Two years ago I made the best decision ever, and it wasn’t really to go on Erasmus, but to go and live abroad. I am Turkish and back then I was 20 – the idea of going abroad attracted me but it also scared me… I didn’t know if I would pass all my classes in another country, I was frightened of feeling alone, of being far away from my family and friends. In short, at the beginning I could only see the downsides, but since at the same time it excited me immensely, I decided to go for it.
On the 11th September 2014, I arrived in Cordoba in Spain, and the very next day it was my birthday. I was already feeling a bit shocked that I was actually there, and I then thought: “What am I doing alone in a hotel room on my birthday?”. I decided to change my mindset – at the end of the day I was living many people’s dreams, it was a privilege, so I decided to head down into the streets to discover how the Spanish lived. The heat was immense – more than 40°!!! I went looking for the city’s main plaza, La Plaza de las Tendillas, and my first surprise was that they understood me better than I thought they would, even though my Spanish was still pretty ropey.
And so dinner time arrived – how on earth can it be so hot at night too… I went and ate at the “Taberna el abanico”, and I ordered something typical from Cordoba: salmorejo, flamenquín and an Estrella Galicia beer. At first I didn’t really understand salmorejo, we’ve got such complicated food in my country and it didn’t seem like something you’d have for dinner… and eventually I became a massive fan! I even cooked it in Turkey for my family and my friends, but they didn’t like it at all… but don’t think I cooked it badly!!
The second day was more entertaining. I had to look for a flat and attend an Erasmus event where I could meet people. This excited me most, because I have always liked being with and meeting people. I showered, had breakfast in a place next to the Hotel, walked across Las Tendillas, went to the Roman Bridge, took some photos, uploaded them to Facebook and then it was time to head back and get ready to go to the Irish Bar, el Banagher, where the Erasmus event was being held. It’s a shame it’s closed now…
I got to know a lot of people from the first day onwards – this is the best thing about Erasmus! You learn languages without being forced to. Not only do you make friends, but you get to know different worlds and discover the richness of being in an international environment. How do behave when you’re abroad? What do you do when you’re alone? You discover yourself and many other things besides whilst having fun. Those nights dancing right through to the morning so that your feet hurt… I wouldn’t swap that experience for the anything.
It’s true that you Andalusians do resemble us Turkish quite a bit, and especially as far as personal relationships are concerned, you resemble the people from my region in Turkey, Aegean. They are very friendly folk, and since I’ve been in Cordoba they’ve been very pleasant to me, and they always help you if you’re foreign. They’re great fun, they like to go out and they know how to enjoy life. One thing about them that did surprise me a lot was that they didn’t know much about other countries – I laughed so much at the daft questions they asked me: “You’re very white for a Turkish person, aren’t you?” “Do you ride camels?” “Do you ever wear bikinis at the beach?” “Do you speak Arabic?” … My jaw dropped when I heard these questions. I think everyone should stop having preconceptions – we were all born on the same planet and under the same sun, but having seen other countries, I think we’re more European than many Europeans 😀 .
Cordoba is a city that is easy to live in. It’s small, and you can get where you want to go on foot or by bike. Almost all of the students live in the Cuidad Jardín neighbourhood, so in no time at all this area because a familiar place for me. I had a friend in almost every street… or rather, I had family, because they end up becoming your family – you’re together the whole time, eating, dancing, laughing, and crying at the end too. You make loads of friends from other countries, but some of them are closer to you and more special. Every minute that you spend with them is worth more than anything, and when the time comes to say goodbye, you suffer and cry so much that you even wish you’d never met anyone ever in your life. You can also get yourself a boyfriend or girlfriend, and this is definitely hard, especially when you have to go home and leave your boyfriend behind… I don’t know how long I felt awful for, but I am finally back in Cordoba again with my boyfriend and my friends who are visiting me, enjoying life with everything Cordoba has given me. Thank you, Cordoba, and thank you Spain, for making me me, for making me Gizem. Thank you!
This post is also available in: Spanish