Exchange is never going to be how you think it is. Just over half way through my student
holiday exchange now and it’s really quite hard to put into words how much a semester abroad can change you. Stepping off the plane in Madrid after a month of backpacking and festivals across a summer Europe, I thought the semester would slow things down a bit… Fortunately, Madrid manages to take things to the next level with a party culture like nothing I’ve ever seen. I first thought that the Spaniards were joking when they described a typical week night ending at 6am in the morning before a quick change of clothes, a cafe con leche, and straight to an 8:30am start. I was wrong.
What you can’t predict is how much time you might spend in your home city. Typing this before my 1 hour flight across the Strait of Gibraltar to Morocco for the weekend, you might end up finding your city as a stepping stone to the rest of Europe. Cheap low cost carriers can take you anywhere from the UK to Germany for less than the cost of a flight to Melbourne so make sure to factor these mini holidays into your budget. Another tip for these mini holidays are the use of the infamous Bla Bla Cars. Not currently available in Australia, these cars are the modern day version of hitch-hiking with a thumb in the air replaced by an app. All you need to do is head to www.blablacar.com or the app, search for your destination and connect with a driver heading in that direction. It may be intimidating at first, hopping into a car with a random stranger, but let me assure you that time flies in an 8 hour drive from Madrid to Bordeaux when you’re hearing and sharing stories with people from around the world and really diving into the liberal European culture.
Now back to that far fetched reason I actually came to Spain for, University. At the Universidad Pontificia Comillas, you quickly find out that it is nothing like UTS, instead closely resembling the format of high school. While you may only be averaging 3-4 subjects a semester at UTS, in order to achieve the required 30 ECTS to complete a semester at UPC you will need around 6-7 subjects to reach that amount. This might mean an 8:30am to 4pm day without break, but will be well worth it when you can easily head back to your apartment for an afternoon siesta and be ready for the night that wont even start till midnight. It will be tough adjusting to a main meal at 2pm, a siesta till 9pm while may wait to leave the apartment around 11 to a party that wont even really kick off till 1 but I already know that it’s going to be a tougher ask adjusting back to Australian time. Until then, let the fun and games continue and definitely check out Madrid as your destination for exchange because you definitely wont regret it.