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Surviving an LLM in Spain – Part VI

Surviving an LLM in Spain – Part VI

I finished my last piece by saying how out of depth I felt. Well, now I am going to justify that statement.

The course was advertised as being 30 per cent English and the rest in Spanish. When the first day came around and we were given our timetables I soon understood that, actually, 30 per cent must be a very rough estimate. There are a few classes taken by native English speakers, only a few, and not until later on in the programme. The timetable also informed me that I would have my first exam in two weeks and then one exam per week until Christmas. Whilst I could take the exams in English, the material was going to be in Spanish.

Before coming to Spain, we were emailed over the materials for the first week of studying. I asked a friend to translate this document for me. A week later, she came back to me saying that it was very difficult Spanish and not everything made sense… apparently in one part of these materials the author was talking about pianos! She suggested then that I defer the course for a year, but stubborn as I am, I said that I would find a way to cope. Now, I see just how right she was.

A few days into the course, with exams looming, I had not understood a thing. I could not even translate the lectures from my Dictaphone – many of the people talking were from Columbia and even Spanish people find their accent hard to understand! The technology I had battled with could not help me. I requested a meeting with the course director to talk through my worries.

A few days into the course, with exams looming, I had not understood a thing.

Throughout the summer, I had been emailing the course director with worries about my level of Spanish and I was assured that it would be okay. However, when I sat in front of him and explained how little I understood, his perception changed. He offered an alternative way to teach me – I would study from my English books and he would select the material that most closely linked to what would be in the exam. However, he warned me that I would most likely fail my exams for this reason.

For me, failure in exams is not an option. It has never happened and I do not intend to let it begin to happen. I asked him if different exams could be set for me based on my materials – a shot in the dark but if you do not ask, you do not get! He said that was not possible. I went away from that meeting feeling very low. I knew deep down that I could not carry on with the course this year. I went into university the next day and told the course director I did not feel the course would be beneficial for me this year. He agreed and welcomed me back next year, once I had got to grips with my Spanish.

This now means I am currently living in Alcalá de Henares until February due to my housing contract lasting six months. I do not wish to waste this opportunity so I am applying for work experience with English law firms with offices in Madrid, with Spanish law firms and to shadow ‘abogados’ (barristers, for us English folk). I am also seeking employment to pay my way out here. I am spending my time on top of this learning Spanish so that I can say I am bilingual. In the short amount of time since living here, my Spanish has improved leaps and bounds. I have not completely cut scholarly law out of my life – I am doing research for papers I wish to write, and Spain is as good a place as any to get some research done!

In the short amount of time since living here, my Spanish has improved leaps and bounds.

My advice to those of you who are thinking of doing as I have done: go for it, I certainly do not regret the decision to move. But I would advise that, if you are not fluent in the main language of the course, live in the country and learn the language first!

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