I took part in Erasmus because I always knew that I would only learn so much Spanish studying it in the UK and that in order to really learn the language I had to go to Spain so I would be able to use it on a daily basis. Furthermore I wanted the opportunity to explore and embrace Spanish culture as I have always been interested in the language and culture since school. Before going to Spain I lacked a lot of confidence speaking Spanish and would often shy away from speaking it in my seminars at University when I was called upon. However using it on a daily basis gave me a lot of confidence and improved my understanding of the language and my accent when speaking Spanish as I lived with two Spanish girls who were constantly correcting me when I made any mistakes. I would also have to say that meeting so many people from such diverse backgrounds and countries was a really great experience; I now have so many holiday destinations to go to without having to worry about accommodation as my friends live there.
Most people's fear would be going to a foreign country alone, however that wasn't my fear until the plane took off and I had time to realise it. My biggest fear before leaving the UK was being unable to express myself. It is much more difficult to convey how you are feeling and what you want to say when it is not your first language and on many occasions, especially at the beginning of my stay, I struggled with this. I overcame this by putting myself in situations where I would have to speak Spanish, such as choosing to share a flat with two Spanish girls and a German girl and joining the University Volleyball team.
I think more students should take part in the Erasmus programme because you gain so much more independence and confidence in yourself as you only have yourself to depend on when you are so far away from home. It is also amazing how much you pick up a language by hearing and speaking it daily; I learnt more Spanish in the five months I spent in Cordoba than I have done in the 8 years I have been studying it. It is also a great opportunity to travel and explore other cultures and builds your adaptability to various environments. In this day and age, speaking a second language is also looked on more favourably by employers.
I was one of the very few black women in Cordoba, and one of two black people on the entire University campus. I was aware that this would be the case prior to travelling to Cordoba, as I chose the city because it was rural and I knew that way I would be forced to speak Spanish all the time. However I was slightly unprepared for being one of the only ethnic minorities in the city as at the beginning I got a lot of stares as the only other people living in Cordoba who were not white Spaniards were Native Americans and African men. It definitely enhanced my experience as I found that people were friendly and genuinely fascinated by me and therefore were more inclined to speak to me, especially once they realised I spoke Spanish.