My name is Rowena and I am in my third year studying MLang French and Spanish Linguistics, and so I had to study at a university on my year abroad. I decided to go to Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia (a region in northern Spain).

I wanted to live somewhere full of life and culture and Santiago absolutely ticked all of my boxes. It is a gorgeous city with more history to discover than I had time to see, with all sorts of things to amuse you from art to phenomenal architecture to breathtaking views of the mountains. Additionally, it is very well placed in the centre of Galicia so it is very easy and cheap to get to all of the nearby cities by train, coach, or BlaBlaCar. From a slightly more sensible and nerdy point of view, it is worth considering how it can help your YARP – mine was on linguistics and it was fascinating to see what I was writing about play out in real life.

The university system and atmosphere is very different than in the UK but it’s easy to get used to. They had a different approach to teaching and assessment which is not too difficult to get your head around, but did take me by surprise as I had not considered that that aspect of life would be different too.

Before coming on my year abroad, I had heard that most people treat it like a re-do of the first year of university, which is the exact approach you should take to it: say yes to everything! Just like first year, everyone on Erasmus that you meet will want to be your friend and I recommend joining any group chats before you get there. For Santiago, there is an ESN group (for Erasmus students, also on Instagram) as well as SharinGalicia (for people living abroad in Santiago) and it is worth joining both as they offer similar trips and events just on a slightly staggered calendar so if you miss one, there is the chance to do it again. Locals are always very amiable and are interested in finding out about you and talking about your experience of their city.

To talk a bit about what I’ve gained from the experience, my Spanish skills have improved more than I ever expected (even though it did not feel like it at the time), and my confidence in my ability has grown tenfold as I’m less scared of making mistakes as I have proof that I can communicate well enough in that language even if I do forget a couple words every so often. In terms of my development as a person, I am much more confident and have a lot more self-belief as I know I can deal with anything life throws at me!

The advice I would give anyone planning to study abroad is first, to make sure that you know exactly what you need to do, when, how much it will cost, and how long each step will take as the process of getting a VISA or housing always takes a lot longer than you can anticipate.

That said, the biggest lesson I have learnt is to always be brave: if you’re scared, do it and think about it later; don’t plan your life before you live it because it will get in the way of you enjoying it.

Studying in Spain: A Year Abroad in Santiago de Compostela

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