The Erasmus experience is one of the biggest and unique opportunities offered to college and university students. It offers students the chance to not just study abroad but to experience culture, cities and the environment.
When deciding to go on erasmus I took a couple of things into consideration. I looked at where I was in life. Being 19 and still living at home I had never experienced anything different in a living environment. I had savings enabling me to afford living away for four months without relying on others or needing a job whilst abroad. I also had no responsibilities. There was nothing stopping me!
A major thing that influenced my decision on going was that three of my friends from my course were going also. There was comfort in this, that no matter what we would have each other.
Why Spain? Many ask why did we choose Spain. The university of choosing, Universidad Europea de Madrid, is one of the most pristine universities in Europe. It gives classes in English helping with our lack of spanish. The city of Madrid its self offers so many aspects of culture, museums, landmarks, literature, music, local festivities and its nightlife.
When planning everything, one thing that proved difficult was finding accommodation. Campus accommodation was too expensive. The four of us decided to live together in a house/apartment near the university. When searching online it was hard to know if it was legit. Landlords were asking for 2 months in advance plus the 1st months rent. We didn’t have a chance to go over before hand and view the house or know if it even existed. When ringing to enquire about places we did not speak the language. The language barrier was there before even entering the country. My friends uncle was fluent in Spanish and he spoke to landlords on our behalf and eventually we got a four bedroom house a ten minute walk from the university.
Arriving in Madrid was exciting and full of possibilities.Travelling to our new home for the next four months, I stared out of windows taking in the new environment.
The landlord and his family were there to greet us at the house. Finding the house was difficult as the taxi had dropped us off on the wrong street, but none the less we found it.
Starting at the University was a challenge. We enrolled and selected our courses. At first we did not get all of them and when we did not all of them were in English. We had a few problems in relation to this. Eventually we got some courses through english. The first two weeks we had an intensive spanish course which proved to be helpful in everyday situations such as finding where places were and how much something was or which bus to get etc.
Studying abroad also brought about new working method. Classes are small and this allowed us to have a more direct relationship with classmates and teachers. This made us more motivated, improving the quality of teaching which is why I felt it was easy to adjust to the different techniques.
Transport in the city of Madrid was remarkable. The cost was low and the availability of buses, metros and trains was nothing like in Ireland. This definitely played a massive role in my experience as I do not yet have a full drivers license. This enabled me to explore everything Madrid and Spain had to over. I only wish I had taken more advantage of this and seen more of Europe.
The cost of living in Madrid for a student was reasonable. The months rent was €325 a month PP. The monthly cost of bills varied between €120-€150. The monthly travel ticket cost €40. Groceries and hygiene products were also at a low cost. I think in the long run it may have been difficult to balance the costs but for a short term it seemed to work out fine.
Meeting new people was one of the most rewarding aspects. We met people who were in the same situation as us and from this we bonded and became friends, most of which we will keep in contact for hopefully our lives.
I experienced the culture in many ways. Attending local festivals, bullfights and flamenco dances. The list is endless. I went to a spanish football league game in the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, skiing, one of the largest flea markets in Europe in La Latina. These things I would have never done without being on the erasmus. I myself not being a massive fan of going out like normal students highly enjoyed the nightlife Madrid had to offer.
In reality the Erasmus Experience is not an experience but a part of my life. It is impossible to describe its worth with words. No words can explain the feelings, sentiments and memories. I feel I have changed from it. I understand responsibility and independence. I understand one’s love for discovery, for learning, for new realities.
Don’t say that you could never do it…I was the very girl saying that a little under a year ago. But hey, look at me now…