You might want a big city, but don’t be surprised if a small town ends up being the one for you…

Queen Mary Languages student and Turing Scheme grant recipient, Nadine Gomes Paixão reflects on how taking a break from the larger cities is great and can feel easier to connect with others.

Being in a small city
Before my semester abroad, I decided that I wanted to be in a big city, somewhere that reminded me of London. At first, I wasn’t too thrilled to learn that I would be going to the University of Oviedo in Asturias. I had never heard of it before and I didn’t think there would be much of a student community. Looking on Facebook for student groups for international students who were on their placement with Erasmus or Turing Scheme led me to a link for a WhatsApp group chat. In this group, there were not only international students on their placements in Asturias, but also Spanish locals and natives that wanted to get to know others as well. Oviedo is inhabited mostly by the elderly and students. Every local I met was friendly and helpful and that made speaking Spanish easier as they were very accepting of people trying to communicate with them.

Activities and daily life
When it came to adjusting to daily life, it didn’t feel different from the usual student life I was living in London. It was easy to establish a routine including classes and getting essentials, but also when it came to socialising, having a group chat was really helpful. For the duration of my stay in Oviedo, there would be some sort of social event at least once or twice every 2 weeks. There were some outgoing Asturian locals who arranged and encouraged people to go on hikes with them on Sundays, as there are many mountains that surround the city of Oviedo and the coastal town of Gijón and cover the whole region of Asturias. There are some beautiful views, and it was fun to hike with people from different countries and learn about other people’s lives and what brought them to Oviedo.

Usually on Friday nights, some of us would go out to the local bars and clubs together. On other evenings, we would go for tapas or to try some of the traditional food and drink of Asturias, for example, Spanish omelette or the apple cider made in that region of Spain. It felt quite easy to establish friendships and maintain them during the semester as there were always events to go to or things to celebrate, such as the celebration the catholic saints which meant there were public holidays and days off from university. The city could be decorated, and people would gather in the town square to drink and socialise.

Overall, the smaller student community was different from what I was expecting but I enjoyed the experience with all the people I met along the way. It made me realise that taking a break from the larger cities is great and it feels easier to connect with others when there’s less people to worry about. It felt like closer friendships could be made as we would see each other often even if we weren’t on the same course. With the Turing grant, I was also able to see other cities in Spain and that felt like a break from university at times.


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