"For my Erasmus year abroad I was posted to the University of Santiago de Compostela in the Galicia region of North West Spain, to study history, language, literature and translation in the Philology department for one academic year.
Although I am of Spanish descent, I knew next to nothing about Galicia when I found out about my placement location so I didn't know what to expect. Since I had no family in that part of the country, I opted for student residence accommodation over private rented accommodation as I wanted to get to know as many local people as possible in order to integrate better. The student residence was a tight-knit community which ran a strict, conservative Catholic ethos which, although I wasn't something I was used to, I really liked as it strengthened my character and taught me a sense of discipline and personal endeavour. My fellow co-residents, as it turned out, were not just from Galicia but from all over Spain and Latin America which really helped me to strengthen my command of the language. The residence, which housed people from all sorts of professional, academic, social and religious backgrounds, turned out to be as formative an experience to me as the university study itself. They ran after-dinner cultural discussions ("tertulias"), to which guest speakers who are illustrious names in public life in Spain and elsewhere were often invited. I was also encouraged to participate in voluntary work, paying visits to a children's hospital, a rehabilitation clinic and an immigration centre all of which really broadened my horizons.
On my return to London, my studies were reinvigorated by my experiences in Spain, and I went on to do more voluntary work at a London immigration help centre and then spent another year in Spain teaching English, that time in Madrid.
On graduation I enrolled at UCL to study an MA in the theory and practice of translation, where I continue to this day. Not only has it given me the language tools necessary to study translation at postgraduate level and to work in an environment which requires languages, but it has really broadened me as a person and given me self-confidence I never knew I had."