Usually, when something feels too good to be true, it is. You think you’ve won £100 on the lottery, it turns out you’ve won a tenner. You think you ran five miles in half an hour, it turns out your pedometer is broken. You think you’re about to move abroad for five months to study in Barcelona, you end up getting fucked over by your university there and returning home after a week and a half. You know how it is.
To say I am making the best of a bad situation would be a complete understatement. The depressing thought of returning to Sheffield, home of endless rain, wind and general misery, after wandering around sunny Spain is rather sad. I have made a long list of things to look forward to, ranging from “less gross tasting water” to “ability to go to Tuesday Club every week”. It is not quite the same as going to the beach on uni breaks and eating tapas for dinner.
I had bigged up Barcelona to the extent that whenever we spoke of it, my friends would make (supposedly) hilarious comments like “you’re off to Barcelona? Should have mentioned it!” Ironically enough, perhaps we should have mentioned it slightly more, for when we arrived, none of our lecturers actually knew of our existence.
Three days of enjoying the sunshine, culture and food of the city and I was really looking forward to the next few months in Spain. Jess and I contemplated travelling round the country, visiting friends in Madrid, inviting friends and family out to visit us. “It feels too good to be true!” we laughed. It was.
Arrival on Monday morning to our first lecture furthered these thoughts. “Specialised Journalism: Culture” proved to be interesting, enlightening, and relatively easy. Writing a critical review on Animal Farm – George Orwell was something I reckon I could have done to an okay standard; the start of my few months of bettering myself abroad. The fact that, lovely as she was, our lecturer didn’t have a clue of our arrival (despite emails) didn’t really stick in our minds.
A (far too) brief meeting in the Mobility office (home of complaints for us Erasmus students) put our minds at rest, as we had been worrying about what language our modules would be in (this is where it all starts to go wrong). Previous to our arrival, after problems with enrolling, exams, accommodation, finance and more, we had sent an entire tree’s worth of emails to UPF to double check our modules would be taught in our own language. A laughably minor point, one would assume. As an international university where English is one of the official spoken and written languages, we asked primarily for confirmation more than anything else. Confirmation we received, and after a lovely four hour break we skipped off merrily to our second module, only to be greeted by a professor with not the best english accent, and the horror of finding out that our other two modules of the semester were in Catalan.
Dealing with UPF’s mobility office has been similar to that of an argument with a brick wall, except I think a brick wall would be marginally more interested in what we had to say. We started our Erasmus period a few weeks late, because UPF wouldn’t let us take our exams at their university. Because we missed these crucial weeks and took our exams in Sheffield, we missed the ‘add / drop’ module period in Barcelona. Despite this being entirely in UPF’s control, we haven’t been allowed to change our modules to any other English speaking ones. Some very hesitant replies later (including one lovely lecturer who told us that ‘it made no sense’ to study in English abroad) and we have established that as lovely as Spain is, it is not worth failing second year for. My knowledge of Spanish consists of basic phrases and tapas dishes, so a presentation at the end of a module in fluent Catalan is slightly unrealistic.
We have spent an entire week arguing with UPF, waiting on replies and ringing our home lecturers for advice and pity. All have slowly been received, some more appreciated than others. Sheffield have been excellent at trying to help us, but, again similar to a brick wall, UPF are hilariously resistant to budging, and we are having to return to Sheffield to take our second semester here instead. We are both potentially €900 down for accommodation, and definitely homeless for the time being in Sheffield as we have rented our rooms out to foreign Erasmus students. Poor and stressed, I am actually kind of looking forward to returning to the sanctity that is Sheffield… once we’ve found somewhere to live. Isn’t life fun?