Spain, Valencia – Ben Griffiths – 2008-2009

Arriving

I flew from Bristol to Valencia International Airport with Easyjet, if booked in advance; flights are available for as little as £40 return. In order to get into the heart of the city there are two options; the metro and a catching a taxi. The metro system is cheap (€1.40 for a single journey) and very reliable, although the journey does take about an hour. Whereas, a taxi ride takes about twenty minutes or so, but costs around €20.

Accommodation

I arrived in Valencia with accommodation arranged for a week and the daunting task of finding somewhere to live for the coming year. As scary as this sounds, it is really nothing to worry about. There are literally hundreds of lamposts around the city and the campus offering whole flats and rooms to rent to Erasmus students, so there is no need to panic. I ended up sharing a flat in Plaza Honduras, just off Blasco Ibanez with two other guys from Exeter.

I would strongly recommend this area, it was a two-minute walk to the university, a ten-minute bus ride into town and a short tram ride to the beach. It is a very lively area with a lot always going on, it is located very close to a supermarket, coffee shops, cafes, various bars and nightclubs. It seemed to me that the majority of Erasmus students lived here or at the end of Blasco Ibanez, do NOT be persuaded to live in Benimaclet, the journey will simply be too much of a hassle!

Getting Around Valencia

Public transport is excellent in Valencia, there is an extensive network of buses, trams and an undergound metro network which gets you to anywhere you want to go pretty quickly. Bus fares are €1.20 for a single journey, Metro is €1.40 and Trams are also €1.40 (although generally no-one pays).

The University

There are two universities in Valencia; the Universitat de Valencia and the Politecnica. I spent the year studying ADE at the Universitat de Valencia and completed a language course at a school near to the Mestalla football stadium.

In the first semester I elected to take some of my classes in English, studying with other Erasmus students. This was absolutely fine but was nothing in comparison to the second semester, when I decided to throw myself in at the deep end and take some courses in Spanish. As a result I found myself making genuine Spanish friends, after classes on most days we would all have a coffee and a chat – this is what was most beneficial for improving my language.

Free Time

Valencia has a lot to offer in a cultural sense, the old town and ‘Barrio del Carmen’ area needs to be explored and is a perfect way to spend an afternoon, or evening. The set of big white modern-looking constructions is the city of arts and sciences; they include art galleries, science museums, an aquarium and i-Max. There are also regular gigs and concerts located here, most of which are free to the public and an amazing atmosphere!

Due to the fact that I was living with English people, I was conscious to make an effort to speak as much Spanish as possible outside of the flat. I was lucky enough to find a rugby team called ‘Les Abelles’, a team playing in the Spanish premiership. As rugby is only in its infancy out in Spain, I was able to hold my own in a decent team. The most difficult initial barrier was the lack of my ability to communicate freely with the other guys in the team. Luckily they were very patient with me and helped out enormously with my Spanish, in addition they fully included me with all social activities that took place. I still keep in contact with a lot of the guys from Les Abelles and intend to visit them again next year.

Nightlife

When I first signed up for an Erasmus year I didn’t realise how important nightlife is to Erasmus students, even more so than students at Exeter. With this in mind Valencia is the ideal location, there are regular organised Erasmus social events – these are often heavily discounted and subsidised and are a great way to meet other like-minded students.

There is no shortage of bars dotted around the city, some offering three quintos (a bottle of beer) for a euro! In terms of nightclubs; please do not leave Valencia without spending a night on the roof-terrace of Las Animas – the view of the sunrise and then mandatory early-morning swim is just incredible. Also, the roof terrace at Mia (l’umbracle) is without doubt the most breathtaking nightspot that I have ever visited – an absolute must!

Excursions/Travelling

I was quite lucky in that I had the opportunity to travel to places like Alicante, Elche and Castellon with the rugby team. However, during the Easter holidays instead of going home I decided to take a bus to Andalucia. On the way I had the opportunity to spend a little time in Albacete, Murcia and Granada, before heading down to Marbella.

The Erasmus Valencia organization also arrange a trip to Ibiza each year, I didn’t go myself, but heard some incredible stories. So if I had my time again so to speak, I would not hesitate to make the trip.

Las Fallas

Las Fallas week was undoubtedly the best week of the year. The whole of the city basically shuts down and has a weeklong party with literally no sleep. This all culminates in the burning of over 300 giant artistic sculptures, follow by without question, the best firework display that I have ever seen. 

Make sure you go to one of the Mascletas showings at 2pm each day, it it certainly a unique experience! In addition, try and see as many sculptures (falla’s) as manageable and do not miss the grand finale at the Plaza Ayuntamiento, it is amazing.

Overall Impression

Before heading to Valencia I wasn’t really sure exactly what to expect from the year and what I would get out of it. Having spent a year there, I can honestly say that it had been the best year of university so far for me. I had an incredible time in my first two years at Exeter, but the year abroad is something completely different.

I would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending both the Erasmus programme, or the city of Valencia to anyone. I am now in a position of extreme jealously of students embarking upon their year abroad and wish I could go back on a daily basis.

Good Luck, and make the most of your year.

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