Postcards from Abroad: Málaga, Spain

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Abigail is a mature (is 23 really mature?) third year English Language and Literature student spending one year studying abroad at the Universidad de Málaga. She loves travelling, and has spent every summer from the age of 17 exploring new places solo, thus moving to another country wasn’t too daunting. The biggest worry was regarding the lack of Yorkshire tea but thankfully she was able to have some shipped over.

I arrived in Spain following a rather hectic summer spent travelling America and Canada. I left myself three days between arriving in the UK and boarding the flight to Spain, which surprisingly is not a lot of time to pack up your life, especially when you’re a victim of jetlag. Regardless, I did my usual trick of packing the night before after a bottle (or three) of wine, woke up late and almost missed my flight. So, I was expecting this crazy whirlwind to continue, but as soon as I arrived in Spain I wash it with a very unexpected sensation of serenity.

I’m living in the centre of Málaga, Andalusia, in the south of Spain, and studying at the Universidad de Málaga. The University itself is decent: good facilities, good professors, and no Roger Stevens building which is a definite win. In fact, most of the buildings in my faculty have only one floor, and lecture halls are numbered logically. Now I’m settled and have my schedule it’s all good, but Spain certainly have a different way of doing things. No pick your modules and have a personalised timetable provided for you, thanks for that by the way, Leeds. Nope. I had to do the grunt work, and go through a ten-page document, pick out my modules and assemble a timetable, all the while making sure there were no clashes in either quarter semester. They do give you a good two months to get that finalized though, so it wasn’t really a big deal in the end.

Yes, so I came to realise after about two weeks of living here that literally everything is done at a glacial pace. This insistence to do everything at this speed doesn’t just end with the University. Nope. With the exception of signing for a place to live, it takes approximately 2.3 years for anything to get done. It seems the Spanish really take this mentality seriously, and you can even find yourself lingering at the cashier’s desk for a good five minutes waiting for the clerk to finish their personal phone call. The lifestyle is so laid back, and this suits me to a T. To be honest, I’d probably be doing the exact same thing if I were working in such lovely weather. I do know quite a few frustrated Erasmus students though.

Málaga itself is rich with culture; there are countless museums and galleries, and the people certainly are proud that Pablo Picasso was born here. There are dedications to his work everywhere, and you can even go see the house he was born in. The city is a wonderful size; cafes and bars are always bustling through the day with families and friends enjoying the November 20 degree heat. I can honestly say, of all the things I do not miss about Leeds, the weather is very near the top of that list. One of my favourite things to do hereis wander round and find hidden treasures, in the maze of cobblestoned alleyways, to watch the world go by withan afternoon coffee. Or sangria. Probably sangria.

There is always something going on here, too. I live right next to the Teatro Cervantes, which is the most important theatre in Málaga, and has been known to attract some very important people. A few days ago, in fact, the King and Queen of Spain made an appearance. The media were swarming and the people were excited, the occasion held such an incredible atmosphere and it was really lovely to watch from my living room window. There is currently a jazz festival on, just opposite my building, so I’m writing this to the dulcet sounds of a sax. What could be better?

Here is a picture of Málaga in the evening:

Abbey Armstrong 2

There are obviously numerous activities available that I would never have the opportunity to do in England, and I do try to participate in as many of them as possible. A few weeks ago, my friends and I hiked up the Rio Chillar, Nerja. This involved wading through the river, negotiating rapids, and relaxing in plunge pools with ‘massaging’ waterfalls. It was a super fun experience, and one I would definitely repeat. It is also very easy to travel here, the transport links are very good and I have quite a few trips planned, such as Valencia next weekend. However, it is also very easy to adopt the ‘mañana, mañana’attitude, and get sucked into the Spanish lifestyle: spending every day simply relaxing in a café, in the city, chatting with friends. When this happens I just shrug internally and think, ‘well, I did come here to embrace the Spanish lifestyle and integrate with the locals’. The trick is just finding a balance, and I’m not sure I’ve achieved that yet.

Abbey Armstrong 1

Torreblanca beach insunny November.

One of the things I get asked most often is whether I speak Spanish. No, is the answer,because I’m really shit and I came here knowing about twenty words. So, the language barrier is annoying, but I’m taking lessons and plan to continue doing so throughout the year. I’ve found emphasized hand gestures are very useful when communicating with the locals; I just look like a massive idiot.

My flat-mates and I get on really well, and we have made a habit of cooking traditional dishes for one another. Ann, from South Korea, is very generous with her cooking skills and regularly makes wonderful food for us. In fact, she is preparing dinner for us this evening, so I’m going to sign off and see if she needs help, (by help I mean see if there anything to pick at now). Let me finish by saying that life in Málaga really is great, although I’m yet to adjust to the eating schedule, I like my dinner at 7pm not 10pm, thank you!My body also definitely appreciates the extra nutrients I’m getting from my daily dosage of Sangria. There’s fruit in there, you know.

Abbey Armstrong

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