I cannot believe that my post-uni gap year has ended and I’m back home in England for the Summer Plenty of travel bloggers have already covered the “how living abroad changes your life/is the best thing ever” subject, so here’s just a few of the main things I think about when I reflect on this past year….
#1 It was jolly good fun.
Everyone told me University was going to be the best years of my life, and those cheap, endless nights out would be a thing of the past after I’d graduated. Those people haven’t lived in Spain.
Something about the Incredible and reasonably priced drinks, exceptional variety of clubs, pubs, and bars, and that dancing until the break of dawn was not a one off occasion but a weekly obligation, meant a great night out was never hard to find.
Spaniards certainly know how to have a good time, but even off of the dance floor the national attitude towards a social life made enjoying yourself a pleasure you needn’t ever feel guilty about. Moreover, I rarely felt unsafe in Madrid, and taxis home weren’t an unaffordable luxury that needed to be reserved for the big nights like they do at home.
#2 Compañeros are easy to find – friendship takes time.
My shy, 14 year old self would look at me now in disbeleif. I remember even through university finding the whole making friends with strangers thing an anxiety inducing task that I dreaded every time. Moving to a big new city where I knew not a soul in the country forced me to leave those silly insecurities behind as the only way to make friends was to learn to meet with strangers.
After the initial meetings, however, I still found myself sinking back into my insecurities and struggling to continue putting on an eager face without feeling embarrassed about it. Slowly but surely, however, Ive learnt companeros are easy to come across and make, but friendship is not something that can be built with everyone – and that’s not a bad thing! Realising you just don’t have a place amongst a certain group is tough, until you accept you don’t need to ‘vibe’ with everyone. I met so many awesome and inspiring people from all corners of the world, and although only a select few of those encounters developed into solid friendships, I’m still glad I met them.
#3 Learning a language is not easy.
And becoming fluent in 3 months is not a walk in the park. There were very few people I know who actually became fluent in that amount of time, and conveniently they’d all known a little bit of Spanish before they arrived, or Spanish was not the first language they had learned. I arrived in Spain inspired by Benny Lewis and convinced that I could follow his advice and by Christmas I’d be fluent. I changed the languge on my phone, computer, and all social media, and I followed the golden rule of speaking Spanish from day one.
Life got in the way.I kept on studying, actively listened to what was being said around me, and went on language exchanges I could. When out and about, If I could say it in Spanish then I did so, and I always engaged in friendly chit chat with my taxi drivers on my way home. Through this perserverance I have managed to learn a lot, and I’m confident I will reach fluency swiftly once I’ve changed my work and living conditions. I’m not going to let all the bilingual spokespeople make me feel inadequate for not picking up 10 languages in 6 months!
But apart from my language learning woes, It has been a spectacular year. I’m not sad it’s over, because I know the fun has only just begun and I’ve got plenty more to look forward to right around the corner. Although a lot of it is still up in the air, the past 10 months have prooved to me that the freedom of choice that comes with not having a plan is friggin wonderful and I won’t be sacrificing that any time soon.