Preparation isn’t fun…
My name’s James. As a Translation and Interpreting student I’m about to embark on the great adventure that is an Erasmus year. I study Spanish and German and will spending a period of time in both Spain and Germany over the course of the year. I’ve decided to write these blog posts as a fun way of summarising any events/milestones that occur throughout the year. I hope you enjoy it!
With previous knowledge of the Catalan language, when I came to choose my year abroad options for the Spanish part of my Erasmus, Catalonia and/or the Catalan speaking regions of Spain were the only logical options for me. Therefore, I will be spending from September until April studying at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona.
The UPF is a predominantly Catalan-language based University and a huge amount of the modules on offer are taught in Catalan as opposed to Spanish. I chose it because it would provide me with the opportunity to improve all my languages whilst being centrally seated in the famous Catalan capital.
I won’t be moving out until the 10th of September, so currently I’m experiencing the all-consuming excitement/fear that all Erasmus students get just before they depart. So in my first blog entry, I wanted to explain what preparation for a year abroad is like. For me? The few months running up to departure have been an absolute western super… and then some.
Let’s start with enrolment, because I legit have no clue what I’m doing. I’ve been learning Spanish for something like 13 years now. So, I’m somewhat alright at it. But nothing has prepared me for enrolment at a Catalan University. Effectively, I was enrolling on a website where I only really understood about 40% of what was on the screen. Whilst Catalan and Spanish are similar in many ways, they’re still completely different languages, and knowing one doesn’t automatically mean you know the other. Some words are similar. Others are completely different. Canción – the Spanish word for ‘song’, translates as Cançó in Catalan. They look and sound very similar. But, Red – the Spanish word for ‘net/network’ and the Catalan word, Xarxa, are incredibly different.
So when it came to navigating the enrolment website… I was guessing left, right and centre.
I wanted to enrol on a set of language modules to help with studying in both Spanish and German. I also would have liked to study some Catalan to activate the passive level I gained whilst studying Catalan at Swansea. But… It didn’t really work out.
As far as I can currently tell, I’ve enrolled on a Beginner’s English module (the ones aimed at people who’ve never learnt it…), a few German language modules, a Law and Economics Translation Terminology module and a German interpreting module. So… I have English instead of Spanish… And Law and Economics instead of Catalan.
Nevertheless, the UPF requires you to enrol online AND email each specific module teacher to ask for authorisation for each module. So, whilst emailing one of the teachers I thought best let someone know that I had no clue what I was doing. The lady was completely fine with it. In terms of German, they’ll adjust the difficulty of classes and groups as we go. So that’s no problem at all. And the English module can be changed once I arrive at the university and speak to someone in person.
But if I’ve seriously learnt something from the enrolment process, it’s that enrolment onto modules at Swansea is just so much easier. The titles of the modules clearly explain the difficulty and what level they’re aimed at. Furthermore, enrolment at Swansea (at least for languages) doesn’t have this problem where there aren’t enough spaces on modules to accommodate everyone. On the other hand, virtually everything I wanted to study at the UPF had no places available and I was left with the above. I have to just hope that when I arrive I can re-enrol on some more interesting modules.
Back in June, I had already paid the security deposit and reservation fee for private halls. The halls look amazing! They’re like mini-studio apartments with a kitchen in the corner of the room and en suite bathrooms – I would literally never have to leave my room. Perfect!
Skip forward to the middle of August and I’m sat at home thinking to myself, “Damn, I know Spain is famous for slow bureaucracy, but I’ve still not heard anything at all!” For days, I would be refreshing my emails looking for one of those confirmation type emails regarding key collection and that I could move in any time after 10:00am etc. But… Nothing. So finally, in the most fluent, formal and polite Spanish you could ever imagine, (actually it was more rusty, super casual and blunt) I literally write an email asking, “please could you send me some information please thank you very much please yours sincerely many thanks…”
So, it turns out that they had cancelled my reservation and just neglected to tell me and that my automated refund would eventually go through on the 15th of September. Yup. Great! Naturally, I’m flipping right out thinking about what I’m going to do, where am I going to live, what if I die… The normal, everyday progression of thoughts for your average 20-year-old who thinks they’re an adult but is actually just completely winging it through life.
So after forcefully eating a bar of chocolate and wondering how my life will inevitably end, I started to look for new accommodation. Having tried and failed with private halls, regular housing was my next port of call. And whilst sifting through a couple emails from the University, I found the information sheet regarding accommodation and the websites/companies they recommend. So finally, I had found a room. The rooms on the website aren’t as luxurious as the private halls, nor do they have their own private kitchens or bathrooms. But, I don’t die a little inside every time I see the cost of the place – which is definitely a bonus!
My new home is located on Traveserra de Gràcia, very near the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, right where the three districts of Horta-Guinardó, Gràcia and Eixample join. Having not arrived yet, I still have no idea what the area is like, but I can see from Google Maps that neither transportation nor recreation should be a problem. Being nestled just between the famous Sagrada Família and Antoni Gaudí’s Park Güell, I’ll never be more than five minutes away from a metro station or area of interest.
It’s all great that I have a house and a bunch of dodgy modules, but I need to truly prepare myself for living abroad. Apart from singing along to reggaetón (a type of Spanish music) and having a good old chinwag with a couple of friends, I really haven’t spoken any Spanish or Catalan since leaving University in June. Mentally, physically and emotionally, I am not prepared to move out in under 3 weeks. I still don’t have a clue what’s going on in terms of when I actually start lectures and I definitely don’t know how I’m going to survive the next year.
But taking everything into consideration. It’s fun. Like, I’m not even there yet, but God is this going to be the best experience ever! Every day I am reading articles or watching YouTube videos about what to do on your Erasmus, 25 things to do in Barcelona etc. Bucket list written, boat, coach, train and plane tickets all booked. I’m ready!
So, I couldn’t write this blog without addressing last week’s events in Barcelona and its surrounding towns and neighbourhoods. Between the period of the 16th of August and the 19th of August, a series of attacks occurred in Barcelona and various other towns. As of writing this, everyone believed to be involved with the terrorist cell has either been detained or shot down by Spanish police. Obviously, seeing these events unfold a mere couple of weeks before I am set to move to Barcelona, left me feeling concerned and unsure of what I should be doing. But I think it is important that we continue as normal and don’t let events like these stop whatever plans we may have. Therefore, I would like to finish by wishing everyone else just starting their Erasmus Year to stay safe and enjoy themselves!