Making friends on your year abroad – whilst maintaining social distancing!
One of the most nerve-wracking thoughts before your year abroad is making new friends… in a new language! For some, perhaps this isn’t a new experience, but for me, the only times I had spoken Spanish in conversation was with my lecturers on the stairs, which only consisted of me stuttering “hola, cómo estás?” whilst awkwardly smiling as I quickly retreated from the situation.
However, I was confident that I was going to try my best to socialise and attend as many Erasmus events as I could. That being said, when I arrived to Granada, pulled up to the flat door, entered with an enthusiastic smile, that was the very moment I realised 8 of my 9 flat mates spoke French…
It is safe to say my French was not as good as I had thought, but I could successfully say “bonjour, ça va?” without too many issues (writing it however deems more difficult).
I chose to live in a flat of 10 people with socialising in mind; despite most of their first languages being French, everyone studied in Spanish, and most knew a lot of English. Most importantly, we were all Erasmus students and all eager to make friends and speak Spanish! Remember that everyone is in the same boat, and most likely feel the same emotions as you.
Thankfully, despite the COVID-19 restrictions in Spain, many Erasmus groups made an effort to make socially-distanced events go ahead. I really recommend trying to attend as many as possible in the first few weeks- this way you will see lots of familiar faces and make the most of everyone being as new as you! Some of the best events include tours of the city, beach trips, karaoke and tapas nights! Many of these events are free, and a great way to get to know the city and your fellow Erasmus students. If your not a fan of large groups, the city tours were really enjoyable- due to social distancing they were small and took place in the evening when the city looks most beautiful, you also get a chance to get to know the people in the group and therefore feel more confident to get a cheeky tapa at the end!
“If your not a fan of large groups, the city tours were really enjoyable- due to social distancing they were small and took place in the evening when the city looks most beautiful, you also get a chance to get to know the people in the group and therefore feel more confident to get a cheeky tapa at the end!“
One of the best evenings I had was the paella night. I met all of my closest friends who are from all over the world, including Germany, France, Czech Republic and the United States. We made an effort to create a group chat and meet up again for churros a few days later, where we could get to know each other a little more.
Honestly, sometimes it may feel too much of an effort to meet up with people every day; I certainly had my days where trying to speak in a different language whilst socialising was too exhausting. One lesson I learnt was to be kind to yourself; your year abroad is extremely demanding, yes it is fun meeting new people and going to events, but its also stressful and nerve-wracking! Give yourself time to adjust, and congratulate yourself for the small things.
“Remember that everyone is in the same boat, and most likely feel the same emotions as you.“
To be realistic, we were in the middle of pandemic, and although all of the Erasmus events I attended were permitted, I was meeting lots of new people. It wasn’t long before someone was tested positive for the virus, and all of us had to go into isolation.
Trying to get a test in Spain also deemed extremely difficult! If there was any way to test your Spanish, it is when you seek medical advice. After many attempts (and the help of my only Spanish flat mate), I eventually got tested and unfortunately got tested positive. I was lucky and had no serious reactions to the virus, however I did spend my 21st birthday in isolation! But every cloud has a silver lining, and spending two weeks in isolation in one flat meant that we all grew a lot closer together.
Once out of isolation, everyone was eager to get together again! Thankfully, we were still able to travel in Spain, so me and my group of Erasmus friends booked an air b&b for 18 euros each in Malaga. Organising trips together is a great way to explore the country and share new experiences! I was able to celebrate my birthday a second time with my Erasmus friends, and spend nights cooking and drinking together.
Before arriving in Granada, myself and the other students from Cardiff made a deal to introduce each other to our new friends so that we could help one another meet new people. I do suggest trying to catch up with your classmates from your home University. It gives you a chance to chat about your experiences, check in with each other, and give advice on any issues you’re having with the uni (which you will most certainly have!)
One thing me and my Cardiff friends agreed on was that the beginning of your year abroad is one of the most difficult experiences you have. It is exhausting, scary and stressful. However, it is also one of the most rewarding experiences. I’m not shy to say that I am very proud of myself- despite the COVID-19 restrictions and catching the virus (👌🏻), I have made really amazing friends, and always have an offer for coffee! And although restrictions eventually stopped bars from opening past 10pm, I had flat mates who I could hang with at home!
Have faith, be kind to yourself, and enjoy the first moments of your year abroad!