Surviving an LLM in Spain – Part V

Surviving an LLM in Spain – Part V

Well – I warned you previously that homesickness may set in. It certainly did with me.

For the first few days, I was miserable. Everything was an effort. I hated not being able to have conversations and join in with my housemates. It was the simple things that I missed and took for granted in England, like being able to gossip about the latest drama on television. My turning point was when my parents surprised me by telling me that mum would be visiting for my birthday. That was just the lift I needed. I started to integrate in the house, chat in broken English and Spanish. I began to use the house. One of my housemates lives here one week then is gone the next. When she arrived after her week away, I really started to feel more at home. Her English is very good and she has a lot of energy. She is a very happy person and began to make me feel at home. I started to be able to picture myself living here and being happy.

On my first Saturday, my landlord’s father took me into Madrid to show me the sites. He does not speak any English, so by the end of the day my brain as exhausted. Madrid is a beautiful city, full of so much history. I feel privileged to live so close. The bonus of going to Madrid with a Spanish local is that you get to see the locals places, as opposed to pure tourist places. He showed me the most fabulous places to eat and drink for well under half the price of the typical tourist places – very handy when you are a poor student! This knowledge allowed me to then take my mum into Madrid on my birthday, show her the sights and eat very good, authentic, non touristy Spanish food.

Anyway, back to the more useful parts of living in Spain. This week has seen many emotions for me. I have drunk copious amounts of wine, as they do out here, and I have eaten some beautiful food. I live in a very sociable house so there are constantly dinner parties with laughter and entertainment. It pays to make the effort to go downstairs and spend time in the communal areas as opposed to locking yourself away in your room, even though that is all you want to do.

On Friday, I had my first experience of what my course was going to be like. I have never felt so out of my depth in my entire life! We were invited to a boardroom in the historic part of the university. My jaw dropped in amazement at the beauty of the room. It was just incredible. And I was going to be sitting down for two hours having a meeting in there… once I had got over the shock, I realised that the meeting had started and swiftly got my dictaphone out to begin recording it.

Up until this point, I knew my Spanish was not brilliant, but had thought that I got by OK. But throughout the entire meeting, I understood approximately 0.5% of what was said. The words I understood did not appear to make any sense. I was totally out of my depth. After the meeting I hung around for 15 minutes or so in an attempt to find someone who may grow to be my friend. I found a girl who came from Panama and spoke perfect Spanish and pretty damn good English. Needless to say, I swiftly latched onto her. She was nice and said that she would help as much as possible.

My weekend then consisted of frustration at being unable to translate by listening to my dictaphone, then frantically searching for any programme that would help me to transcribe it directly from my dictaphone. I collared my brother into taking over my computer by remote assistance in order to download different programmes – put simply, I am rubbish with computers and he is a genius with them! He tried various different programmes for me without success. I found one website that may be able to help, but it took a long time to get the transcription.

When it finally came through four days later, it was broken and when translated, made no sense. Needless to say, I have my work cut out for me.

Naomi Barnes graduated with a strong upper second-class law degree from Birmingham City University. She has decided to enhance her CV by completing an LL.M. in Madrid, Spain. She has a keen interest in mooting, writing and wishes to specialise as a barrister in health related issues, in particular, the human rights issues concerning genetic engineering.


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