Tips for Australians coming to Spain:
- The people who tell you that Spain is always warm are from cold, cold countries.
- Goon is no longer necessary. A litre bottle of vodka can be purchased in the supermarket, next to the juice, for four euros.
- When the Sydney lockouts start happening – about 3am – is the time people in Madrid start entering the club.
It’s been two and a half months so far and I have seen snow for the first time (in big, big quantities travelling through northern Spain), seen some of the capitals of the ancient Islamic world, walked into buildings over a thousands years old and been held up at the end of a checkout frequently for not understanding enough Spanish to talk to the checkout person.
Overall, exchange is a crazy experience. I through myself into the deep end by not totally learning the language or understanding how cold it can get in Madrid (it’s high up on a plateau) but after meeting other international students and starting to get into the vibe of Spain it has been amazing. Cultural differences start to become normal – like the late meals (2:30pm lunch; 9am dinner; 11pm pre-drinks) and the crazy amount of bread and jamón that is everywhere and comes with literally everything (20 cent baguette bread though). Pretty soon I couldn’t imagine how I had lived in Australia where everything stops early, there is loads of space at any restaurant or average bar you walk into and the weather stays at a moderate, predictable temperature.
University here is a bit different – compared to UTS it seems super disorganised, but you learn to deal with it. It’s also much more oldschool (for a MAP student anyway). Classes are very ‘teacher talks, you listen, teacher leaves’ style, but that’s something you get used to as well. In the end, the things you learn from exchange aren’t going to come from your university subjects. Mixing with so many international students in Europe – one of the most culturally diverse places in the world – is amazingly different to the isolated and relatively homogenous Australia. I’ve met girls from Lebanon who study in Beirut and grew up with bombings at different sides of the city being completely normal; people from Canada who live in places that have recently reached temperatures colder than mars; Spanish people who speak four languages and are ready to fly the Spanish flag in the next olympics for Judo. Most of all I’ve met a million kinds of living that are not something I would have considered before – or at least would have considered extreme. The whole experience has managed to make the world seem smaller and all the things I once would have thought were far off now seem tangible. The opportunities in Europe for film and creatives like me are inspiring, and the places you go and times you have (good and bad) while trying to survive by yourself in Europe are really character defining moments.
I would recommend exchange to anyone, it is definitely something that opens up your mind and gives you a new perspective on both the world and life.