Firstly, I would like to say how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to do a year abroad despite all the travel restrictions and terrible things that have happened during the past year. I feel incredibly lucky to have had this experience even though it is not originally what I had planned, and I would encourage anyone thinking about taking part in a study abroad program to do so.
Coming on my year abroad is something I had been planning and looking forward to since I started university in 2018. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, there was a lot of doubt surrounding the year abroad and whether anyone would be able to travel. Many of my friends had their placements cancelled or moved online, meaning they haven’t been able to leave the UK at all this year.
I was so fortunate that my plans to travel to Valencia were not cancelled, just postponed, meaning I could travel to Spain legally in October 2020. I had arranged a flat online before I came as it wasn’t possible to do viewings in person due to the pandemic, and my flatmates were so kind when I arrived. They took me to meet their friends and incorporated me into their plans, giving me the opportunity to meet a variety of people.
Many people told me how different the atmosphere was post-pandemic
Meeting new people here wasn’t something I found challenging in spite of the pandemic as most people in my position were also looking to make new friends. However, many people told me how different the atmosphere was post-pandemic, as parties and meeting in large groups was strictly prohibited. The curfew in Valencia has been 10pm throughout the year, meaning a lot of the typical activities associated with the Erasmus placement have been cancelled.
The curfew being so early in the city has definitely been controversial. Whilst I haven’t spent much time partying, I have spent a lot of time going on day-trips, hikes and getting to know people from all over the world. These are things which I might not have done so much without the restrictions, and for that I am very grateful. I have had the opportunity to make lifelong international friends and people from many different parts of the UK, including students from Nottingham whom I had never met prior to coming to Spain.
The restrictions here have also meant I have had the chance to really focus on my placement. Working as an Events and Marketing Assistant for a Valencian start-up company really gave me an insight into what I want to do after my degree ends and I have learned so much from my boss and the team which have surrounded me. Additionally, working with a Spanish company has benefitted my Spanish massively. I was so grateful for the chance to practice as the team were so patient with me, politely correcting my mistakes and teaching me things I haven’t yet learned in my degree.
Working for an events company has been particularly challenging as I have seen the company struggle
The downside to doing this particular job during the pandemic was the lack of tourism. Working for an events company has been particularly challenging as I have seen the company struggle, receiving hardly any bookings and being forced to close on one occasion due to the restrictions. This experience was very motivating, as the company was constantly adapting to ensure clients safety and comply with restrictions.
Overall, I would describe my study abroad experience as the best year of my life. I have had the opportunity to majorly improve my Spanish and learned many transferrable skills. On top of this, I have met so many incredible people who will continue to inspire me even after I return to university in September. The people I have worked with and befriended here are from all different backgrounds, countries and cultures, and have taught me more than I could ever have imagined. Coming abroad despite the pandemic was the best decision I have made for myself, and I am so thankful to everyone who made this possible for me.
If you are considering doing a year abroad or study abroad placement, I would strongly advise you to do so – you never know how much it could benefit you.
Featured and in-article images courtesy of Isabel Murphy. No changes were made to the images.
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