Semester Abroad: My Arrival In The Land Of Diversity
On my first full day in Córdoba today, my stress level has not decreased yet. I'm looking for a place to live and I'm curious to see how I can cope here without mastering Spanish.
Who am I and what am I doing?
I am Daniel, 22, and was born in Bremerhaven. In Oldenburg, where I now also live, I study pedagogy at the Carl von Ossietzky University with a bachelor’s degree. I am an open, social person and love music. I myself play the guitar and sing and also love the summer. I could not live without the sun.
Maybe some of you can imagine how stressful the organization of a semester abroad can be, but I can tell you in advance that it will be worth it. Already after my Abitur and a strenuous working year, I went out into the wide world, because I love to discover the world. From New Zealand to Australia and Cambodia everything was there. After an incredible 15-month journey I went back to reality and started my studies. Already in the first semester we were told about semesters abroad and the suggestion to either complete one in the third or fifth semester gave me the opportunity to come back abroad as early as possible in order to start a new adventure: HERE WE GO or better ¡AQUI VAMOS!
Why did I choose the Universidad de Córdoba?
It was clear to me from the beginning that I wanted to study in a country where Spanish was spoken. I already had Spanish classes at school, but on my big trip, I concentrated on English and forgot so much. The goal of my stay abroad is to regain and expand my language skills.
The University of Oldenburg cooperates with universities in South America and Spain. Since I was just in my first semester and had to find my way around my home university, I, unfortunately, missed the registration deadlines for universities outside Europe. So, I was more or less forced to look around in Spain. The places at Spanish universities are of course also limited. So, I had to choose between the universities in Valladolid, Salamanca, Córdoba, and Cádiz. Cádiz is a holiday resort, so the cost of living is correspondingly high - so the place fell out. Salamanca and Valladolid are located in the north of Spain, where the temperatures are colder than Córdoba in winter. Therefore, I decided to go to Córdoba, a city with almost 325.000 inhabitants in the heart of Andalusia.
At the last minute, I managed to sublet my room in Oldenburg. Apart from the furniture, I had to clear everything out and stay at home with my parents. Of course, I wanted to do a lot with my friends, but moving out, packing my suitcases, and taking the last organizational steps took a lot of time, so sadly I couldn't say goodbye to everyone.
From Bremen to Malaga
With Ryanair, we went from Bremen to Malaga. Since it was very important to me to take my guitar with me, I booked a so-called "Extra Item Seat", which was more expensive but made safe transport possible for me.
Arrived in Malaga, I first had to get orientation, because how I should get to Cordoba, 165Km away, was unclear to me until then. A little desperate I tried to get information at the information stands, but unfortunately, I had to find out in vain that the people here really speak very little to no English. In the end, I found out that there are two possibilities: Either you decide on the cheaper, slower alternative by bus or you pay a little more and arrive within one hour by train to Cordoba (RENFE train connections).
Here in Cordoba, I booked a hostel for the first three days, from where I have to find an apartment as soon as possible. The pressure is of course very high, but as I have read in many reports about my experiences, this is the normal procedure of looking for a flat or a room. As my Spanish is not very good and it is not very "German" to organize an apartment at the last minute, I am very nervous and have reservations. With the help of the platforms "Idealista", "EasyPiso", and "Erasmusu" I will now search for a room. Accompany me on my adventure that began on my arrival in the land of diversity!
Apartment search in the resort Córdoba
I admit, perhaps I approached the search for a flat in Córdoba a little too naively, but despite a lack of preparation and poor Spanish, I managed to find a flat within five days.
Where do you start?
For the first three nights, I booked a hostel room in the center of Córdoba. At that time, I wasn't aware that Córdoba is more than Madrid, Barcelona, and Málaga a very traditional Spanish city. Early on I realized that few or no people here speak English and that the search for a flat would be difficult.
Monday morning, I started looking for an apartment. The Universidad de Córdoba didn't offer me any help in finding a flat, so I was on my own. After a short search, I first came across the Erasmusu website. Unfortunately, the mobile phone or telephone numbers are not indicated here directly. If one registers, one arrives at a contact form that is then forwarded to the landlord. But that took me too long.
On Idealista and milanuncios, you will be shown (mostly) mobile phone numbers next to the display, which you can contact directly. At first, I looked for apartments and rooms that looked very good for my taste and corresponded to the German "Standard". They cost about 270 to 360 euros. As I found out later, these are hefty prices for Córdoba. I had written to pretty much all the people who owned these apartments, but even here I was afraid that I would only get a reply after a few days, because most of the ads said, "last online 23 days ago". So, I did not have great hopes for myself.
Three days after my arrival I had not yet had a single viewing appointment, let alone found a room. To be honest, I was frustrated because I had decided to enjoy the last days before the start of the semester without having to do any annoying tasks. So, I had to reduce my demands a little and called pretty much every cell phone number where the apartment and the room to rent looked reasonably good.
Who needs a window?
Actually, it had worked and on the same day, I had two appointments for apartment visits. Excited and optimistic I stood punctually at 17 o'clock in front of the first house. However, the room was not only dirty but also dark, which could be due to the fact that it had no window. For all my love, I would never feel comfortable here.
Also, the second flat inspection was, unfortunately, a failure, because despite my drastically reduced requirements it was important to me that I move into an apartment, in which one does not smoke. But the room was yellow from the smoke and the flatmates smoke in the kitchen and in the living room, which is a no-go for me.
Frustrated, I had to continue my search. After an almost endless number of phone calls, which ended either with a "Sorry, but the room is taken" "Unfortunately we're only looking for girls for the room" or "We'll get back to you tonight", there were, fortunately, two more apartment visits for the next day. Meanwhile Friday, in the afternoon I had my fourth apartment inspection, and BINGO! I wanted this room immediately.
It wasn't very nice at first sight, but I was sure that I could make it a little more attractive and comfortable with the things I brought with me. The apartment is also located in Ciudad Jardín, the district with the highest number of students. Perfect! That same evening, I was able to move in with my suitcase and guitar.
Tips and tricks for finding accommodation in Spain
- Prepare yourself with the appropriate vocabulary for the apartment search and learn phrases and whole sentences by heart. Think about specific questions and translate them beforehand and be prepared with answers to questions from the landlord.
- Have a look at apartments in Germany on the Internet platforms mentioned above. Also, be smart about which district is closest to your faculty.
- Arrive a few days earlier and take a personal look at the apartments before choosing them. As with some tour operators, it can happen that there are real ruins hidden behind the beautiful pictures on the Internet. Be prepared for everything!
If you now think to yourself, "Super, I can do that better", then I can't accommodate anything, because in fact, it is certainly easier with the above-mentioned tips and tricks. Whether it goes faster through it, however, is another thing. Sometimes experiences like mine have to be made first.
Shopping day for my room furnishing
Saturday morning, I went to Malaga for one night. With the express train, which you can book quickly and safely via RENFE, I drove from Córdoba to Màlaga in only one hour. For the train, you usually have to pay about 27,50 Euros per track. Arrived there, I borrowed a scooter, because in Córdoba and Màlaga you can only rent a car at the age of 23 or you pay an enormously high price of 100 Euro upwards for 24 hours. With the scooter, I went to a well-known Swedish furniture store, and there I bought small things like a desk lamp, a desk pad, and a picture frame. Now I can finally start to make my room a little more comfortable. You can also feel comfortable with a spartan interior.
Author: Daniel Thode was born in Bremerhaven. He is studying Pedagogy with a bachelor’s degree at the Carl von Ossietzky University in Oldenburg. For him, traveling is one way of getting richer in life. It is the best "life school". You can follow all his adventures here.
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