Year Abroad Destinations:
Semester 1 – Completed an internship in a Hotel in Puerto Banús, Marbella
Semester 2 – Studied at National Autonomous University of Mexico
If you haven’t already, read PART 1 of my post! Now, here are some of my highlights of my time in Spain, as well as a few key things that I learnt:
- You might think that you suddenly mature when you become an “adult” and enter the “world of work”. Based on my experience, the exact opposite was true. I felt like I’d gone back to school. In fact, the level of maturity seemed to be lower amongst the older members of staff in the hotel. Maybe it actually decreases with age?
- What is especially interesting about hotels are the type of school-style cliques that form based upon all the different jobs. There was the chef crew, the management group, the waiters, the housekeepers, the maintenance boys and the receptionists and when they come together at “lunchtime”, they have the same feeling of excitement that children get when they can mix with the other classes during their breaks. A lot of gossip is exchanged and a lot of milk is drunk (yes milk, I know).
- One of the great perks of working is that there’s no essay deadlines and no readings to do. Once you leave at the end of the day, you’re done, and I absolutely loved it! I was free to do whatever I wanted with my evenings and not feel guilty. Because of my prime location, I could even go to the beach after work – how many people get to say that!
- You’ll never appreciate and value the weekend more when you have a full-time job. As a student, it is not unusual to have only one or two classes in the morning or even an entire day off. When you work, there are so many things that you simply do not have the time to do until the weekend comes and I really tried to make the most of this – I travelled somewhere different every single weekend. I saw so much of Spain, especially Andalucía, and it was awesome!
- English tourists really are a nightmare. They’re bloody annoying, cause a scene and always try to complain about the tiniest things to try to get some money back. My colleagues made a lot of fun out of them and to be honest, they had good reason to.
- Something really exciting about working for big hotels is the amount of really cool events that they host. My hotel was especially good at organising these and since I wasn’t really there during peak tourist season, there were a lot of them. My favourite was the Marbella International Film Festival. It was a week filled with celebrations and an atmosphere of fun and excitement.
- People can form the most unlikely friendships. For me, it was with a 55 year-old lady who worked in my office and one of the security guards. I got along just as well with these guys as I do with some of my friends back in England. Their sense of humour was on-point and they knew how to turn even the dullest of situations into a fun one.
- If there’s one region of Spain that you should visit, it’s Andalucía. I travelled around a lot of the country but Andalucía definitely stood out for me. Firstly, the people are amongst the friendliest in Spain. It has its distinct, vibrant culture and it is proud of it. A lot of Spain’s unmissable cities are located here such as Sevilla, Granada, Córdoba and Cádiz and the smaller towns and villages have a lot to offer too (their beauty alone is enough to convince you of this). Their cuisine is to-die-for and Andalucía consistently has the best weather in the country all year round. Did I mention that it’s also the cheapest region (Puerto Banús Marbella excluded)?
- Pastelerías in Spain are dangerously addictive, especially those in Andalucía. It is best not to open Pandora’s Box as I did and just avoid these if at all possible.
- My number one recommendation for all of Spain is Sevilla. The city is stunning and I am not surprised that Lonely Planet have named it the number 1 city to visit in the world for 2018. The Real Alcázar de Sevilla and Las Setas de Sevilla/Metropol Parasol (specifically at sunset) are indisputable highlights, as well as La Catedral de Sevilla and the adjoining Giralda This is the third-biggest cathedral in the world and also houses the tomb of Christopher Columbus.
- Although not strictly in Spain, I’d like to give a special mention to Gibraltar for being one of the most unique places that I have ever visited in my life. I was thoroughly entertained throughout the entire day that I spent there.
- A more serious note: As a native English-speaker, don’t underestimate how valuable you are in Spain. Although I was working in one of the most popular tourist destinations for British people, the level of English of most of the locals was not what you would expect. For that reason, I ended up proofreading a huge amount of emails, PowerPoints and contracts. I was often asked to speak on the phone to a great deal of difficult clients and I ended up doing a significant amount of translation work for brochures and online resources, including the main website. Trust me when I say that was greatly appreciated by my colleagues.
I’d like to end with one final message: When choosing year abroad destinations, it’s quite easy to dismiss Spain as it “isn’t adventurous enough” and “you can easily go there any other time”. I’d argue that this isn’t the best way to justify or make your decision. I had so many experiences during my time there that I simply would never have had during a one or two-week holiday. Spain is a truly incredible country with a rich history and culture to match that. It is home to 46 UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the third greatest amount found in any country in the world. Only Italy and China precede it. There is a great deal of diversity between its many regions, suffice to say that you would struggle to get bored there. But above all, it is a nation filled with people who enjoy life, who love to have fun and who would find any excuse for a party!
I would also strongly advise those considering undertaking a work placement to take the plunge and go for it. I found it to be a truly valuable experience, I met people that I never otherwise would have met, and it really helped me improve my Spanish. As a foreigner, you also receive a great deal of respect from the people you meet. You aren’t just another English tourist, but instead, someone who’s contributing to the economy and integrating themselves a lot more into the day-to-day life of the country. For me, there are few other ways to truly get a flavour for what life in another country is like and as year abroad students, I think that’s exactly what we should by trying to do.
"The journey not the arrival matters." - T.S Eliot
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