From Real Madrid to Birmingham City

By Roseanna Conway

This time last year I was preparing to go to Madrid for my year abroad, a compulsory part of my English Language and Spanish degree. The prospect was daunting, so much so that there were times when I considered not going at all. 

One year on, I’m very grateful I conquered my fears and went to Spain. Madrid was simply marvellous.

Looking back, I successfully integrated into the golden metropolis of Spain’s capital city. I acclimatised well to Madrid and Madrid was so good to me. The European dimension of my personality grew and now, in a period when Britain has politically never been less European, I do feel very European. 

It is much like being the long-term supporter of an English football club which qualifies for European competition for the first time. Feelings of excitement, hope, and adventure consume the supporters who are then exposed to a rich culture of new opposition players, stadia and cities. They are intoxicated by the experience, but eventually, the journey ends and they have to return to the realities of their domestic league. 

Since returning from my year in Madrid, I’ve become more acutely aware of the opportunities across the channel, the personal enrichment it provides and the new friendships it can lead to. 

exploring the city with university friends

Increased career prospects and personal self-fulfilment are key incentives for learning another language but finding out about other cultures and experiencing the sheer joy of communicating in a foreign language is equally as important. 

I am now a more thoughtful and reflective person who can celebrate and enjoy other cultures as much as my own. While in Madrid I lived in a student residence with eighty other international students. We cooked in the same kitchen each night. My international flatmates laughed at my strange sausage and baked beans combination while I was fascinated at their frequent use of chickpeas. Our different culinary choices made for lots of amusing moments. I ate dinner as my French friends ate lunch. I drank tea as they sipped wine. 

While working as a teaching assistant in a Spanish school, my eyes were opened to the differences in the Spanish state education system. The emphasis put on teaching English, more specifically British English, as a second language was quite significant. ‘The greatest gift we can give our children’, parents from school told me, was the opportunity to learn English. They understand the value of learning a foreign language. They foresee the opportunities, the advantages, and the employment prospects. Spanish is now the second most widely spoken language in the world. If you want a language that opens not just doors but continents, it’s Spanish. 

taken in Porto, Portugal, when my sister and I went travelling during our weekends off working.

I implore any politician or person of influence to recognise the importance of the Erasmus grant and to do everything in their power to maintain it in order to support future British linguists with their studies and work abroad. 

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