Victoria Doherty: Study Abroad in France and Spain

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND preparing for YOUR TIME ABROAD

When I first applied for my degree course in Applied Languages at Portsmouth, I was fully aware of the fact that my third year would be spent abroad through Erasmus, but nothing could have prepared me for the initial shock when preparations for the year were suddenly underway. It’s true that, initially, the paperwork was arduous and the thought of finding somewhere to live frankly terrified me but, once summer had arrived and I had only a couple of months left, I started to feel more confident. Before I knew it, my flights were booked and I was looking at the best couriers to haul the ridiculous amount of things I wanted to take with me. 

What was your study abroad experience like in France?

My first destination was Toulouse and flights were thankfully fairly cheap for that time of year. When I first arrived there, I felt lost and out of my comfort zone, as is natural. But it must be said, even after the first two weeks my vocabulary and broadened and my spoken French had improved, which in itself drove me forwards. Finding student accommodation in Toulouse was not at all as daunting as I had initially thought, it was all done online and, (in terms of French admin), it was quite straightforward. Enrolling in the university however was difficult and the thing I would recommend above all is: stay calm- it will all come together eventually. The way of life tends to be more relaxed on the continent and you must take this into account the first month or so to avoid losing your mind! Once your timetable is sorted and you have the Wi-Fi password, the rest is a breeze.

During the rest of my stay in France my spoken and written French improved beyond and above anything possible in a classroom and I had the fantastic opportunity to make friends with not only locals, but also French speakers from Africa and further afield, which was a real eye-opener in terms of culture. 

What was your study abroad experience like in Spain?

For my second semester, I was in the beautiful Spanish city of Málaga. Looking for accommodation there was slightly more complicated as there was nothing allocated for students, so it was a matter of joining Facebook groups and finding other Erasmus students to live with. That being said, I booked myself into a hostel for two nights upon arrival and, within 24 hours, had found a gorgeous flat right in the centre. During my stay there my spoken Spanish improved beyond what I ever thought it could in a relatively short space of time and my confidence to speak even more so. Living was extremely cheap, a hearty tapas meal with wine could cost as little as €5 so eating out was always a viable option! Travel was also easily affordable and Málaga is surrounded not only by beautiful coastline but also by rich, historical diversity such as the Moroccan influenced city of Granada and the medieval town of Rhonda. During these excursions and my stay in Spain in general, I had the opportunity to meet people from all around the world and made friends for life.  Sharing the experience with them is a memory that will forever be close to my heart.

HOW HAS YOUR TIME ABROAD BENEFITED YOU?

In terms of employability, I personally feel my language and communication skills are tenfold better than what they would have been without living abroad. These are key aspects that employers in the language sector are looking for and the Erasmus experience necessarily will improve them. Your C.V. will also stand out not only for this but also for that fact that after your year abroad, you will be a person who has successfully adapted to living in a different country, with people who you have never met before and you will have had the time of your life doing it.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ANYONE THINKING OF STUDYING Abroad?

To anyone who is particularly nervous or anxious, as I was, I would say do not let this opportunity pass you by. The best times of your life are waiting for you in whichever country you choose to study/work in and I have yet to meet one person who has not enjoyed the experience in their own way. It will benefit you not only linguistically, but also personally. A short quote to highlight this:

‘You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of knowing and loving people in more than one place.’

Want to spend a semester or year abroad? Check out the Erasmus+ Study Abroad programme!