Your year abroad will be an epic year and an incredible life experience
... Is what every single Erasmus student has heard over and over again before they left. And although it may be difficult to see how good it really is in the first couple of weeks, it doesn't take long until things kick off.
Before you know it, you are full-on adoring life and understanding in every single way the famous ESN motto: "la vida Erasmus, la vida mejor".
And, inevitably, you are also stressing out at the thought that there is, very sadly, a time limit to the legendary lifestyle that you are leading. Legendary for different reasons, ranging from an unpredicted love affair with jamón iberico to making amazing new friends.
Here are ten things that have contributed to making this year so special and that you probably will not do again in your future, grown-up life. Because the things that you do on your Erasmus year, stay in your Erasmus year.
MOVING IN WITH A GROUP OF STRANGERS
When you think of it, how weird is that? You basically take the decision to share a bathroom, kitchen, living room, essentially to share nine months of your life with a group of people that you don't know the first thing about.
You make the commitment to see their faces every single morning and yet you don't know whether they are a cat or a dog person. They are the people that you will steal milk and butter from, but are they a Beyoncé or a Michelle?!
Don't worry though. The first week might be one of small chat awkwardness - "So where do you come from again? And you study here? Spanish literature, oooh how interesting!" - but soon these mysterious flatmates will become your favorite people in the world.
PACK YOUR LIFE IN ONE BAG
One year, 23 kg of luggage. Challenge accepted. You didn't regret your decision to travel light when you arrived in Madrid and had to carry your belongings around the metro and up the stairs to your brand new flat, resulting in acute exhaustion and excessive sweating.
You had a few regrets when you started your fourth wash of the week and wore your winter jumper for the sixth time in a row. So you did what every normal human being does in such times of crisis: you went shopping.
And now that you have twice as much stuff and only one miserable bag to go back, you are starting to get the uncomfortable feeling of being screwed.
There are some situations that no one should ever have to live through. One of them is the constant battle at the supermarket to find what you thought were normal products, and which turn out to be not only untranslatable but also apparently very exotic.
It gets worse when you decide to plan ahead and Google translate all of the vocabulary on your shopping list so that you are able to ask an employee where to find baked beans and sweet potato. Because Google translate is a mischievous troll that likes to set you up and embarrass you. Google Translate will make you ask for "cojones" when you are looking for eggs, with all the humiliation that ensues. True story.
MAKING NATIONALITY A NEW CRITERIA FOR FRIENDSHIP
No one wants to admit it, but it's definitely a thing. Even if you like saying that you just hate these groups of - insert nationality - that stick together and don't even try to socialize with Spanish people.
When you're away from home and hear someone speaking your native language, you can't fight the irresistible drive to join in and ask where they're from. Because it's so nice to actually be funny in the language you speak natively once in a while.
WEARING YOUR SUMMER CLOTHES SEVEN MONTHS A YEAR
Who didn't have a beer on a terrace in a T-shirt at the end of October and hasn't posted a perfectly Instagrammed picture of it on Facebook, thus causing immediate but intense hatred from fellow students who stayed back at your home university and are already heating up their hot water bottles?
Who hasn't sent a subtle Snapchat from the boats in Retiro at the beginning of April, wearing nothing but this cute brand new summer dress, sunglasses and a gigantic smile? That's right. No one.
Just another October afternoon in Retiro
USING LANGUAGE ACQUISITION AS AN EXCUSE FOR EVERYTHING
Everything and anything. Feel like watching this super interesting and culturally enriching telenovela on Spanish TV instead of writing your essay for Spanish medieval literature? You can, because it will improve your listening skills.
Your Spanish gang is going out tonight, but you should really stay in to revise that class test? The first option is definitely going to make the difference and help you think in Spanish in the exam.
Your bank statement is feeling a bit down but all of your flatmates are going to watch the psychological masterpiece that is Sexo fácil, Películas tristes? Two words: language acquisition. It works all the time I tell you.
LIVING IN A ROOM WITH NO WINDOWS
Oh, right, it is really cheap and in a very good area. Who cares if you wake up late once every two days because it always feels like the middle of the night?
And of course you can deal with obscurity and dodgy ventilation for just a year. It won't get depressing at all. Especially not if you live with people who went for the natural light option and enjoy a balcony on a daily basis.
No problems whatsoever. Give it a few months and you will be claiming out loud that you'd rather eat your eyeballs rather than repeat the experience in the future.
SPENDING UNREASONABLE AMOUNTS OF MONEY ON MINI SANDWICHES
When you discovered Cien Montaditos, you thought it was heaven created by a marketing genius. You've keenly brought all of your friends there - "I swear!! It's 1€ for a sandwich!! And there's one hundred of them, I promise you!!!" - and after trying every single combination, you are proud to say that you know which ones are the best on the menu.
You probably feel like a true Spaniard for it as well, knowing the good food deals and all. Now try counting how much money you have spent in this place exactly, and yes, including Mondays 0,50€ a montadito days. That's right. Cien Montaditos could be a category in itself on your monthly budget. You should be ashamed.
MAKING UNIVERSITY VERY SECONDARY ON YOUR PRIORITY LIST
Only on your Erasmus year will you find yourself going to class only when you feel like it, sometimes causing a not-so-good look of surprise and unexpectedness in the eyes of your teachers.
Only on your Erasmus year will you realize that the gap between your written notes are sometimes a month long. Only on your Erasmus year in Madrid (and probably only if you belong to the Philology faculty) will you decide to take the day off because the students are on strike and probably won't let you inside the building anyways.
It's a good thing they have a fichas de clase system to make sure that your teachers have a way to visualize your face. Another way than your attendance, that is.
PAY UP TO 25€ FOR A NIGHT OUT
I guess that the profound thrill of the Erasmus grant comes at a price. That price is that, effectively, you are an Erasmus student. Apparently, for quite a few club owners, this means that you are a complete tourist, unaware of normal costs of life.
This typically ends up with you hearing the bouncer announce extravagant entry prices with an innocent smile and you drunkenly throwing your notes on the counter like a boss.
Twice as frustrating when the Spanish group of people behind you pay half the price.
The price to pay to put your hands up in the air