Year Abroad Series: Spain

Florence Sharkey 30 October 2020
Image Credit: Florence Sharkey

There is a certain irony in writing about my Year Abroad adventures while one week into a 14-day quarantine in Murcia, because my flatmate tested positive for Covid. If anything, while this is perhaps a bit tragic, the idea that I am quarantining here in Spain at the same time as so many students in Cambridge almost makes me feel more connected to the university, and the transition of societies to online platforms has allowed me to stay involved with university activities from a distance. Like all students returning to study, no one going on their year abroad truly understood what the experience would be like until arriving, that is, if they were lucky enough even to get a placement this year. For me, trying to organise a year abroad placement was one of the most stressful things about lockdown, but after a cancelled internship and a lack of response from many potential employers, I was lucky to find a placement in Murcia working with an NGO, and so far I have been having a fantastic time. My work mainly consists of translation and research for the organisation, while having the opportunity to learn a great deal about Juvenile Justice and Human Rights. So far I have loved living in Murcia: the city is small enough to be walkable but has enough bars, restaurants, and museums to keep you busy for a long time.

So far I have loved living in Murcia: the city is small enough to be walkable but has enough bars, restaurants, and museums to keep you busy for a long time.

It never rains – a big contrast from my home city of Glasgow – and has a stunning cathedral and a beautiful river running through it. It’s also in the perfect location for travel to Cartagena, Alicante, and other cities in the South!

My biggest concern was, without question, that I would not make any friends. I found out just two days before arriving in Spain that my internship would be moved online and, having been considering the workplace the best way to meet people. However, getting to know people has actually been unbelievably easy. Not only are there a huge number of Erasmus students all looking to make new friends, but the locals are also incredibly open to getting to know newcomers. Everyone I have met has been welcoming and friendly (and patient with my Spanish). As a result, I have been having ample speaking practice and have learnt a lot of colloquial language (including an abundance of swear words). The stories I heard from other students of Modern and Medieval Languages about their adventures partying and clubbing, however, are simply not possible for us this year. When I arrived here the rule of six was already in effect, but this allowed for me to socialise in smaller groups, meaning I got to know fewer people but perhaps on a deeper level.

The other major aspect of any year abroad, is getting to know the culture. Murcia is known for having some of the best tapas in the country and I have been able to try a lot of their specialties (if you ever have the chance,  Paparajotes will change your life), watch the reality show that everyone is talking about (for cultural studies, of course), and to see their museums and ancient ruins (of which they have a lot more than you would think).

Overall, I am incredibly grateful to have been able to travel during a time like this and still have a fulfilling experience. I have no doubt that without the kindness of all the people I have met, and the mutual effort we have all put in to both being safe and having a good time, my experience would have been nowhere near as good.