I learnt Spanish in an Irish pub

Paddy FreelandBy Paddy Freeland

Royal Holloway University London have kicked me off to pastures new. I am now an Erasmus student, floating off for a year to Cordoba in Spain, then Paris and frankly, I’ve absolutely no idea what I am doing.

Honestly, I really don’t. I didn’t plan meticulously, taking care and much deliberation. I fanned it off, bragging “Yeah, I’m on it guys. Calm down. Now, how much wine is important in Risotto? Best drink half…” and so on. So by the time of the summer, choosing the universities became a simple choice of “WHO will accept me? It’s now August, and I’m going in a MONTH”.

We had to re-arrange our family holiday so I could swing by good ol’Egham and berate the International office, flailing photocopies of outdated forms stained with tears and passport photos ripped off old documents. I booked into a hotel in Argentina because I forgot that there might be more than one place called Cordoba in the entire hispanic speaking world. I bought a dictionary at the airport as I forgot mine.

This is not what I would entirely reccommend for any student, travelling abroad or in the UK. I spent three days wandering the small spanish streets, ripping any phone number for a flat I could find off the walls, marauding the streets, mourning the lack of tea and seemingly random opening hours of everything. I was bereft until I found the irish pub on the second day and spent six hours drinking Guinness and struggling to chat with the barman, teaching him how to pour it correctly and using their phone to call the nameless flats, and bullying José, said chirpy barman, to talk to anyone I couldn’t understand (ie Everyone).

This “luck of the Irish” turned out to be the greatest tactic imaginable. The six hours in the pub got my Spanish to the point where I could, and would after the Guinness, talk to anyone. The seventy eight numbers for flats I collected became bargaining chips for every lost student I found, my numbers for their friendship, an unorthodox but cunning tactic. And wandering the streets for hours on end? It became the metaphorical string that Theseus probably used, before slaying the Minotaur of all the free shots I wrangled out of that “Irish” pub.

Human beings are incredible creatures of neccessity, we’ll always find a way to plod along. A week ago I was pointing at a map to the taxi driver, because my spanish was hopeless. Now, last night, I was renting a room in my new flat to both a German guy and a French girl, whilst clutching two litre bottles of cheap beer whilst on a terrace at 4am, and proving white camp guys from middle class England can actually do the Single Ladies dance just as well as Beyoncé .

So, travellers, I urge you to not worry too much about anything. You’ll find your own way. And if you look back, you might just realise that you’re having the time of your life.