Taking the biggest step – the story of my international experience and why you should do it too!
Desde Edimburgo hasta Madrid – my journey to the land of sangria, paella and Salsa!
Making the decision to spend an extended period of time away from home is never easy – there’s a lot to consider! Things such as, ‘What if I can’t adapt to the culture?’, ‘What if I don’t like living there but I can’t go home?’ and ‘What if I don’t make any friends?’ were some of my main worries when I was moving abroad.
I was born and raised in a small village in Fife called Auchtermuchty, home to the Proclaimers (the twins that brought you that infamous chant about walking 500 miles and then 500 more just to be the man who… you know the one!) and a place where nothing exciting ever happens! I spent the majority of my childhood running muddy-wellied across fields and through forests, and if you’d told me then what I’d have done by the time I was 22, I’d probably have laughed you right out of town!
I moved to The Big City when I was 18 to come to study at Heriot Watt University. Even though it was only an hours’ drive across the Firth of Forth, it was still a big deal. I’d never lived away from home before and I was so used to being a country bumpkin that the thought of living in such a bustling and busy city liked Edinburgh really scared me!
I had chosen to study Spanish Translation, which meant that during my third year I was going to be living abroad as part of the ERASMUS programme – which, if you haven’t heard of it, is an EU exchange programme which allows thousands of students from across the EU to study abroad for an academic year!
When the time came for me to choose where I wanted to go, I decided to choose Madrid. I’d done my research, spoken to other students who’d previously gone there and realised that it was the best choice for me. The city offered me everything I needed – culture, restaurants & bars, entertainment and a buzzing nightlife, aswell as quick transport routes to the university and an airport with direct flights across Europe for travelling at weekends and during holidays!
I decided that before I moved there, I should probably go across for a weekend mini-break and scope it out beforehand. So in April 2014, I went to Madrid for the first time. My emotions were flying – would I like it? Could I see myself living there? Was it going to be everything I was hoping for?
The answer to those questions? YES! The moment I stepped out of the metro station in Puerta del Sol, I knew I was right where I was supposed to be. The architecture was beautiful, the sun was shining and there was even a Mariachi band playing nearby (which I later learned are there almost every night!). During my first trip to Madrid I did all the tourist routes from the Royal Palace, along Gran Vía and down to Retiro park, as well as looking at a couple of apartments. I even visited my future university to check it out and see if I’d like it!
When September 2014 rolled around and the time had come for me to make my permanent move to Madrid, I was so excited even though I was terrified at the same time! I didn’t have a place to stay, I hadn’t worked out my university timetable and even worse – I was flying solo! Saying goodbye to my family and friends was
really difficult, but they were so supportive and reminded me that it was only for a year!
I remember when I walked off the plane and the 30 degree heat hit me like a brick wall. I had 2 suitcases weighing what felt like 50 tons between them, as well as a backpack with dodgy straps… and only my 2 wee hands to carry it all! I got a taxi to my hotel, and then flopped down on my bed.
For the next few days I met up with the other girls that were doing ERASMUS in Madrid with me, and we found a flat very close to the city centre and 10 minutes walk from our metro stop to uni. Our landlady was lovely and she helped us with every question we had – big or small! I sorted out my SIM card and figured out how to pay my bills. It all seemed very surreal, and I was still figuring out how I felt about it! But all I needed to do when I was worried or scared was pick up the phone and call home – and all my worries melted away!
Uni was great – I met lots of lovely people, and made lifelong friends. I learned a lot and my Spanish improved tenfold. I began to realise that I was loving living abroad, and Madrid began to become a second home to me. A few months after I’d moved there, I was speaking to my Mum on Skype, and she told me that she’d never seen me looking so healthy and happy. Since moving to Madrid I’d forgotten all about my initial worries, and I’d settled into my life there.
I’ve been back from Madrid for over a year now, and I really miss the life I had there and everything about it! Thinking about my experience in Madrid just makes me want to travel more, and it’s opened up my eyes to what living abroad can be like! There’s really nothing like it! Madrid became a second home to me, and leaving there in June 2015 was far more difficult than it was to move there in the first place.
The experience of living in Madrid gave me so much. I learned how to adapt to a completely new culture; I made lifelong friends and improved my language skills; I became more independent and achieved something I never thought I could… And most importantly, I learned that even though it might seem like the most daunting thing ever to up-sticks and move to another country where they don’t speak your language and don’t have the same culture as you, it’s really not the end of the world! You learn to live with the things you miss, and you learn to adapt and change to deal with your new surroundings. Your family and friends are always just a phone call away, and sometimes they’ll even visit you! After a while, you forget why you were scared in the first place, and you start to wonder why you didn’t do it sooner!
If you asked me if I’d ever do it again, the answer would be YES! And if you asked me if I’d recommend living abroad, I’d ask you why you’ve never done it before! So, if you’ve ever thought about making an international move but are worried about the implications, or if you just want to find out more about what opportunities are waiting for you, please get in touch and let me know! I specialise in working with professionals who want to gain more experience and improve their lives by making an international move, and you’d be amazed to find out just how many fantastic opportunities are available to you! The hardest part is making the first step, but with the right support behind you and the right opportunity, then you too could be heading off to start your new life abroad
Worry is only temporary, but the experiences you have and the memories you make will last forever.