Rachel Lee graduates today with a 2:1 in French and Italian. She is hoping to continue her studies with an MA in Translation. Katie Wilson also graduates today with a 2:1 in Spanish and Italian. She will be moving to Spain in September to work at the Universidad de Castilla La Mancha. Here, they each offer their insights into their experiences abroad as Cardiff University undergraduates.
I had always known that choosing a language degree would mean spending a year abroad, something I had considered to be ominous and nerve-racking. Although I was excited about the prospect of travelling, meeting new people and experiencing different cultures, I was still worried about leaving my friends, family and what I considered to be my home.
For the first six months, I studied in Geneva, Switzerland. The beginning was tough as it was the first time I had done anything truly by myself since coming to Cardiff University. I remember moving into my Swiss halls and trying to speak French (not very successfully) to a Spanish girl! However, the semester flew past; I met so many people, travelled all over the country and really enjoyed my time there.
It wasn’t until January, when I was flying back to sit my exams after spending Christmas in Britain, that I realised I was on my way home. When I walked into my kitchen, I walked into a room full of people who are now amongst my best friends. I definitely gained a lot from my experience abroad, but most of all I realised that home isn’t necessarily something fixed but something you make for yourself wherever you go.
After five months on my own in Spain, the reunion with my girlfriend to commence the second phase of our ERASMUS year in Pisa, Italy, was perfetto. The people were friendly, the weather was amazing and the food… Well, my jeans didn’t fit four months later.
The best part of Italian culture was the nightly ritual of all the students gathering in the piazzas for a drink, a slice of pizza and a gelato. They were friendly, and always very kind about my awful Italian – even when, after a few drinks, it became a dribbling mess of newly learnt swear words!
To me, the true meaning of a year abroad is: to find oneself, to become culturally aware and, of course, to improve one’s language skills. I was able to reach these aims whilst in Pisa, as well as by travelling around Tuscany and visiting the most beautiful and unforgettable places I have ever been. Not only did I make friends for life, but I also brought home a greater sense of self, an extended vocabulary and knowledge of how to cook the most amazing (and fattening) Italian food!