The authors apartment block as seen from street level
It’s about 3 months late, but I think now might be the time to address one of the most important parts of the Year Abroad; your arrival in your host country. If you’re lucky enough, your family will come along with you and after a brief stint waiting the airport's Pret before being ushered onto your British Airways flight, you’ll find yourself safely in the arms of mummy and daddy drinking piña coladas on the beach within the first couple of hours of the plane touching down on the hot Spanish tarmac. Unfortunately, my family didn’t have the funds to travel with me, however, I was lucky enough to be accompanied by my wonderful girlfriend (bit of a shout out here but this is my blog so allow it).
Before leaving for your Year Abroad, I think it’s pretty normal to experience a BIZARRE mix of oftentimes conflicting emotions. In the case of myself and the majority of my friends also doing the Year Abroad, it boiled down to a mixture of enthusiasm and impatience peppered with dread and reluctance. All of this emotional turmoil gives way to some pretty bizarre behaviour, in my case, bipolar-esque moments of complete and utter glee (verging on the border of obnoxious smugness) which would flip and turn into a complete refusal to even mention the words ‘Spain’, ‘moving’ or ‘money’ as they were simply too nerve-wracking.
One thing I can tell you, is after all of the financial, emotional and physical stress incurred after months of preparation and a 3 - hour flight on Ryanair that departed at an ungodly time from Bristol Airport, touching down in beautiful, sunny Spain was a moment of complete and utter relief. That was until I remembered the million things I had to do upon my arrival, e.g. get in contact with my host organisation, ensure the University of Bath had all of my paperwork and begin the arduous process of engaging with Spanish bureaucracy.
Having lived in Spain previously to my Year Abroad I was already well accustomed to this, however, I would like to take a minute to guide the less informed through how Spanish bureaucracy works.
Essentially the bureaucratic process goes like this: You are informed you lack a certain document to perform an essential process (e.g. renting a house, going to doctor etc.), you then must book an appointment to update your paperwork on a government website that has not been updated since before the fall of Napster. Then, you must go to an office, wait in an unjustifiably long queue, listening only the tap... tap... tapping of the keyboards of already cantankerous civil servants, to be told that you are in the wrong office (keep in mind no matter what office you go to, it will be the wrong one), the real office is closed due to (insert any excuse for public holiday) and that you have brought the wrong documents. It is important to remember that in these situations, any document you bring is the wrong document until the bureaucrats decide that delaying you further is simply no longer enjoyable and now desire to provoke someone else.
To succeed in your endeavors, you will have to remain completely diplomatic, as friendly as humanly possible but slightly forceful; as without further pestering, the office administrators (who really have no desire to process your paperwork) will surely make you come back and repeat this INCREDIBLY frustrating process 3 more times over the coming months, meaning you spend hours in the office instead of enjoying Spain's beautiful scenery, gastronomically phenomenal restaurants or vibrant bars.
Upon finally arriving at my accommodation, I stepped into the lobby, over the marbled floors slightly dirtied by the dust being blown down from the seemingly incessant works being done on the 2nd floor, to be greeted by my landlord; a large South American man, who albeit being incredibly friendly, bears a stunning resemblance to Bautista the WWE wrestler. At this point, I hand over an extremely large quantity of euros and soon after head to the beach with my new best pal, an incredibly charismatic Brazilian who looks like a Jesus / young Steven Tyler crossover, who lives next to me in the room he shares with his equally lovely Irish girlfriend.