Thursday, 6 June 2013

Year Abroad: Debrief Part 2 - Alcalá De Henares, Spain.

TA and I in Madrid.
Year abroad is officially over. As I write this, I am sat at Madrid Barajas Airport, having closed the door on my time as an Erasmus student, and it seemed appropriate to write this one up now. So, without further ado, here's part 2 of my year abroad debrief (you can read part one here!)

After sitting my exams in January 2013 in Toulouse, I once again packed up my things ready to move to Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Spain with the lovely TA. We were both moving to Madrid, but different areas - her Aranjuez and me Alcalá. Moving countries was the most stressful thing I have ever done! I remember ringing Mum up and just crying. I never ring my Mum up and just cry! Upon arrival, I was homeless. I'd arranged flat viewings for my first full day there, knowing full-well I could not afford to pay out for a hotel for more than a few days at the most! Luckily, I found a flat I liked on that first day and put money down for the room so I could move in after I'd got my three days at the hotel (like I was gonna leave the hotel early - it was frigging awesome!) Just like in Toulouse, the routine here in Madrid was the same: I made friends, travelled, got drunk, ate far too many tapas. The only difference was, here, I actually went to uni! And a lot of diabetes-related issues surfaced.

Nem and I, Starbucks in hand!
When I first got here, my diabetes control was...well...pretty much non-existent. What with trying to finalise paperwork in Toulouse, and then move and get set up in Alcalá...just, before I knew it, I was well and truly heading back down that insulin-omitting path. So I turned to writing again, and that's why my time in Toulouse is just missing from this blog. Nem came to see me when all this was happening, and I'm so grateful she did! She got me grounded again and reminded me that I'd done it once and I could do it again. It's been a long journey, and one that I'm still on, but I feel like I'm in control again, and I'm going to do everything I can to make sure it stays that way when I return to the UK in just a few hours now. 

Bringing up diabetes here was a lot easier. I'm not sure why, it just was. Meeting people was easier too. Probably because I actually went to class here! That, and I definitely feel that the Spanish are a lot more open than the French. Uni here has been amazing! The buildings look like something you'd see in Harry Potter, for a start!

I've travelled a lot since being here too: Salamanca, Toledo, Segovia, all of which have been incredible! I did a weekend in Salamanca, staying with friends from UEA, and then Toledo and Segovia were day trips. I haven't really ventured far from Madrid, just because living so near to the capital meant that I wanted to be able to take advantage of that, and I have. That, and I also needed to consider my Starbucks fund - it'd been a whole 7 months since I'd lived in a city with a Starbucks! 

I stupidly walked my insulin into the Ice Bar in Madrid for a friend's birthday and then wondered why it froze! Good night though, not gonna lie. Food here has been amazing! I love tapas, and after months upon months of trying to figure out how to bolus properly for them, I've gone and finally done it. Maybe that should be my big diabetes achievement. Year abroad seems like nothing when you've been trying to master tapas for as long as I have! I've got drunk, mainly with K. We have the same appreciation for vodka! For the first time on year abroad I met someone else with diabetes (not gonna lie, that's probably one of the highlights) and I've just been lucky enough to make some really good friends here. I thought leaving Toulouse was hard, but leaving here has been harder!      
French class in the sun!

My semester in Spain has probably been the more difficult one of the two, yet it's the one I think I've enjoyed slightly more. Toulouse was like the test-run, and Spain was the real-deal. I loved my time in Toulouse, but I didn't take advantage of the language opportunities presented to me, and that's the whole point of year abroad. This semester, however, I have, and it's really helped to make this whole experience for me. Yes, diabetes had its moments this semester, but in the words of K, I owned this semester: I sought out opportunities, I practised my language skills, I travelled, I got myself back on track. I proved to myself that I can do this. Now, I've just got to work on getting good control back, as I'm pretty sure my hba1c ain't gonna be pretty! But that'll be in part 3, when I actually have some numbers to give you! 

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