bargain…or, at least, they convince themselves that it’s an absolute bargain. In Canterbury, living a 5 minute walk from Sainsbury’s meant that I knew exactly when to turn up to get food that was still fresh but had been reduced – that, more often than not, ended up being a colossal pepperoni pizza. Here, however, I’ve gone down the pastry route. There’s a 24 hour shop seconds from my front door (that isn’t actually 24 hours, but I’ll brush over that) which has it’s own little pastry counter where everything (that I like) is just one Euro. They have apple pastries, cream pastries, chocolate pastries, the lot! But the king of them all is their jamón y queso pastry. Although you can get it from supermarkets for a wee bit cheaper, the convenience of being able to go there in PJs more than justifies the extra 20 cent per pastry. My conclusion? I may get withdrawal symptoms during the mere week that I’m at home.
I grew up in Milton Keynes, a place where the nearest beach is about 3 hours away. I’ve studied in Canterbury for two years, which is less than half an hour away from the coast. Despite being an awful lot nearer to the sea in Canterbury, I still very rarely go and, even when I do, there tends to be some form of extreme weather taking place. The fact then that I live just a 5 minute walk away from the beach here in Alicante, a mediterranean beach, is nothing short of blissful. On my first couple of nights here, when I hadn’t yet met anyone, I wandered down to the beach in the evening to just relax by the sea. Very quickly though, as I met more and more people, Saturday afternoon became our hungover beach pilgrimage day. You could go into the sea and, even up until early November, the water would still be warm. Heck, I even got sunburnt in the last week of October!
Even this weekend, two weeks into December, we wandered down to the beach — at this time of year, all of the deck chairs and parasols have been packed away for the winter so it’s now a big, empty beach — and just chilled out, watching and listening to the sea. I don’t really know what else to say other than that I love it. My conclusion? Presuming I do ever settle down, it will have to be within walking distance of the sea. I’m not fussy as to whether it’s a pebble beach or a sandy beach, just the sea would be perfect.
The Erasmus factor; there are two clear sides to this coin – When studying and when partying.
Being labelled as foreigners when studying does come with its perks. Although all of my classes here are for Spanish students (4 of my 5 this term are for final year students) and the content is far more advanced than what I’ve been doing in the UK, most professors seem to sympathise with the fact that I’m submitting obscene quantities of work in a language that is not my native tongue. So whenever I do have these freak-out sessions about how much I have to get done and for when, I very quickly take a step back and just remind myself of the fact that I am “just” an Erasmus student. All I need to worry about is passing this year and, based on the marks that I’ve been given back so far, I’m well on track to do just that.
When it comes to partying, the Erasmus factor is definitely a bonus. With most people being in the same boat of only having to pass, the first-year-of-university mentality seems to have been resurrected by all with relation to the frequency and intensity of nights out. After about a month, we had developed a seemingly endless network of friends and friends of friends and friends of friends of friends. So you can now go out pretty much anywhere, whether it be to a house party or a bar or the beach or a night club, and see someone you know. Some people don’t like that, but I do. It feels homely. My conclusion? …beer, anyone?
Over three months.
Although I never visit home during term time when I’m studying in England, the fact that I’ve been 1000 miles away from home for over 3 months has made me miss my family a lot. I guess it’s just the knowledge that there is a far more substancial distance between myself and a mother-cooked meal that means that it does hit home that bit more. It’s not even as though I’ll be returning home to my annoying little brother and sister either; my brother turned 18 in November and my sister will turn 16 in January. They’re at an age where they actually ask for my advice or my opinion as an older brother that’s gone through what they’re currently going through. My conclusion? Although I’m only home for a week, it’ll be a week that I make the absolute most of. I’ll take my brother for a pint for the first time, I’ll take my sister to the cinema (because I want to see the new Hunger Games film and I’m sure she won’t have a problem with watching it again) and I’ll try my absolute best to make my parents as jealous as possible of my first 3 and a half months of my year abroad.
I’ll return to this Not-Year-Abroad blog when I have the time and the energy, in order to talk further about this rather wonderful place.
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a wild New Year.
Peace and love. xoxo