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Sun, studies and sangria: Things I learnt as an Edi student on my year abroad in Spain

Yes, the rumours are indeed true, the booze really is that cheap


As I entered my final semester of my second year, I felt a nervous sense of excitement about embarking on my year abroad. I couldn’t have quite anticipated how much the experiences would have helped me grow and expand my points of view.

Primarily, how valuable travelling and integrating yourself into a new culture is. I would definitely encourage other students to enrol in a study abroad and embrace it.

Below are the top five things I learnt on my year abroad:

1. There is no perfect place to live in

Although studying abroad is an enriching and enjoyable experience, it does not solve all of life’s challenges and each country comes with its drawbacks. In Edinburgh, I can appreciate its beautiful architecture and rich history, however the prices can be high and the weather rather bleak.

In Spain, I appreciate the wide range of delicious dishes it has on offer and the blue skies, but I have also dealt with lengthy administrative processes and unconventional operating times. This revelation gave me the autonomy to consider different ways of life and think about which culture resonates with me the most for my future. 

2. How fast paced life is in the UK

 

Back home in the UK, I feel as though everyone seems to be perpetually on the go, as a culture we thrive on efficiency and productivity which at times can leave quite little time for well being. In Spain, or at least the middle-sized city I am in based in, the culture is significantly more laid back and encourages more rest time and relaxation through the siesta culture.

At the beginning, I found it challenging to adjust but gradually I understood that the philosophy was prioritising well being and work-personal life balance, something which I want to continue integrating when I return home to Edinburgh. 

3. How climate can shape culture 

The shift in weather provided cool opportunities for my peers and I to connect. Public spaces became our social hubs, with friends gathering at beaches and parks. The experience was a stark contrast to my life in Edinburgh where outdoor meet ups were less common. 

Living in Spain taught me an interesting thing about how climate shapes culture. The blue skies fostered a more outward-oriented lifestyle, encouraging people to socialise in open spaces and embrace community gatherings. I realised that Edinburgh’s unpredictable weather, while challenging, also fostered a different kind of community – one that thrived in cosy cafes and at intimate gatherings like parties.

My year abroad wasn’t just about soaking up the sun but it was also understanding the weather influences social behaviour. I learned to appreciate the diversity of cultural experiences, even those shaped by something as simple as the weather. 

4. The Spanish are party animals 

During my year abroad in Spain, I discovered that the nightlife scene is vastly different from what I was accustomed to in Edinburgh. Whilst Boteco stands out as Edinburgh’s prime reggaeton club, Spain boasts an abundance of venues where you can groove to the beats of Bad Bunny and La Rosalia until 5am. The nights start out fashionably late, with people arriving to nightclubs after 1am and partying until sunrise.

I will never forget the first time I went out clubbing with my flatmates and the bartender poured “a single shot of vodka” which took up more than half the cup, to say it was a shock was quite the understatement.

5. Navigating homesickness abroad  

After scrolling through the social media pages of friends who embarked on their year abroad in previous years, envy and jealousy crept in. When would it be my turn?! Their posts showcased breathtaking landscapes and delicious foods. I eagerly anticipated experiencing the same and returning home with unique trinkets to flaunt my newfound cultural depth.

However, I hadn’t anticipated the bouts of loneliness and homesickness- it seemed no one talked about it. Luckily, there are numerous ways to connect with other year abroad students, with organisations planning activities to assist students in meeting others and forming a community. Opening up to others about these feelings provided a solace and I found comfort in knowing I wasn’t alone in how I felt.