I should probably start by introducing myself. My name is Sally Kopp and a student of Spanish and Russian at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom. As any Modern Languages university student will tell you, spending the third year of your degree abroad is compulsory so that is why I am currently living in sunny Valencia and interning in the International Relations Office of University CEU Cardenal Herrera. However, in February I will be saying goodbye to warm weather and travelling to chilly Siberia to study for approximately five months in Tomsk Polytechnic University – a fairly marked contrast I feel.
Anyway, back to Valencia and my arrival here in Spain. Having flown from my dreary hometown of Birmingham to Alicante – for some unknown reason the flights worked out cheaper – I actually arrived in Valencia by train. My mum came with me for the first three days here, partly for the added emotional support but mainly so that I could bring out two suitcases in the plane’s hold luggage. In hindsight, I don’t think that I actually did need to bring out quite so much stuff, but due to pre-arrival panic, I managed to fill my two large suitcases.
Arriving in the beautiful Estación del Norte, whose impressive architecture certainly puts the concrete monstrosity of Birmingham New Street Station to shame, we wondered through the rambling streets of Ciutat Vella, discovering yet more beautiful buildings bathed in the golden sunlight of the boiling summer day.
Although very hot at times, I can certainly not complain about Valencia’s weather as the city apparently boasts around 300 cloudless days per year – an impressive statistic! However, this heat does produce one very unpleasant side effect: excessive sweating. In these temperatures I have discovered that BO is not an embarrassing side effect of heat, but simply a fact of summer life – I know this all too well now after basically getting trapped under a Spaniard’s sweaty armpit on a crowded metro the other day!
Back in England, I had already organised my flat through the website www.easypiso.com and so was able to immediately move in. I am currently living with two Spaniards, an Argentinian and a Brazilian so there is no English spoken in this home! Also through my work placement, I speak with all my colleagues in Spanish and so I do think my Spanish is becoming more fluent and there is less need for translating in my head. However, this does mean that I definitely require my daily siesta just to recharge the brain a bit and get ready for the crazy Spanish nights out.
In general the Valencians seem to be really friendly and really happy to talk with you. At first their overly friendliness made me a bit suspicious and I questioned their motives, but in fact they are just very very nice. They enjoy referring to me as ‘blanquita’ as well due to my slightly less tanned British skin but I feel that I am starting to integrate properly into society. Hopefully this integration and total immersion in Spanish culture will continue and here’s hoping that by February people will recognise me as a fully-fledged Spaniard despite my humble Birmingham roots!