It’s nineteen days ‘til my departure. As my ten year old cousin would say: ‘Holy smokes’.
I don’t know where the summer has gone. I really have no idea. Somewhere, in between the days lounging on the beach in Cornwall, visiting Germany, graduating, going to Tramlines (a festival in Sheffield for anyone not from the North), attending BBQ’s and attempting to surf, the entirety of July and August disappeared.
In the back of my mind, I have always been slightly apprehensive about my departure, but would put off those thoughts by simply thinking: It’s OK you’ve got another two months to sort yourself out and get life in some kind of order. But the thing is, I no longer have two months. I have NINETEEN DAYS.
I am attempting to learn Spanish and Catalan simultaneously at a rate never seen by man before. As you might guess, things aren’t going well. It seems that as well as leaving Sheffield University in the physical sense, I also left behind my capacity to learn. I can spend hours working hard, and then forget everything I have studied literally in the time it takes to boil the kettle and make a coffee. I am meeting with my mum’s colleague- who is from Barcelona- on Friday, in an ice-cream parlour (excellent choice of venue) so I can practice speaking and she can give me some ‘tips’ on living there (I need all the help I can get).
On another note: after a tense wait, I have been contacted by the mother of my host family, who has two children and seems lovely. Or, at least as lovely as someone can sound over email. I will be living within five minutes walking distance to my school, which lies in the Sants district of Barcelona. After playing around on google maps for quite some time, I have calculated that I can reach the central touristy part of Barcelona in a very short space of time, which is quite exciting. After all, as well as this being my first time living abroad, this will also be my first experience of living in a major city.
On a daily basis I fluctuate between feelings of fear, excitement, terror, joy, fear, fear, fear and a bit more excitement. It will be strange to start over again; to not know people and to be entirely anonymous in a new place. It is not a wholly unpleasant prospect. No one knows all my embarrassing stories: like the time I had to take refuge at an old people’s home after getting off the night-bus at the wrong stop, when all the street lights had been turned out. No one knows about the time I literally wet myself laughing- actually urinated- whilst performing aerobic-inspired choreography in a Berlin club (of all places it had to be in Berlin). And no one knows about the time I was so bad at karaoke that the DJ actually muted the microphone without me realising. In fairness, I was in a Budapest basement doing a duet with a good friend and course mate, Dave, so at least I did not embarrass myself alone.
These are stories that I will leave in England- and Eastern Europe- firmly behind me. From the moment I step foot on Spanish soil I intend to be a cosmopolitan woman of the world, who wears 80% Zara, goes for a run at 5:30AM every day, doesn’t eat carbs, doesn’t even like carbs, and can appreciate modern art. I want to be the type of woman who can speak three languages, drink soya lattes on the metro whilst reading the news, and make intellectual, thought-provoking comments about the state of political affairs in Britain. The type of woman who goes to public lectures on the topic of the economy out of choice and reads the financial times (instead of Cosmopolitan) for enjoyment. The type of woman who people think, ‘blimey, she’s really got it together’, like the women you see on expensive hair-conditioner adverts.
I am considering channelling Jennifer Connolly in Blood Diamond in my daily life and persona. I will also channel Anne Hathaway in the Devil Wears Prada (the bit after her makeover, but before she loses her friends) and Julia Roberts at the end of Eat Pray Love. Of course the situation will be quite different because I am not a photo-journalist in Sierra Leone, a New York fashion journalist or a spiritually-grounded middle-aged divorcee with fantastic bone structure. I am an English language teacher in Spain. I think in reality I will be more like Bridget Jones, except I won’t even have the good job, or look like Renee Zellewegger . I will be a poor Bridget Jones, lost in Barcelona, lost in translation, just generally quite lost. My greatest fear is falling into the classic ‘Brit Abroad’ cliché that you see in every city and resort across Europe: badly sun-burnt, sweating profusely, with a beer in each hand, speaking too loudly, not understanding the language, getting horrendously lost and annoying locals. I shall avoid this cliche at all costs.
For the remainder of my time in England I will attempt to practice more Spanish (god help me), pack my suitcase (what the hell do I take?), attempt to push away all doubts, and say goodbye to friends and family. The one godsend of going to a sunny, Mediterranean city is that I know they will visit.
On a final note: the next post I write will actually be in Spain, and thus my title of ‘A Bristolian Abroad’ will actually gain some relevance.
Thank you to anyone who has got this far reading my nonsense. I will end with a photograph of Cornwall in the sun. It really is quite beautiful, when the sun shines.