Is my Erasmus experience what I expected? Well, no, because in order to expect what something will be like, you have to actually think about it before you go.
I don’t want to say that I completely refused to acknowledge my move to Spain out of fear and panic, but all of my last-minute travel receipts would say otherwise. However, my lack of preparation actually worked out well, as I was so pleasantly surprised by the beautiful city of Zaragoza which, for some reason, I had convinced myself was a rural Spanish town and not a massive city.
I know a quick Google search could have told me that months ago but, as I’ve already said, there was no place for that amidst the existential panic.
In my lack of preparation, I made the risky decision to go to Spain without somewhere to live. However, it turns out that, thankfully, student accommodation is not as ridiculous in other countries as in Ireland. So, within three days I had moved into my reasonably priced flat in the city centre, albeit that the shower doesn’t hang up on the wall.
My luck continued, as I live in an apartment with lovely Spanish people, so I can practise my Spanish every day. Although this can be tiring, it is incredibly useful as English isn’t very widely spoken here.
That’s to say, it turns out that years of oral exams about weekend plans just aren’t that useful when you’re desperately searching for bedsheets, or when you’re about to collapse and a spin instructor is shouting instructions that you can only assume mean speed up.
In situations like that, I relish in my Irishness, as everyone is always so fascinated that the language barrier seems less important. The reputation that our small country has worldwide is astounding, and I’m so proud to talk about where I’m from and the craic we have in Galway… well as best as I can describe it in my self-conscious Spanish, spoken at maximum speeds of ten words a minute.
My broken Spanish aside, I’m proud to say my Irishness really shines through in the unrelenting heat of this city, which even the Spanish students complain about. Before you curse my name for writing that, as it’s probably raining in Galway as we speak, remember that the grass is always greener.
Yes, thirty degrees plus on holidays by the beach is ideal, but in a landlocked city completing daily tasks and going to college, I assure you it’s a living hell. Needless to say, after climbing five flights of stairs in a non-airconditioned building, I spend every sweaty two-hour class focusing more on staying composed (and let’s face it, conscious) than on the literature I’m meant to be studying.
On the subject of going to class, I’m surprised by how much I have been going. Maybe I can’t call that a culture shock, but it’s definitely been a lifestyle shock, at least for me. However, it’s more than likely that by the time you’re reading this I’ll have stopped going, in the name of self-care.
I suppose the reason I’ve actually been going to class is because midweek hangovers are virtually non-existent here. I mean, I was initially disappointed to find out that people here tend to only go ‘out-out’ at the weekend, but now I’ve learned why… and I’ve learned the hard way.
No amount of partying in my life could have prepared me for the kind of hangover that arrives after drinking red wine and coke (aka calimocho) until 7am. Needless to say, as I commenced my third day on my literal deathbed, I just started telling people I had a virus.
All in all, through all of the culture shocks, and homesickness, and hangovers, I still feel very grateful to be here… but I might feel even more grateful when my Erasmus grant eventually arrives.