If you’ve ever met me in person (or even just follow me on any form of social media) you’ll probably know I tried to study abroad. It was a common topic of conversation both before I went and came back (and admittedly there were only 13 days between the two events) and it’s become some kind of a long standing joke with pretty much everyone I know that I won’t shut up about it. It even made it to the Independent.
I won’t bore you with the details. If you want to check out the full story, you can do so here. For the tl;dr version, myself and my friend Jess tried to study in Barcelona. Having never been there before, I fell in love with it. We’d spoken for a good few months before we went about everything we were going to do there – all the places we were going to go, the languages we were going to learn, how we were going to start running by the sea and eating tapas and becoming the cool, cultured individuals we always hoped we’d eventually turn into (side note: it still hasn’t happened yet) but it didn’t work out.
Studying abroad is always going to be a slight culture shock, but more so when your university doesn’t realise you’re actually coming, and sends you home as a result. No, I’m not joking. We had a slight (very, very slight) chance of staying, but for the sake of our stress levels as well as a lot of other personal issues I had going on at the same time, we felt it best to come home.
The first few months passed very quickly – we had to catch up with missed uni work, find somewhere new to live, and on top of it I caught glandular fever soon after we returned. It was only as the months passed, though, that I realised just how much I’d been looking forward to the experience. I love spending time abroad, I love exploring new places, I love being by the sea, and I’ve been trying to learn Spanish since I was about 11 years old. It would have been perfect.
It might not have been, of course. I might have hated it, and wished that I’d come back, but in my heart I know I would have loved it. I was so ready to ditch Sheffield rain for five months, and embrace the sunshine, our apartment 10 minutes from the beach, the stroll to university in the sun, and the constant heat. I love sunshine. I love Spain, and I loved the idea of studying abroad. All of that, combined with the fact that I hate giving up on things and dropping them if I don’t have to, has led me to become incredibly bitter over the experience. I got a Timehop notification a few days ago showing me all my Barcelona photos and it made me miss it even more.
It’s funny – you don’t think you’d be able to miss a place you didn’t spend that long in. You can’t truly discover a place, learn all its nooks and crannies, its secret locations and best ‘local’ tips, unless you’ve been somewhere for an extended period of time. But there’s definitely a big difference between spending two weeks somewhere as a tourist compared to staying there as a local. We had an apartment, with bills to pay, and a kitchen to cook in, a university to study at and two entire suitcases filled with belongings. We did food shops, spent a few days just lounging around, and we got into a routine. You don’t get into a good routine as a tourist, and I think that’s a big part of why it felt like we were there for so much longer than two weeks.
If someone tells me they’re going to Barcelona, I automatically ask them whereabouts. I feel I can give them at least a few tips, and I do know some of the areas pretty well. We thoroughly made the most of our time there and explored absolutely everywhere. I’m talking sightseeing all day everyday for a week straight – until we burned ourselves out and only walked to get tapas round the corner one day. I’ve used phrases like ‘I lived near there!’ if someone talks about the Gothic Quarter, or ‘that’s where my uni was’ if someone mentions a close by area.
I’m desperate to do it again. I ‘tried’ as part of the Erasmus scheme, and I’ve heard that it’s an option when you graduate too – but I think I’d rather do it independently. I’ve read a few different blogs of people who’ve travelled the world and got some level of education from each place, which is so tempting. I do really love learning and I have a few subject areas I’d love to study more thoroughly. It’s genuinely a strong temptation to pack up my bags for a year and go and do a masters abroad somewhere. I got a high 2:1 in my degree, so it’s technically not off the cards, and if it wasn’t for the fear of running away from my job and coming back to unemployment, I’d apply for something right now.
If I could choose where I’d study abroad then I’d probably pick Spain (no surprises there), Central or South America or Australia. Somewhere hot, with plenty to do and ideally not too expensive uni fees. Hopefully one day it’ll happen!