Moving in with people you’ve never met is a bit risky to say the least. Finding individuals who will put up with your messy kitchen routine, shower ballads and constant burping can be difficult, but I considered myself lucky last year with all the flatmates I had, who didn’t seemed to mind too much when I blared out ‘Bootylicious’ full blast or made the whole flat stink of curry.
Leaving Granada was the best thing to happen to my Spanish. Don’t get me wrong, I had improved since arriving six months prior, and so had my confidence, but University life there was, in all honesty, just not happening for me. To put it bluntly I learnt more Spanish over coffee with friends than I did inside the classroom. “You’re not really one for studying are you? It seems like networking’s more your thing.” Networking. I’ll go with that Dad.
Before leaving Spain I had tried to find accommodation ASAP, and after the Casa de Big Problemas fiasco I was extremely reluctant to be put through another housing nightmare; also I had a grand total of five days in England before flying to Italy, and didn’t want to wind up sleeping on a park bench. Thankfully, through Erasmus FaceBook groups I was contacted by two Spanish friends, who lived to fiesta, knew how to cook tortilla, and were in need of a flatmate. SOLD!
I was excited to move but at the same time dreaded it. Spain was much more than I ever expected, and I just didn’t know if Italy was going to live up to it. Leaving Granada felt like I was leaving the best party early, while all my friends stayed on to drink more sangria and speak better Spanish.
“Damn it my Italian is so poor. I should’ve pie-d it off altogether”
“Well with 6 credits from first semester I’ve definitely failed the year, BRILLIANT”
“Oh God what if they don’t turn up to the bus station and I’m left all alone with 2 heavy suitcases and nowhere to go?!”
“What if they hate me because I can’t speak Spanish?”
“WHY AM I DOING THIS?!”
These were just some thoughts that meant I didn’t sleep well the night before my flight to Bologna (in fact, I passed out so hard on the plane, that I only woke up when the wheels hit the tarmac on the other side). Waiting for Cristina and Alicia at Modena Bus Station was a nervous experience, but when we found each other I decided not to let my anxiety and doubts get the better of me; after all, making a tit out of oneself in adequate Spanish is probably better than remaining mute to the people you’ll be living with.
After being shown our lovely flat, a renovated bunker-style apartment, with tiled floors and wooden beams, I was introduced to the city (in my eyes, a town, but I’m not going to argue with the Italians). We stopped for a coffee since it was raining outside (typical Brit bringing the weather with me, soz) and whilst having a chat with them I realised the stress I felt before was unnecessary and pathetic.
Cris is a gregarious Andalusian girl, who loves tomatoes, drinking cerve’itas and of course, worships el sol. She loves the fact I stayed in the south of Spain, scolds me for not having visited her beautiful home-town of Seville, and is one of the main reasons why I’ve subconsciously taken to speaking in an Andaluz accent.
Ali is a hilarious Galician girl, who loves The Simpsons, loves seafood even more, and absolutely detests coconuts. She never ceases to amaze me with ridiculously accurate impressions, is constantly listening to English songs I just have not heard of, and is my partner in crime when it comes to procrastination (aka ‘coffee (beer) break?’).
Too often the fear of being misunderstood or unintentionally causing insult/offence to the other person prevents us from communicating with those who do not share our mother tongue. They are foreigners, not aliens, and can still appreciate when someone not of their native language tries to communicate, even if it’s poorly done. Living with these girls, I couldn’t afford to be shy, introvert and unwilling to speak a language other than my own. And thank God I wasn’t. Being with my flatmates played a huge part of my Erasmus experience in Italy – I couldn’t have wished for better friends to share it with. And thank goodness they didn’t mind when I made mistakes; my botched translation of The Lord of The Rings as ‘Señoras del Ano’ made for a constant source of flat banter.
For those of you with little or no Spanish, I essentially admitted to being a fan of movie series “Women of the bumhole”.
Great way to make a lasting impression Sam.