So here I am again, back in the mother land for the first time since September, huddled up in a duvet in cosy old Norfolk.
It’s weird how much time I spent before going abroad, on the edge of my seat waiting to go and imagining what kinds of adventures I’d get myself mixed up in. To be honest I wondered how I’d actually deal with living in Spain. I can’t quite decide if the outcome has matched my expectations; I guess there’s some things you just can’t ever predict happening.
I have to say I’ve been really fortunate with the friends I’ve made. We have a steady social group of 6 English language assistants in Tudela, who are a real great bunch. Not to mention a great source of help; whether it’s empathy in missing English culture, a “how do you say ___ in Spanish?” or just a general search for agreement in complaining about the chavales or Spanish opening hours.
In an ideal world one of my flatmates wouldn’t be English. In an ideal world my main friendship group outside of my flatmates wouldn’t be English speaking. In an ideal world the teachers in school wouldn’t explain things to me in English sometimes. But in an ideal world I would be speaking 0% English in order to fully immerse myself in the Spanish language, which would involve cutting off contact with my family and friends – and in my world I’d like to remain a human being with emotions and healthy relationships.
Nonetheless, I try not to put myself down. I still think I have still learned a lot more Spanish than I would if I had been in England, maybe even at uni, for these last 3 months. Church has been a great social outlet and subsequently been amazing for my Spanish. It’s taught me vocabulary I wouldn’t otherwise have learnt, and given me the opportunity (even for just a few hours a week) to be completely surrounded in Spanish conversations with no easy English escape. Just the fact of sitting down listening to one person talk entirely in Spanish really gets my brain in gear, and is a little reminder of the routine of uni life. In the flat it’s easier to hide to myself and not speak Spanish if I don’t feel like it, but at Church I feel like I’m chucked in at the social deep end, and most of the time I manage to doggy paddle my way to the other side alright. I am also fortunate to have friendly Spanish flatmates who are keen on socialising, who provide another social group. Especially seeing as I know people currently living abroad who end up co-existing rather than making friends with their flatmates.
Returning to the reflections on my Spanish, it really was a surprise to me when a friend came to visit just before going back to England for Christmas, and there were honestly times where I struggled to express myself in English. It was the most English I’d spoken in a long while, with lots to say and lots of words coming out at once. Although I live with one English flatmate, as she’s on her YA as well if I ever forget the word for something I can say it in Spanish, and we will sometimes have conversations in “Espanglish” anyway. I suppose when we do speak English we haven’t got to fit 3 months of goings on into one conversation, so when it’s “have you got any olive oil I can borrow?” I suppose it doesn’t take so much effort to think about whether you’re using a made up word or not…
Despite how much I enjoy living in Spain, I was ready for a break back to England, although I found it difficult to put my finger on exactly what it was I was missing. I’m used to being away from my family; as much as I love them, I think we’ve grown out of living together and get along much better when we’re not stepping on each other’s toes. While UHT milk is a real spoiler for a cup of tea which could only pass as half decent at the best of times, I couldn’t really say that was the whole reason why I was excited to come back for a bit. Thinking about it, I think I was just nostalgic for general English life. Oddly enough, as someone who is known for not crying at films, I was watching the Sainsbury’s 2011 advert while teaching a private lesson (which shows the football match which allegedly happened in No Man’s Land on Christmas day of 1914, apparently a day of unplanned ceasefire) and I was genuinely welling up… a bit awkward when you’re the teacher.
In a nutshell, I didn’t realise how English English stuff was until I spent time away from it. And consequently, I didn’t realise how English I was. We’ll see how Navarrense I end up by May…