The fantastic thing about the International Placement Year is that it gives you the opportunity to travel more than you would usually, especially if you’re studying. I’m going to share my best advice on how to make the most of travel opportunities on your International Placement Year - something which, for good reason, is a top priority for most students!
My name is Emily, I'm on my International Placement Year and after spending five months studying in the Basque Country, I’ve moved down to Andalusia for my work placement in Ronda. I’m working at Entrelenguas, a language and culture centre putting sustainable travel and slow tourism at the heart of their philosophy. You can read the Entrelenguas blog here!
Where to Stay
Air BnB - Affordable, homely accommodation, connecting you with local people when visiting a new part of the country. Make sure you look carefully at the location or travel links that the property has to offer though, as many places will be out in the sticks.
Hostels - Hostels often get a bad rep, but if you stick to the ones with good reviews and maybe even some tagged Instagram posts they can be the making of your trip; you never know who you’ll meet!
International Placement Year Community - Saving on accommodation is easy if you connect with people on your course at home - you can crash on their sofa and they'll probably have been there long enough to know the best spots in the city! Plus, it’s always nice to see a friendly face in an unfamiliar place!
Make local friends - Not only are friendships the best way to practise the language, locals will know the secret spots and be savvy in avoiding the tourist traps. You can visit their pueblos where you’ll have an authentic experience of Spanish family life. Also, if you’re single get involved in the local dating scene, one of the best ways to learn the language on your International Placement Year!
Plan your trips carefully
It may be tempting to live spontaneously on your International Placement Year, but it really pays to research and plan your trips.
Erasmus student organisations - these can be great! I went on numerous trips with Happy Erasmus Bilbao: great value for money and pre-planned itineraries. Many organisations offer discount cards that you can use on their trips and services - definitely worth investing in! Also, check your local uni Facebook group as there are always people trying to get travel groups together, or even offering lifts to different places.
Erasmus+ Grant - Repeat after me: spend it wisely! Having a lump sum deposited in your account can be exciting, and I found myself tempted to spend it all at once. But there’s nothing worse than getting to the end of term and not being able to go on the last trip (often the best!) with all the friends you’ve made during your exchange.
Take advantage of the puente - The Spanish calendar is full of national and local holidays. In Spain, holidays are taken on the actual day they fall - if it falls on a Wednesday, we take Thursday and Friday off too, known as a puente. This means that travel opportunities are abundant, you’ll have ample time to explore new places without worrying about missing classes or work!
Students are in luck; travel is becoming more convenient, more affordable and easier than ever.
BlaBlaCar - Ever heard of BlaBlaCar? Think Uber but for long journeys. It’s becoming hugely popular in Spain. Like Uber, just put in th location, destination and the time you want to go and then select a ride that works for you. It's usually the cheapest transport option, and if you’re lucky, your driver may drop you exactly where you want.
Renfe offers - Students enjoy 20% discount off general ticket prices with proof of student status. Renfe also offer passes that permit you to travel certain areas of Spain within 6 months, much cheaper than buying separate tickets. If you´re happy to explore within your region, there is also the ‘Abono Mensual Estudiante’ which allows students of universities in that comunidad unlimited trips within the month.
Buses - Buses are the next best option after cars; trains in Spain are much slower and more expensive than at home. But remember, although Spain is known for its relaxed attitude, public transport is renowned for running promptly, sometimes even ahead of schedule!
I urge you to make the most of the incredible International Placement Year opportunity; the year flies by and before you know it, you’ll be back at Lancaster wondering if a day trip to Morecambe could satisfy your travel needs. You will probably never have the time, energy or dedicated funds to travel Spain like this again, so enjoy it! As Miguel de Unamuno once said, 'Se viaja no para buscar el destino sino para huir de donde se parte'.