¡Hola a todos! ¿Qué tal?
I can’t believe that it has been two weeks since I left the emerald isle to start my year abroad. I’m definitely starting to settle in and feel more at home and all in all, I am well (sort of – more on that later).
Where to begin? So much has happened!
To say that the first five days of my year abroad were stressful would be an understatement. Upon our arrival in Murcia we checked into the hotel and after getting something to eat we decided to go to the apartment to make a list of things I needed to get at the shopping centre the next day. You might remember that I mentioned in this post that the flat needed a little tidying up… If I’m being honest, that was a very kind way to put it. The flat was filthy and the more I looked around the more I realised that I couldn’t live there for a year and be happy.
So then, the panic set in. With Murcia being a student city and it already being September I knew that apartments would be filling up fast. The rest of the evening was spent scouring the internet on all the usual sites (fotocasa.es, idealista.com, housinganywhere.com) and coming up with very little. Spanish people love WhatsApp and the majority of people advertising on these websites stated that this was how they wanted to be contacted. That being said, no one seemed to want to reply to a language assistant from Northern Ireland who was becoming more desperate by the hour.
Out of fifteen possible landlords a grand total of one replied to me and I set up a viewing for Monday at quarter past six. Ideally, I would have liked this to have been sooner as my mum was leaving on Tuesday evening and it wouldn’t leave us much time to get things such as bedding and any appliances I should need sorted.
Monday seemed to take forever to come around and all I could do in the meantime was hope and pray that this apartment would work out. It was ideal in every single way – refurbished in 2018, a ten minute walk from the city centre and a bus stop to school only five minutes away by foot. I should have known it was all too perfect.
When we turned up to view the apartment there was a young man standing outside the apartment building and I plucked up the courage to ask if he was the person who was showing me around the apartment. He informed me that he wasn’t but that he was also waiting on the same person. About ten minutes had passed and more people had showed up – there were six of us in total. We were all looking back and forth between each other when the penny dropped – we were all there to view the same single room in the same apartment.
I have never seen anything like it. To say it was a free for all would be putting it lightly. It ended up being a tenant showing us round and I felt so sorry for him. He was bombarded with questions which he couldn’t really answer as the decision was not up to him. Five minutes after stepping foot in the door of the apartment I had WhatsApped the landlord and told him that I wanted to rent it. Half an hour passed and he finally replied saying it had been claimed.
Repeat the events of Friday night, only with more desperation. I was more stressed than ever at this point. That night I messaged more than thirty landlords that night and again a grand total of one replied to set up a viewing. I had a viewing for the next morning and I felt it was my last hope.
The next morning we got up early to check out of the hotel and get a cup of tea in Starbucks before the viewing. My mum was considering staying until the weekend if I didn’t get sorted so there was a lot riding on this viewing. As we were leaving the hotel I put a message asking if anyone had any leads on an apartment into the Murcia Erasmus WhatsApp group chat that I’m part of in a last ditch attempt to give myself more options. Thankfully, a lovely girl (who is now one of my flatmates) replied and said that there were two available rooms in her flat. She passed the landlord’s number onto me and in the space of an hour I had a viewing set up and it was near enough a done deal.
The other viewing for that morning didn’t happen as the person who was supposed to show me around didn’t show up (this is more common than you would believe) and I took it as a sign. Third time lucky and the other apartment would be mine. So, we went to the other apartment, viewed it, loved it and signed the contract within the hour. I was no longer homeless and my mum could go home that evening knowing that I would be fine!
If I had a pound for every time I had considered booking a flight back to Belfast within those first five days I would be a very very rich girl. I genuinely don’t think I’ve ever been as stressed in my life and my Spanish was most definitely put to the test as well.
Every challenge I have faced since has seemed very minor in comparison to the accommodation fiasco. The thing I thought would be the most difficult actually ended up being the easiest and that was the NIE – simply put, the Spanish equivalent of our national insurance number. I had heard horror stories about it being difficult to get one and the police officers that issue them being awful and scary. My experience, however, was nothing like this. It was brilliant. I was called for my appointment after ten minutes of waiting and the police officer was so helpful – he could speak English and everything!
After getting my NIE, the next thing on my list was to set up a bank account. Again, quite straightforward. I decided to go with Sabadell as they are a national bank meaning that if I travel anywhere in Spain I will easily be able to locate a Sabadell ATM and withdraw money without being charged a fee. I have to wait about a week for my bank card to come but that isn’t a big issue.
One of the things I had to buy for the apartment was a kettle. Tea is a necessity after all! I managed to find one in El Corté Inglés, the Spanish equivalent to Debenhams or John Lewis, for 20€ which was perfect. After a few days I noticed that there were white flakes floating in the water at the bottom of the kettle and naturally, started to panic. After some googling, I found out that it was just how the minerals in bottled water react with the kettle when boiled. So, for any of my fellow classmates on their year abroad who may experience this problem – fear not! You can get rid of them by putting a slice of lemon in the water in the kettle and leaving it for 12-24 hours. Works a treat!
With it being September, it is only natural that I would catch the cold. Yes, you did read that right. I have the cold. In Spain. In 30 degree heat. Not fun when you’re feeling rotten but it is too warm to wrap yourself up in your duvet and feel sorry for yourself.
In other news, I have mainly been filling my time with getting to know Murcia. It is quite a small city so I feel I am definitely getting there with finding my bearings. I have met another couple of assistants and it is nice to have some company to go for a drink with in the evening! On Wednesday, I went to Lorca with my friend Nicole, a fellow assistant, to get her NIE but that is a story for another blog post!
If you have read this far – props to you! This ended up being a lot longer than I had intended but the accommodation fiasco was a tale and a half that couldn’t be left out. I am settling in well and Murcia is starting to feel like home. I am excited to start work and get into routine which will come round soon enough.
I am off to Granada next weekend with a group of Erasmus students which I am looking forward too. Granada was on my list of places to see this year and it will be even better to see it while meeting loads of new people! I am sure I will tell you all about it in a blog post.
¡Gracias por leer y hasta pronto!