The Year Abroad is a key part of undergraduate language degrees in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC) at the University of Edinburgh. To celebrate 100 years of the Spanish degree at the University, graduate Nicholas Rollin and current student Róisín MacFarlane share reflections on their Year Abroad, comparing their experiences of Granada in 1968 and Valladolid in 2019.
It was also a good discipline to tackle the reading list and dissertation topic while away from any supervision. Like now it was a time of change and you felt that many accepted norms were being challenged. The Cold War was in full swing, the Vietnam War was raging. Young people took centre stage with the whole ‘swinging sixties’ phenomenon. Flower power was touted as the way forward. In 1968 there were the dramatic events in Paris and in Spain itself there was a feeling that an era (the Franco era) was coming to a close.
I’ve tried new Spanish foods and drinks at every opportunity, seen flamenco dancing in the streets and, in the run up to Semana Santa, witnessed the unique interactions which Spanish culture has with religion. I’ve also been able to travel to other parts of Spain, including Bilbao, Madrid, and soon Granada too! I’ve particularly enjoyed that element, visiting friends in other parts of the country, and showing visitors around my city too. It really gives you a sense of confidence in the progress you’re making with the language.
Did you learn / do anything that was completely unexpected on your Year Abroad?
NR: A trivial thing was hearing students using proverbs, for example in the students’ café: El vivo al bollo y el muerto al hoyo. (Literally: Let the living get their bun and the dead go to their graves.) This was used to indicate that it was time to get something to eat. Another one was: Quien va a Sevilla pierde su silla. (Literally: If you go to Seville you’re going to lose your place.) A comment to indicate that if you don’t make sure of your seat/place, you’re likely to lose it.
I also learned that a drink called Montilla is a much cheaper, and very good, version of sherry. I walked the length of the Alpujarras with a friend. We followed the river as much as possible. At the end of it he said to me, ‘You really set a cracking pace all the way!’ My reply was, ‘Me set the pace?, I was trying to keep up with you.’
RMF: Being that I didn’t really know what Spain would be like, everything has been a bit unexpected! I’ve picked up a lot of new phrases and expressions which I keep in a rapidly expanding notebook. Culturally, I really wasn't aware of just how differently the times operate, with most shops not opening until around 10am and dinner beginning at around 9pm. It’s something you adapt to quite quickly though, and when I was visited by friends recently I had entirely forgotten how strange they would find eating tapas at 1am!
Images courtesy of Nicholas Rollin and Róisín MacFarlane.