8 reasons DMU students should do ERASMUS

So it’s this time of year again, the temperature in dropping, the leaves are turning and the deadline for your ERASMUS (European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students) application is just around the corner, so it’s time for the big decision!

I deliberately chose De Montfort University because of the international experiences they offered and presented at the open days. I always knew I wanted to study or work abroad, so when I saw ERASMUS advertised on the DMU Global website I did not hesitate to apply. At first, I wanted to study abroad for just one semester, but since this was not possible for my course, I quickly made up my mind that I would be more than happy (if absolutely terrified) that I would extend my stay to the whole academic year.

And I must say, I am very pleased I did! I am now home and studying back at De Montfort University again after the best 10 months of my life in Madrid where I met the most incredible people, experienced the wonderful Spanish culture, started my journey in learning another language and ended up being able to travel all around Europe with new friends from around the world!

I must say, I was very disheartened to see just a handful of people in the final meeting leading up to the departure of ERASMUS students, as I cannot stress enough how important this experience has been to me. So, I have compiled a list of 9 reasons why DMU students should go on an ERASMUS year, or even semester!

  1. You will meet people like yourself

If are interested in ERASMUS, it’s likely you also love travel. It’s also quite likely that your peers aren’t too interested in travel. That is what I certainly found in my first year of university, nobody in my halls, my course or people that I met when I was living in Leicester were interested in stepping outside of the city, never mind England! But on your ERASMUS year, you will meet and make so many friends from your host country and from other ERASMUS students from all around Europe, and they will want to explore this new country and go out just as much as you!

img_5225

 2. You have the opportunity to learn another language

Living in another country is the best and ‘easiest’ way to learn another language. This is one of the main reasons I chose Spain as my country to study in, because I desperately wanted to learn Spanish, and there are so many people willing to help you learn their language, even if you’re awful at picking up new languages like me! Although, you will also be surprised how many people speak English, everyone from Europe speaks English, which certainly puts things into perspective for me…

Greek-Language.jpg

3. It will look good on your CV

Of course, there is no doubt with more and more people going to university every year, each one of us has to stand out. So what better way is there to get that edge over others than to study abroad for a year? It not only is a blast but it shows that you’re adaptable, brave and certainly helps your intercultural communication skills (we don’t have to tell them about all the partying!)

4. It’s only £650 for the whole year, not £9000

If you go for the year, there is the negative side that it will make your stay at university one year longer so you may worry it will be financial suicide, BUT you do not have to pay the same amount as you do in England! In fact, it’s a whole £8350 less! It does not matter if your host university is private, or what the countries own students have to pay (for example, at CEU San Pablo the students pay around £1000 a month, but I get it for £650 for the year) and you will often get more class hours at your host university so in a way the money goes further.

34189072.jpg

5. There is a whole new world to explore

In my 10 months of being in Madrid I visited Malaga, Coin, Valencia, Toledo, Lisbon, Granada, Sierra Nevada, Porto, Marrakech, The Sahara Desert and Fez as well as visiting many, many places within Madrid! You will be amazed how cheap a weekend trip can be thanks to low-cost European flights and hostels, and how inexpensive travelling to nearby cities it is too. But more than going to new places, you will learn about the country’s culture and quirks! You will experience the different cuisine, agenda, weather and conversation topics, even going for the weekly shop can be an interesting venture.

IMG_1466

6. You will amazed how different education can be

Okay, so I must admit this point has its good and bad sides. My earliest class at DMU last year was 10:00, and my earliest class here is 8:00. However, a year abroad that does not count towards your final grade means you can try subjects you never would be able to if you stay at home. I read English Literature and Media and Communication studies at DMU which is all essay and exam based, but here I have decided to try out more practical subjects to improve my skills in different areas, such as Journalistic Design (making magazines), Opinion Journalism (writing articles) and Web Design (programming and coding). You can even chose subjects that don’t relate to your degree simply because you find them interesting or want to improve in that area, exciting! You will also learn so much about the different education systems from all around Europe from friend’s stories.

IMG_4385

7. It may not be around much longer, thanks to Brexit

Unfortunately we must grab this opportunity while we still can, as there is no guarantee how much longer the UK will be able to participate in ERASMUS. Maybe it will still be around for decades to come or maybe it will be over next year so there’s no better time to go than now! I can guarantee that you will not regret it.

ONE-DOES-NOT-SIMPLY-BREXIT-meme-60978.jpg

8. You will come back a different person

There is no denying that living and thriving in another country will change you in some way. It is likely to make you more confident, happier and more independent. You may have even learnt a new language, and certainly will have made new friends! I know I haven’t come back to England the same way I left it, even though coming home was the hard part, I would even go to say my perspective on life has changed in the best way possible. I finally am getting to know who I am and where I want to go!

IMG_1533

So please, if you are even thinking of ERASMUS just apply and see where it can take you.

 

Advertisements

Building Castles in the Air

I am writing this sat in my lovely house in England that overlooks fields that stretch as far as the eye can see, but I began writing this just over a week ago when I was still in the hustle and bustle of sunny Madrid. A place that over time has taught me that there are so many good and open people in this world and such beautiful places beyond the imagination. It has also taught me that life isn’t just about living to work, but working enough to live and thrive. And I have certainly learnt how to thrive!

IMG_1466

Taking my Erasmus year in Spain has undoubtedly been the best decision I have ever made. Travel has always been in my blood and I have ever wished to have the confidence to get myself out of England by myself and set my life up abroad. I choose De Montfort University largely because of DMUGlobal and the opportunities they offer around the world, including Erasmus and as soon as I stepped into their first presentation about Erasmus, I knew it was for me. The only issue was is that I wanted to go for a year and I wasn’t able to transfer my credits from the year abroad to DMU, thus I would have to do an extra year. But as I felt I had been let down a lot by my English university experience, I decided to take the leap and go for it anyway!

The next dilemma that came was choosing the place out of a huge list of universities around Europe. I was torn between Dusseldorf, Bordeaux, Oulu and Madrid, but since I always had a soft spot for Spain and desperately wanted to learn Spanish, I chose CEU San Pablo in Madrid and there my journey began.

IMG_4617 - Version 2

I visited Madrid beforehand to choose a flat to live in and visit the city and university, both which impressed me but I still didn’t have huge expectations. When I arrived it was hot. Really hot. Madrid seemed hugely intimidating and rather lonely, it was hard opening a bank, finding everything for the flat, getting the transport card, finding the uni and not being able to speak any Spanish.

IMG_4337

But just a couple of weeks in, I was falling in love with Madrid and the people there were wonderful. My time in Madrid went from strength to strength and without me even realising it for a long time, I was living my dream. I had my own little flat, a foster cat, I was learning Spanish slowly but surely, Madrid at my doorstep and at the weekends I took day-trips to neighbouring cities, or if the girls were up for it I went on bigger trips to other countries or the coast. At the start of this year, I did have a wobble after a break-up, moving flats and all my friends leaving from the first semester. But after an amazing trip to Porto with great friends and an eye-opening adventure in Morocco where I had the most amazing time ever with more wonderful company, things just carried on the uprise until the day I left.

Now, it is time to awaken from this wonderful dream and whirl of emotions, experiences and evolution that has been my life for the past 10 months. It’s time now to work hard and study hard so I can accomplish this as a real lifestyle when I finish university. I know that Madrid is a once in a lifetime experience, but this is not the end for me, it’s just the beginning of an international lifestyle.

I have never been so inspired to travel and meet more people as now, and I have no doubt that there are more adventures to come. The only thing I am questioning is not when, but where?

Although not everyone will have the same positive experience of living abroad as this, some of you may not even be interested in travelling and will find your happiness elsewhere in careers or studies or families. But I hope everyone has the chance to find their own Madrid.

IMG_5317

My 8 Favourite Places in Madrid

So my time here in this beautiful city, Madrid, is reaching it’s final days so I wish to share with you my favourite places here that I have discovered over the past nine months, all of which make living here particularly special for me.

If you are still living here and haven’t been to these places yet, they are definitely worth taking a look at before you leave. If you are visiting Madrid, choosing a few of these to go to will make your stay here even more charming.

IMG_4337

Opera

The first tourist stop that most people make in Madrid is Puerta de Sol, which is a beautiful plaza that is the literal centre of Spain. However, one of my favourite plazas in Madrid is that Plaza de Oriente that is very close to the metro Opera. Not only does it recognisably contain the famous Opera house, Teatro Real, but it is framed by some of the grandest buildings in Madrid in an arch, with the largest palace in Europe as it’s backdrop. To the north of Plaza de Oriente, there are beautiful gardens (Jardines de Sabatini) linking the palace to Plaza de España. Just a short walk to the south, near the end of Calle de Bailén, there is a small park with a magnificent view of the Palacio Real hanging over the city that I find particularly stunning, as well as inside the palace itself. I must when visiting Opera at night there is something magical about the majestic buildings lit up against the dark sky.

Parque Cerro del Tío Pío

If you want to see the best sunset in Madrid, Tío Pío is undoubtedly the place to go. Although it is quite a trek if you live anywhere north of the centre in Madrid, it is a trip worth making. This park is just a ten-minute uphill walk from metro stop Buenos Aires on the blue metro line (linea 1). At first this park may not catch the eye, but after climbing to the top of one of the small hills, a breathtaking view of Madrid can be seen like no other in the city. It is the perfect place to visit with a loved one or a group of friends with some vino to watch the sun go down over the sleepy city.

Lago

Just one part of Casa de Campo, the largest park in Madrid that stretches for miles and miles, Lago is the perfect escape from the city’s heat in the summer! With many different activities, it is perfect for anyone and everyone. There is the option to either go for a short stroll around the lake, sit and relax with a glass of tinto de verano overlooking the palace and cathedral, mountain bike or hike through the many trails in the park, take the cable cars over the large park or even go swimming at Piscina de Lago (my favourite part of lago!)

IMG_1361

Malasaña

Oh Malasaña… what a quirky, fun barrio it is! I must say this will be one of the neighbourhoods I am sure to miss the most when I return back to England. If it is a bar crawl, food crawl or vintage shop crawl you are looking for – Malasaña has it all! I keep finding new quirky things there each time I visit, for example last time I stumbled into this shop (Pinta en Copas) where you get free tea and coffee as you unleash your creativity by painting your own piece of pottery. There is nothing much more satisfying than getting some work done at one of the laid back cafés such as Café de la Luz or Toma Café, then browsing through the vintage stores such as Magpie Vintage or Templo de Susu, having a healthy lunch at Bluenasaña or the Greek & Shop, moving onto to a natural ice lolly for desert at Lolo Polos then meeting friends at one of the many unique bars in this wonderful place to sip sangria or cocktails until it is time to move onto to the party in one of the neighbouring barriosChueca or El Centro. Day well spent!

El Retiro

This may just win the prize for my favourite park in Madrid, which is a hard place to earn as Madrid boasts such wonderful parks. But there is something about El Retiro. This park is located just off the centre, bordering Atocha, Banco de España and Ibiza, but by stepping into this park it takes you miles away from the feeling of the hustle and bustle of the capital city in just minutes. Although El Retiro is slightly busier than the other parks, it is easy to see why. With its beautiful vast lake, the Crystal Palace, exquisite statues, sculpted gardens, la Rosaleda (a charming collection of roses), and last but not least the Monumento a Alfonso XIII which often attracts talented buskers that never fail to transport me to another world in the beautiful surroundings.

La Latina

Not only do I love the way this neighbourhood’s name sounds “La Latina”, but I also love the relaxed, cool vibe that comes with being here. Every week this barrio hosts a large flea market, which is definitely my favourite way to spend a Sunday morning in Madrid, wandering through all the wild and wonderful stalls before stopping off at Mercado San Fernando in Lavapíes for lunch or relaxing in La Latina’s square (Plaza Cebada) listening to the free live music with a bite to eat from the Mercado de la Cebada that backs onto it. But La Latina is not merely good for a lazy Sunday morning, but it’s also great for the bustling nightlife too! Walking though the streets at night in this neighbourhood is like no other, with the excitement for the night to come radiating from the buildings and the streets hard for anyone to squeeze through due to clusters of locals and visitors alike pouring out onto the streets from the bars (such as Leka Leka, La Buha or Los Pajaritos) in animated chatter – even in the dead of winter! 

Gran Vía

Coming up the stairs from the metro to Gran Vía never fails to take my breath away, whether it be on a peaceful winter morning or at dusk on a teeming Friday night, it’s magnificence always touches me. Callao tends to end up being the meeting place for a good day or night ahead, with the Schweppes sign towering above the plaza and the stained glass windows above Desigual, Plaza del Callao always makes it’s statement. Gran Vía is the place for shopping, with all the brands scattered down its elaborate street and Fuencarral leading off it with alternative and hip stores. It is the place to be. But Gran Vía is also the place for parties, with international clubs such as Independence, Moondance and ‘locals’ club Star Coyote that are hosted on the infamous street or nearby.

Parque del Oeste

Quite different feeling to that of Casa de Campo, although it is no where near as large as it’s neighbouring park, Parque del Oeste has many different elements all interlinked through beautiful walkways and maintained gardens. At the top of the park towards the north there is part of the park that rests just beneath the Faro de Moncloa, an observatory tower that allows visitors to see all the way across Madrid in an 180˚ glass observatory zone. At the bottom of Parque del Oeste is the Templo de Debod, a 200bc gift from Egypt rebuilt in Madrid in 1972, it is a place that feels like no other, arguably in the whole of Spain. Because of its high position, the temple is also a wonderful place to watch the sunset as guitarists or saxophone players that leave their impression upon the young night often serenade it.

 

Although I have been here almost 10 months, there are still things that even I have not done but plan to do in the next couple weeks that may be worthy of this list, this includes to:

  • Drink the famous milky cocktail in the cave bar El Champadaz near Moncloa.
  • Visit Mercado Antón Martin and Barceló
  • Watch the sunset from Circulo del Bella Artes
  • Eat the homemade tortilla from La Buha
  • Watch a flamenco show at La Taberna de Mister Pinkleton
  • Listen to the live jazz music in Café Barbieri
  • See the turtles and oasis in the Atocha Railway Station
  • Watch the guards change at the Royal Palace

Learning to be alone at 20, 10 things to do

“Before I save someone else, I’ve got to save myself. Before I love someone else, I’ve got to love myself” – Ed Sheeran

You may read this title and think, twenty-years-old that’s so young, there’s no need to be worried about being single at that age! And I agree completely. Or at any age in fact, we should each find a way to be content within ourselves.

I have been in back-to-back serious relationships and ‘dating’ since I was fifteen-years-old. The thing is, I never really saw myself as the kind of girl to be jumping from guy to guy, I am quietly confident and I enjoy time to myself. But I did. Yet now, I am on my own for the first time in approximately four years.

After my first break-up, I found myself searching for something to replace it straight away. I had just moved into my own place in a new city for university and I was lonely and broken-hearted, so I started dating the first cute guy who was showed me kindness. It didn’t help much, but I did it anyway.

Still, I continued searching for that something until just a few months after my last serious relationship, I jumped into another one. This time, it did make me feel better, so much so when I decided to move to Spain to study for a year, he moved with me.

But things went pear-shaped, and rather then staying away from dating like I probably should have, I started seeing my best friend in Spain who had helped me through the tough last weeks and the break-down of my relationship.

Inevitably, that also ended, so now I am making a promise myself that I will give me a chance now. Not that my relationships were bad or toxic, they weren’t at all, but now I can focus solely on myself rather than another. The following is advice I shall adhere to and I hope you too can find some solace in this strange new world of singledom.

 

Make more effort with friends

I have always highly valued my time with my friends, but I realise now that I have been on my own a little while that I’ve been missing out on so much. When you’re in a relationship, it’s easy to turn down invites for a TV night with your partner, but now I have all the time in the world for my friends and I’m the one throwing out invites and building deeper friendships than I ever have before. Get out there and show your friends how much you appreciate them!

15146769_1559458124069647_1596819219_o

Get out and meet new people

I love my friends, but it’s also nice to get out to see fresh faces and hear new stories. Just the other day, I met some wonderful people from Portugal, Ireland, Germany, Morocco, Austria and Azerbaijan (a little country near Turkey) simply by sparking up conversation in the girl’s bathroom and having the courage to go up to strangers. You can do this by seeing what events are going on in your city, such as dancing, rowing, clubbing, cooking – anything really! Check Facebook events, meet-up, or simply Google something you enjoy and you will find an event for sure.

 16344437_10208705190129969_1070827770_n

Become more active

Now that I have more time, I’m back at the gym and going to dance classes. Rather than wanting to have a lazy lie in with the other half, now you have more reason to get up, out and about doing things! Go for a walk around the park, or enjoy a swim at your local pool, it will no doubt make you feel better.

 

Watch shows you enjoy

On the other hand, we all need lazy days. Now there’s no need to compromise on the shows you want to watch because of your partner. Time to get your Netflix on and binge on your favourite shows without the guilt of what your other half thinks.

 

Take time to develop your creativity

Since I have been alone, my imagination is once again in full swing! I’m back to writing poetry, keeping up to date with my journal, sketching, dancing and deepening my creativity each day. Plus, I’m also feeling more inspired to keep regularly updating my blog. You will feel more focused on your own.

 dav

Give back to others

It will make you realise that really, life is great and what is happening is just a passing storm in your life. People are suffering much worse adversities than a broken heart, not that it makes your pain any less, but working with these people or animals is likely to put your own hardships into perspective.

 

Spend more time with family

Sometimes being in a relationship can take your focus off those who mean the most – your family! Even though I am many miles away studying abroad, I now have more time alone to be able to video chat with my mum and keep up with my family. These are the people that will always have your back no matter what, so don’t leave them out.

IMG-20161229-WA0000 

Don’t be afraid of doing things alone

Being alone doesn’t mean you’re lonely. I know I always used to fear doing things by myself, but now I quite happily go to coffee shops, parks and even restaurants by myself! The trick is to take a good book, sit back and watch the world go by. I actually prefer doing stuff by myself now rather than with bad company.

 

bty
Bella Vista beach

Travel more

Maybe this one is focused more on the wanderlusts out there, but I know for sure each time I feel the roar of the plane’s engine and see a whole new place in front of my eyes, my heart heals a little more each time.

 p1000244

Don’t look back, this loneliness won’t last forever

Stop moping about the past, I know I’m terrible for going back over my relationships, pining over the good memories and scrutinizing everything to understand what went wrong. But frankly, people grow apart and you have to move on. Eventually, the emptiness will fill itself, not by dating other people, but by learning to get on with yourself and enjoying your own company. It will get better.

7D2L7848 - Version 2

It’s okay to be single, it doesn’t have to be the whole Bridget Jone’s scenario (though it’s cool if that’s your thing), it can be uplifting and fulfilling. It’s okay if it hurts too, I know I certainly don’t always get on with myself and now that I’m forced to, it’s not going to be easy… But before I let myself invest all my time into someone else, I’m going to work on myself first and be the kind of person I would want to be with. Finally, I’m ready for some me time!