It’s 07:30 it’s almost 30°C outside, lectures begin at 08:30 and you know that you will not finish until 21:00 that night. This does not paint a pretty picture for those of us at Nottingham who are used to complaining about any lecture that finishes after dark; but this is my Monday and Tuesday timetable for my year abroad at the University of Valencia.
For an Erasmus student, life in a foreign law school can prove difficult. It has taken some time to get used to staying focused during two-hour lectures and trying to take down detailed notes in a foreign language. However, I’ll admit that life in the law school may not be quite as difficult as I have made out. Whilst early starts and late finishes can be tough to manage at times, it would not be Spain if they did not have a three hour break in the day for a siesta. And although this is my timetable for Monday and Tuesday, I am fortunate to have the rest of the week off to catch up on lectures that I may not understand, and also to spend time exploring Valencia and the rest of Spain to make the most of my year abroad experience.
Although trying to pay attention to a lecture in a foreign language is a challenge, it has not taken too long to become attuned to the different accents of the lecturers, which has now given me far more confidence in my Spanish ability. I would recommend to anyone who is planning to embark on a year abroad in non-English speaking law school that they make attempts to improve their listening skills over longer periods, such as by watching films in that language. Hopefully this will prepare you for focusing for long periods of time whilst being taught in another language.
It is not only a different system of law that I am just getting used to, but also a different system of teaching. Lectures tend to be far smaller, of around 40-50 people, and there is a lot more student participation. The content of the course has also proven to be very different to that of Nottingham Law School. As Spain has a Civil Code and a Constitution, the majority of classes are spent on theoretical interpretations of these sources, as opposed to a Common Law system where a lot of time is devoted to interpretations of judgments from cases. This could be somewhat refreshing come exam time for those of us who do not enjoy learning case names!
Despite the difficulties that I have encountered I can safely say that I have loved my first weeks at Valencia Law School, and I cannot wait to spend the rest of my year here. Embarking on a year abroad is something that I would recommend to any student, as it will give you the opportunity to discover different interpretations of the law and meet some fantastic people.