When I arrived in Madrid for the first time to begin my year abroad, I was amazed at how big, bustling and bright the city was - and this was just a regular Monday evening! I was nervous, especially after being unable to understand the angry taxi driver who’d picked me up from the airport, but also excited and energised as I marvelled at Madrid’s fantastic architecture and busy plazas, wondering how long it would be until I could call myself a true madrileña.
Before arriving in Madrid, I had a couple of telephone interviews and secured a job as an English Teacher in a well-respected Language Academy. I had a busy timetable, teaching English to employees in lots of large, international companies. My job involved a lot of travelling and meeting dozens of new people, but was ideal as I got to explore little sections of the city between classes, and made good friends with students who were as fascinated with Britain as I was with their homeland.
After one or two months in Madrid, I felt completely immersed into the Spanish way of life, and noticed that my Spanish language skills had improved dramatically. I consider it to have been a very natural process - I was too busy having fun and embracing exciting new experiences to be learning vocabulary and studying grammar, yet I had learnt lots of new words, useful phrases and expressions and was confident using them in real situations. Of course, I am forever indebted to my Collins Spanish Dictionary , which helped me decipher the contract for my flat and was invaluable when dealing with the internet provider and their technical terms. I wouldn’t recommend embarking on your year abroad travels without your trusty dictionary!
I believe the best tip anyone can give you about your year abroad is to keep a record of everything you learn. This can be rather challenging, and may sound unnecessary, as you are likely to come across dozens of new words, phrases and language features every day. However, it is the only way you will remember enough of these to really express yourself naturally and impress, both during your time abroad and when you return to university for those dreaded year abroad orals!
To all those embarking on their year abroad this year, I wish you the most wonderful and eye-opening experience possible! I would definitely recommend a copy of the Collins Dictionary & Grammar available in French, Spanish, Italian and German. This essential dictionary and fantastic easy-reference grammar, which I would have found extremely handy during my struggles with the subjunctive, is perfect for your year abroad, especially as it’s suitcase and annoying-luggage-restriction-friendly!