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The Basics in Valencia

6 October 2019

Hi again! It’s been a while since I last wrote a blog post because I’ve been so busy for the past month and also my secret talent is procrastination. So where do I begin? It’s been a whirlwind month here already I cannot believe how quickly time passes in Spain, it honestly feels like my life is going 100 mph right now!

Getting here: The first thing I wanna mention is getting here which can be a scary prospect for some of you in first or second year right now so I want to put your minds at ease. A lot of people I know had people come with them to move them in i.e. parents, siblings or even just friends. Personally, I had to brave it alone and I’m glad I did in all honesty because it made me act independently without any prompt. It was pretty uneventful: once you get off the plane you get your baggage and go to the metro. Now this was the first time I had used the metro in Spain because I was too scared to when I visited before and I can confirm I was scared of nothing. You just go to the machine (or the counter where someone is working) and get your ticket. The machines are so easy to use because you can change the language to English if you’re not mentally prepared to read everything in Spanish just yet. Once I did that I checked in with my landlord, dropped my bags off in my new room and made a beeline for the nearest open Primark to deck my room out in true uni girl fashion. Simple as.

Starting university: The first port of call is the introduction day where you go with your passport and receive your Certificate of Arrival (you need this document to send to Cardiff so they can process your Erasmus grant allocation). They gave us a little goody bag with an academic calendar, a diary/planner and a couple other bits and bobs (free pens!!!) as well as a file holder where you’ll find your enrolment form as well as other pieces of paper with information on. They give a long speech about generic things regarding the city and then go on to explain the enrolment process. Later on in the day you’ll have another talk with your academic coordinator who will likely breakdown the same things as well as answer any questions you have. After that it does get a bit tricky because if I’m being honest, they don’t give you the most guidance with how to go about enrolment but the gist is that you fill in the form with the subjects you’re choosing (make sure they don’t clash by checking everything on the website) and get this signed off by the coordinator. Then you have an appointment for a certain date and time to take your signed form(s) and hand them in for everything to be entered into the system which then makes you “matriculado”! My advice with this would be ask people if you’re really confused about the whole process.

Grocery shopping: Obviously, this is going to be a weekly occurrence so I feel it’s an important thing to talk about. Don’t be afraid of going to the supermarket here, it is the exact same as in the UK except everything is Spanish and different brands. You aren’t gonna have the exact same brands or types of foods as in the UK unfortunately, it’s more difficult to find a generic pasta sauce in Mercadona (looking out for all you basic students who survive off pasta 24/7). They sell Heinz beans here and honestly you don’t realise how British you are until you get here and you see a tin of beans and tears start welling up in your eyes. I mostly eat chicken, spinach, eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes and basic carbs like pasta/rice/couscous. These are all pretty easy to find in Spanish supermarkets. One item that is difficult to locate is a decent mature cheddar, I am on a quest to find something as close to Cathedral City as possible. One cool thing is that they have microwaves and little seating areas if you wanted to cook your ready meal there and then at the supermarket because you’re so ravenous you can’t see. They also have super cool deli counters with freshly cooked pasta, pizza, paella, tortilla and other foods for you to take away and scoff as soon as you sit down. One prewarning: the jamón aisle is very intense I always use my mouth to breathe when I walk through it because I’m weak willed. Anyhow, to summarise this section: you have to live without some British delicacies but everything else is pretty much the same and I encourage you to cook from scratch because it’s rewarding.

The average day in Spain: It’s well known that Spaniards eat at different times than we do in the UK and this can be a bit confusing for your body when you get here if you’re meticulous about your eating times. Lucky for me I eat late sometimes even in the UK so it didn’t affect me too much. However, there are times where between 4 pm and 8 pm that I am starving hungry again post lunch and need another meal. My advice would be just eat when you’re hungry, don’t go overboard, try to make your snacks and meals as balanced and healthy as you can but if you have a rough day and want to eat a whole pack of Oreos then who am I to tell you that you shouldn’t. I think one thing you will find in Spain is that the heat often takes away your appetite or makes you feel a little bit queasy, just keep hydrated at minimum during times like this. Aside from food, the Spanish day down here in the South goes as follows: 7 or 8 am wake up and eat breakfast by 9 am as most businesses open by this time, then most people will be working (or in class) until about 2 pm when it’s time for lunch which is usually the biggest meal of the day and runs until about 4 pm to allow a little time for a siesta which I have found I do in fact need, and then a lot of shops will stay open until 9 or 10 pm which is when people will most likely be eating their dinner and then bed by 12 or 1 am, if you go out clubbing you’ll probably start drinking at 11 pm and go to the club for 2 am and then come home at 6 am. Absurd timings I know, why can’t everyone just want to be tucked into bed by 10 pm??? I ask myself this every day and the best part is that I end up awake until 2 am most nights!

To conclude, I will first apologise because this is another generic post without photos and that’s because I need to collate my thoughts and my photos first. Plus I need to do more cultural things first! But all in all, I hope this helps clarify some things about Spain for anyone waiting nervously for their year abroad here to approach!