This year former Head Boy Gavin Spruin from the Class of 2014 has swapped Loughborough University for one of Spain’s most prestigious universities, the Universidad Compultense de Madrid.
Relocating to the Spanish capital as part of his undergraduate degree, has not only allowed Gavin to enhance his linguistic skills, but has also provided him with a fantastic opportunity to experience elements of Spanish culture he might otherwise have missed as a tourist.
“The best thing about studying a language whilst at university is having the compulsory year abroad in your third year. I’ve been fortunate enough to have Spain’s capital city as my place of residence since the start of this academic year and I will live here until July 2017. Normally, as an Erasmus student, you can choose to work or you can study in a university partnered with your own UK institution so this year I’m studying Law at the Universidad Compultense de Madrid and the best thing is you get a grant of between €2,800 and €3,800 to do so!
From the outset I knew that this year would be both enjoyable yet difficult as all of my lessons would be completely in Spanish as well as everything else relevant to the course, but undeterred I came to Madrid two weeks before university was due to begin in order to get acquainted with my new home and be a tourist before I had to be a local. Thanks to one of my friends from University, when I arrived in Madrid I already had a place to live which happened to be in the centre close to both Puerta del Sol and the Spanish Royal Place. However, my year abroad didn’t start too well when my landlord gave me the wrong key and so I ended up sleeping on the couch!!
The next two weeks were spent sightseeing throughout Madrid and my new district and a trip to Toledo along the way and to my joy I found that there was a chocolatería (where they sell churros and chocolate) over the road from my flat which is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week which means I won’t have to travel far for any midnight snacks in the future. The best thing I found about Madrid was that although it was a capital city it’s not too big and easy to travel around using the Metro so being a tourist and sightseeing was easier than I thought. The Spanish timetable is certainly something to get used to though, with many places in the city closing for siestas, usually around 2pm, which includes some supermarkets (which is especially annoying when you have no food in the house!!).
The start of university heralded my first taste of culture shock. Before going to Spain my Dad always joked that I’d become lazy and leave everything until “mañana” taking the mick out of the stereotype but he wasn’t far wrong. The organisation from the university seemed non-existent. I, as well as my English flatmates, had no idea when university would start nor anything about the university until we were informed the day before by our “tutor” (who happens to be a student at the university). The Erasmus office of the university wasn’t any better taking two weeks to get our learning agreements signed and returned. When lectures started and were completely in Spanish, there began the reality that I was no longer in England and I was very much in at the deep end.
However, as the weeks have gone on classes have become somewhat easier and I’ve become accustomed myself to the Spanish lifestyle more and more. Getting involved in the football at university has also hugely helped me to both settle in and also practice the language plus in Madrid there is no shortage of bars and restaurants to go and have a chat and keep improving.
Overall, Madrid has been wonderful thus far and I feel so privileged to be able to spend the year here perfecting my Spanish whilst hopefully having the best year of my life thus far – and it all started with a Mr Adamson Spanish class back in 2007!!”