What Madrid has meant to me…

I always wanted to go and see Spain.
I must have been Spanish in another life. I like everything that comes from there, the dance and music, the food, the culture. I even look Spanish.

And in my third year of university, an opportunity opened up.
With my mind already set and ready to go, I applied to the Erasmus Programme hoping to explore a new world and to find another facet of myself.

I arrived in Spain at the very beginning of September 2010. As expected, a busy and noisy cosmopolitan city was all there for me, with its streets vibrating with movement, music and urban culture.

Getting to live the Spanish Dream proved to be breathtaking.
From the very first day spent in Madrid, I felt welcomed. I felt complete.

I absolutely loved the place, the atmosphere. It was there that I felt for the first time the state of being surrounded, by the buzz, by millions of people who were making their way through life on a Monday evening.

For five months, I attended the classes of the Universidad CEU San Pablo, one of the most respected institutions in the country. I was offered unlimited access to up-to-date media facilities, including several TV and radio studios, industry-standard cameras and related equipment. I also benefited from the help of supportive lecturers, highly-regarded professionals with experience and recognition in Europe and the United States.

I discovered the real meaning of working in the TV industry. I was taught how to create footage and documentaries and how to deliver news in broadcast journalism.
I experienced the numerous aspects of TV from the pre-production and post- production stages, from the moment when you investigate a story to the final bulletin when you deliver the news to the public.

This was a fascinating experience that completely changed my professional perspectives. After taking the TV course in Madrid, I developed a great interest for the audio-visual media and I am seriously considering leading my professional steps towards this side of journalism.

I have also learnt about the advertising industry, what it takes to be creative and to sell your ideas and discovered the beauty of photography, with all the processes that take place in the darkroom.

I opted for language classes that helped me improve my Spanish and, back to the UK, I am still practicing, speaking with Latin Americans who now live here.

We did a lot of team work. I delivered formal speeches in front of various publics and created campaigns to address the needs of local students.
I even had the chance to make a presentation on Scotland, to speak about my life in Aberdeen and let others see who I was.

My semester abroad was an invaluable learning curve.

Outside the educational experience, I proved to myself that I can be independent and have full control over my life. I improved my cooking skills and acknowledged that I was at ease when searching for new places or in getting directions.

From knowing nobody in the first week, I ended up being part of a community.

I always found myself surrounded by people, Erasmus peers or Spaniards who were willing to guide us through the buzz of Madrid. I discovered places that were mostly frequented by locals, which offered me a thorough taste of what life was all about in the city.

I met people with different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. There were people whom I admired for their approach to life and their perseverance in making the most of it every day. There were people who made me push my own limits and believe in things I had not been aware of before, and kind people who became my friends and whom I strongly respect and appreciate.

Being my first time in Spain, I was more than willing to travel around, to discover and understand the Spanish culture and lifestyle as much as possible. Therefore, day trips were very handy for me. With other Erasmus students by my side I visited Toledo, the former capital city of Spain and I explored the famous Roman Aqueduct of Segovia, a small city with so much history to reveal.

For an art and culture lover the city of Madrid was luxuriant in opportunities. I had the chance to take a tour of Museo del Prado, Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, of numerous art galleries and other exhibitions, which allowed me to explore famous paintings, to broaden my knowledge and deepen my perception of art.

Being particularly fond of the history of the Spanish Royal Family, I took advantage of my stay and visited emblematic palaces and museums such as Palacio Real. Throughout the time, I achieved a consistent understanding of the topic.

I was also very keen on visiting Barcelona. In January, after sitting my exams, I went to the city of Gaudi, and it was a revelation. I was surprised to see how history and modern times come together to create an incredible urban area at the border of the Mediterranean Sea.

The exchange programme was my chance to live abroad for half a year, explore a different culture and be part of a distinctive educational system where students see life and live it differently. It was a time designed exclusively for me, gaining important experience and knowledge both personally and professionally.

It was the best time of my life. It had a positive influence on my perspectives. I am more confident in my strengths and willing to discover and experience the best of being a journalist.

As a former Erasmus student, I strongly encourage everyone to seek out big challenges in their lives; these challenges, once overcome, bring you the greatest rewards. Studying and living in a different country is a life-changing experience, it makes you stronger and better prepared for the future.
I would do it all over again!

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