The Mole Diaries: Melilla
I'm studying Spanish didactics in the University of Granada Melilla Campus and doing work experience in the La Salle which is a semi private school here. Next semester I will be studying at the Universidad de Murcia in Spain and hopefully getting some sort of job as a english teacher.
Getting to Melilla is fairly easy as long as you get your times right! Because Melilla has a tiny airport you will only get planes flying from Spain which means you need to get two flights. Your best bet is to get flights to Malaga and then get a connecting flight. The other option is to fly to Madrid but that is usually a bit more expensive because it’s the capital. Another way to get to Melilla is to get a flight to Malaga and then get the boat to Melilla port. In my opinion this is the worst idea! It may be cheaper, but the boat is 8 hours long!
When I arrived in Melilla, I had not arranged anywhere to live so booked two weeks in Hotel Anfora. This was relatively cheap and it is a lovely hotel with incredibly friendly staff, wifi and a restaurant. If your stay is between 1 and 3 months I would recommend their student offer. This is €500 for a single room, with use of all the facilities and all food included. Hotel Anfora is right next to the town centre and the main high street ‘Avenida de Juan Carlos’. However, if your stay is longer I would recommend considering a flat share. If you are studying in the Uni, you will find notices advertising spare rooms with other students and all very close. If not, buy one of the local papers, Melilla Hoy or El Faro, and look up the listings! You will be able to find rooms of an average price of €150-300 per month. If you are looking as a group, you will find it more difficult as most adverts prefer ‘Funcionarios’ - workers.
CAUTION: Be aware if you decide to go with an agency that there are extra costs! You will have to pay an agency fee which usually costs a months’ rent as well as a deposit which is also one month but refundable. Make sure also to check what bills are included in the rent and which you need to pay for, but don’t worry they are very cheap!
The University of Granada has approximately 80,000 students, and has campuses in Ceuta and Melilla. In Melilla, there are 3 campus faculties: Social Sciences, Nursing and the Education and Humanities faculty. As I am studying Spanish language and want to go into teaching I was put into the education faculty so I am sorry but I don’t know anything about the other faculties. In Education and Humanities, all the staff are incredibly friendly and very helpful. The building itself is currently undergoing renovation to accommodate for more students and the new part looks really nice. Unfortunately the library is quite small at the moment and the computers are a bit temperamental. On the plus side, the cafeteria is amazing: cheap food and wifi, so it’s great between lectures.
[Photo by Víctor Fernández Salinas]
Things you need
1. An NIE number!
This is a must! Once you get this you can get a bank account and internet will be a lot easier to buy
2. Extension lead
It sounds silly but there are never enough plugs and it means you only need one plug adaptor
3. All weather clothes
When I arrived in April it was raining (granted it only lasted a week and we haven’t seen any since) but it is best to be prepared! Remember Melilla is right on the coast so there are sometimes strong winds from the mainland Spanish coast.
4. Sort out your phone
Most people use whatsapp, texting is pretty uncommon. If you get a deal on your phone that would be great. I am on EE and got a £5 a month bundle for calls and texts but it didn’t cover internet. The other option is to bring out an old phone and buy a Spanish sim card which is very easy to do, especially in Orange, and Spanish people will prefer contacting you if you have a Spanish number
5. Home comforts
It sounds silly but sometimes during siesta you will find yourself wondering what to do with yourself. I would recommend running as the Paseo Maritimo is lovely to run along (although be careful in the sun!) but if it’s not your kind of thing bring books, music etc. In terms of food, there are quite a few English brands even dairy milk in Supersol but it is always nice to have some home comforts.
At first it is a bit daunting speaking in Spanish the entire time and you soon will notice a difference from Spanish you will have learnt at Uni. In Melilla they use the Andalucian accent with the s aspirada and intervocalic D. This can be easy to get to grips with though – dropping s’s such as gracia (gracias) and hata luego (hasta luego). Once you have mastered that you will be fine!
Top Survival Tips
1. Crossing the road
Always be careful when crossing the road. It’s best to stick to the crossings as most drivers won’t let you cross in the middle of the road. Step out confidently and then the drivers will stop for you!
Basically very quickly you will learn to drop your ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous’! It is not deemed as rude but it is rare to hear please and thank you when doing just about everything.
Check whether your apartment has Gas and where the nearest ‘gas’ station called Cepsa is. Cepsa sells gas canisters at €13,30 between 4 and 6pm Monday to Friday and 10-2 on Saturday. But please please please – remember to bring an empty canister to swap it with you, they won’t let you buy one unless you trade it.
4. ‘Hola Guapa’
Be aware a lot of people will notice you are English and therefore will say hello, wolf whistle or say ‘hola guapa’. Best thing is to smile or laugh but try not to walk around alone very late at night because it can sometimes gets disconcerting!
5. Locutorios ‘Internet cafes’
These are incredibly useful and incredibly cheap. It is good to know where your closest one is as it will helpful should you want to skype loved ones back home with a good internet connection or to print off work.
As a small town Melilla’s shopping is quite limited and quite a lot of people fly to Malaga for a weekend of shopping. Despite this they still have big Spanish brands such as Zara, Stradavarius and Sfera on the high street. Remember though all shops will close on a siesta timetable so this means 9-2 and then 5-8/8.30 (Monday to Friday). On Saturdays they are only open in the morning and on Sunday pretty much everywhere is closed. One place I would recommend is ‘Sol y Mar’ on the Paseo Maritimo. It is what is known as Chinese shop and acts as the equivalent of Poundland. When I moved into the apartment this was the place to go for cheap pans, plates, bed sheets etc. In terms of food shopping, I would recommend Supersol. We found when buying meat it was much better to buy a kilo from the butchers stand than the packets. They will also ask if you want it filleted and I would as it makes the chicken lasts longer! If you are closer to the Education faculty at Uni you will probably prefer Spar and this supermarket is much better for fish! One thing that you will notice however, is that it is sometimes cheaper to buy fruit and vegetables from little corner shops. These are great because the produce is fresh every morning.
[Photo by GonzalezNovo]
Although the buses have no official timetables at the stops they come around every twenty minutes and cost 0.85 cents regardless of how long you intend to be on the bus. Once you enrol in the university you will be given an identity card and after attaching a passport photo you will be able to use it to get discounts on buses and it will save you 10 cents. I have only used route 1 and 3. Route 1 will take you to the Barrio Real whilst Route 3 is for the Uni. As for taxis they are incredibly lovely drivers but sometimes difficult to spot and hail, although there are 2 taxi ranks in the town.
Favourite bars and cafes
1. Los delicantes
This is the best tapas bar that we have been to and we just keep going back. It is incredibly cheap and for every tapas you buy you get a free drink as is custom in most places.
2. Heladeria California
If you fancy an ice cream this is the place to go, it is just off the main high street and sells every flavour you can think of! My favourite is Ferrero Rocher and you have the choice of sizes from a small tub to ½ a litre
3. Antony’s Pizzeria
This is a lovely pizzeria on La Avenida de la Democracia and very popular. I would suggest reserving a table because it is very busy most nights.
4. Seven Sins
This is a bar by the Port that is great to go to in the day. You can sit on the terrace which overlooks the beach and have drinks which are relatively cheap
One of our favourite restaurants here. It is right next to the main park in the centre of the town. Although it is expensive, much more so than most places, both the owner and the waiter are really friendly and their Caesar salad is definitely worth a try.
Getting work as an English student is incredibly easy in Melilla as people are very keen to learn English. You can quite easily advertise for classes by sticking adverts to lampposts around the town and the average price people are willing to pay is between €10-15 an hour. Your other option is to advertise looking after children or contact the local language schools for vacancies. Be aware though, some parents will want you to look over the books with their children in English classes, while others will expect you to have a plan of what you intend to do. Make sure you make it clear your plans and how you want to structure it so as not to waste time planning lessons you won’t teach.
As Melilla is quite small there are ‘limited’ places to go out, but your best bet is the port, specifically Manhattan. You won’t have to pay to get in but the prices of drinks are a bit more expensive than in most bars. You will have to be aware of the difference in going out times though, instead of going out around 11-12 as we do in the UK it is very different. You will probably find you go out for a meal first at around 10 and stay there until 12. Then you will go drinking with your friends and then arrive at the port around 3/4ish. By the time you finish at the club most Spaniards then head out for a breakfast and then come home to sleep – this is why most Spaniards go out Friday and Saturdays as opposed to weeknights in the UK.
If you want any more information about Melilla, I will try as much as I can to help you! You can contact me on Twitter, @TheAnnaYoung.