I honestly can’t explain how quickly this year has gone for me. It only feels like yesterday that I was staring at pictures of Granada on Google Images. I also have a very vivid memory of receiving the email informing me that I was going to be studying at the University of Granada. As I am sitting here, writing this, I am still completely dumbfounded how nine incredible and significant months of my life went by in a flash. I honestly just checked good old Ryanair for next flight to Malaga – unfortunately they are still summer prices – because I am ready to do it all over again! And as I sit here scrolling through my camera roll crying over how much I miss the city, the people and the big burning ball in the sky, I still like to think about those days that weren’t so ‘#studyabroadrocks’ days. Those days where I regret acting in a certain way or missing a fantastic opportunity. Not because I am severely sadistic but just because they were an important part of my year abroad that I think should be remembered. Maybe not as much as the good times because that would be a waste of a year. However, I think it’s a good thing to be aware of the lows so you can learn from them, and in my case, so I can share them with you.
I think one of my most important tips when embarking on your year abroad is not try and expect anything. I know this sounds ridiculous and of course you will make expectations and assumptions before you go because that’s just human nature. However, a lot of the things that I had already made my mind up about were completely different. There were also many things that I didn’t even think about before going that I had to consider once I was there. It’s a very strange but magical year where the good and bad things are not necessarily distinct from one another; they are just one big learning life experience. For instance, I would say I am pretty good at making friends. I am not trying to boast but I would say quite confidently that it comes pretty naturally to me. However, when I got to Granada I discovered that making friends was going to be a hell of a lot harder than usual. From trying to string a sentence together in my best Spanish to understanding their culture, humour and interests, it was quite a hard thing to do. I honestly didn’t even consider the fact that making friends would be hard, so it was a real shock to me. That’s why I say try not to expect anything. I spent hours before going to Granada imaging all these tricky situations that I would encounter that in the end never even happened. So yes, of course dream about the fantastic year you are going to have, just try and not think about it too much because it will probably not be how you imagined it.
So I will start off with sharing the lows:
One of biggest regrets was not being confident enough in myself. My problem with confidence didn’t start when I went abroad; I have always had problems with self confidence but with the pressure of speaking another language, when it came to the end of the first semester I was feeling quite low. And the more I felt liked I had failed due to making mistakes or not being able to respond to someone, the more I wanted to lock myself away in my room. You really just have to push through no matter what. Obviously this is easier said than done but that’s why I like to remember those days so that I can look back and see how stupid I was and how much time I wasted worrying and then try and not make that same mistake again.
Comparing myself to others
The University of Granada has a huge international student intake each year from all over the world. Obviously this was great because I could meet so many people from many different cultures and backgrounds. However, it also meant that there were more people to compare myself to. I honestly got so hung up on thinking that everyone was miles ahead of me in terms of the Spanish language. So now I know that whenever I start thinking like that I should open a book and learn something and use my time wisely. There is not point thinking about everyone else when that time could be spent improving your own language abilities.
Afraid to make any mistakes
When speaking to a native Spanish speaker there would be times when I would say something wrong and they would correct me and rightly so. But after this point onwards my confidence would plummet and I would start to forget simple things and start to stutter due to how frustrated I was. Writing this now, I can now admit that this was an absolutely ridiculous reaction but at the time there was no controlling it at the time. Don’t get me wrong, there are still times now when I make a mistake and I cringe so badly inside but I would say that I am definitely less harsh on myself. Now I know that the mistakes that I made were fine, the mistakes that I will make today are fine and the hundreds of linguistic mistakes I will make in the future are one hundred percent, totally fine. And so should you!
And now onto the highs!
One of the best parts about my year abroad was meeting the people that I did. They really made my year and I can’t imagine my year without them. I am so grateful that we can share memories together. I think at the start of the year, I was quite dis-heartened when I didn’t click with someone – like I had expected before I went – but I think its important to share that there are so many amazing people to meet and just because you don’t meet them in the first week of being there doesn’t mean you won’t meet them later.
Honestly, this is one of the best decisions I have made, even if I wasn’t initially aware of it it. Granada has everything that I could possibly want and I have completely fallen in love with the place. From the people, the food, the free tapas, the size of the city, the skiing, the history, the architecture, the views, the weather, to the culture I love every part. Even the people that came to visit me fell in love with it and they were only there for a couple of days! Granada will obviously always be associated with my year abroad but hopefully it will be associated with home in the future.
To top off an unforgettable year I managed to pass all of my classes. Passing everything has given me more confidence in the language but it has also improved my confidence in general. Studying in a foreign country that doesn’t speak your native language is seriously tricky but I did it! And it further reinforces the fact that all that time spent worrying about language abilities were a waste of time and I could have used that time to go out and grab a sangria!
So remember the lows because yes, they sucked but they made my year abroad what it was and I like to think that I have learnt from them. And let’s be serious here, there are always, always, always going to be sucky days, even in a haven like Granada. But all that’s good must come to an end, and oh boy was it good.