I did not enjoy my time in Cadiz, as I personally felt that the city was too claustrophobic and culturally, being Andalucía, it is quite difficult being female and foreign - it's a male-centric, not very progressive part of Spain. My biggest problems were in getting to grips with the language after being out of practice for a few months, as well as the homesickness, isolation and loneliness I felt living in such a small place. However, although the city is a bit of a maze and Health and Safety seems to be practically non-existent, I felt the new town had a few things to do (cinema, bars, clubs etc). It also pushed me to go visit places outside of Cadiz, and from there it was easy to travel all around Andalucía and visit places such as Seville, Ronda and more - there’s a brilliant train service.
The good thing about going somewhere quite small is that you make friends really quickly, as everyone knows each other! If anything, living and working in a small place really shows you what working life is like in Spain, you get to know your co-workers better and you get to see what life is like as a local. The Castilla-la-Mancha region has good transport links close to Madrid, so I used to go there quite often to get some culture and city nights out during my time away. And from Madrid, you can pretty much go anywhere, so I was always busy! I visited Salamanca, Toledo, Sevilla, Madrid, Cuenca, Albacete, Barcelona, Granada and Valencia while I was there. Don't be scared about your year abroad - do exactly what you want to do; it’s the best year of your life and you deserve to make the most of it! Travel, speak the lingo and you'll make friends for life!!
Madrid, Spain - buzzy, lively, exciting, fun, cultural
Madrid is a fantastic city – the best city in Europe! There is an amazing variety of things to do, see and enjoy and excellent nightlife. The work I found was interesting but after 10 months of limited responsibility I was more than ready to leave, but I’d recommend that you stay in Europe instead of going to other Spanish-speaking countries and find work; the experience is unbeatable for the CV and the Erasmus Grant and salary really help with the finances. I had to move house very quickly as I hadn't realised that the accommodation I had sorted before leaving England was a very long way out from the city centre but the most important thing is choosing the people you live with - they are crucial to your language development. Stay in a hostel (Red or Purple Nest are perfect) while you are ringing landlords and looking at rooms in flats. Only live with Spanish or Latin American people, preferably students who you can go out with etc. and you’ll be surprised how quickly you pick up their expressions and accent! Have a really open mind and do not be shy otherwise you will struggle.
Barcelona, Spain - shabby-chic, welcoming, small, good cake
Barcelona is a massive city so there’s plenty to do. Raval was my favourite area and in particular a vegan café called 'Juicy Jones' who do a meal deal of €8.90, which is awesome. Despite the fact that you need a lot of money to fully enjoy Barcelona, there's still plenty you can do without it. Here the buildings are full of character and obviously the works by Gaudi are worth a look. Check out the port area while you’re there, but for nice beaches it's better to catch a train and, so doing, avoid the crowds. Being a big city it doesn't feel extremely safe but if you're vigilant it's fine - many people I knew there got robbed but thankfully this didn't happen to me. Treat your year abroad as the once in a life time experience it is.
It’s a very beautiful, quiet town and there were not a lot of people my age there, which gave the town less of a student-y vibe. I did feel a bit homesick at first, so after having spoken to some of the teachers about it, I decided to visit my family for the weekend. Once I'd been there for a month or so, the people started opening up (the place I was staying was very closed and people had certain groups of friends so it was difficult to integrate), I had a better time, going for meals and meeting friends for coffee... I had great fun travelling around the island of Menorca, as well as visiting Mallorca and Barcelona on numerous occasions. If you're looking for a good social life, don't go to a small place! I would recommend university study (based on what I've heard from friends) as a good way of making friends and getting involved in social situations. Working as a teaching assistant is fulfilling and good fun, but can be quite boring on the social side of things if you're somewhere small.
There weren’t that many students my own age in the town itself but there were plenty of bars, a few discos and chances to go out. Cordoba was not too far away, either, so I got the chance to travel across Southern Spain. Don't rule out living in a small town; you can get a lot more out of it than living in a big city as you really get the chance to throw yourself in the local community and get to grips with the culture.
Granada has so much art and architecture, with sunshine nearly all year round, and loads of bars to take your fancy - I couldn’t have asked for better! One place you have to visit is the Alhambra, an enchanting structure of Hispano-Moorish art, historic palaces and breathtaking views over el barrio del Albaicín and over the city. Book a visit in advance as entry tickets do tend to run out very quickly! You should also go to the old Moorish silk market near the Cathedral. Apart from offering a very diverse and multicultural environment, you’ll find various craft stalls selling hand-made jewellery, silk gifts and shisha pipes. Make sure you check out the many chupeterías, with their 126 different flavoured shots—don’t head out too early though, as the party gets started at around 10pm over here! Go to ‘El Aguador’ for the best paella in town, although there’s thousands of tapas bars across the city. I sorted out my accommodation through university halls, staying at the Residencia Emperador Carlos V. Great for making friends quickly and sooo close to the Arts faculty!
Although the town is very charming, Estepa was a bit too small and isolated for my liking. My job wasn't also quite right for me, as I didn't enjoy teaching as much as I thought I would. The tapas culture was good and there were plenty of bars in the town, but not much else.There was very little to do and the bad public transport made it difficult to get to cities...But I had (and really enjoyed) the opportunity to visit Madrid and nearby cities like Malaga, Cordoba, Sevilla and Granada.