Admiring football and Messi

Growing up, I have always been a huge football fan. I remember when my dad first took me to watch a Benfica game in Portugal when I was five. Being one of the biggest clubs in Portugal and maybe Europe, Benfica had a huge fan base that gave the stadium an amazing atmosphere. The fans were so passionate, chanting and singing. Me, witnessing all of this for the first time, absolutely fell in love with the club, the team and the sport. 

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Benfica squad 2003.

Every generation always produces the best football players who end up being considered as legends of the sport. My dad used to tell me about the best football players of his generation, the Argentine, Diego Maradona being his favourite. He used to tell me how good Maradona was with his feet, being able to dribble past multiple players and score goals. Whilst he was a cheater, (he used to score with his hands when the referee wasn’t looking) he is still considered as one of the all-time greats.

Fast forward to modern day football, another football player from Argentina called Lionel Messi has been considered as Maradona’s successor, and probably the greatest player to ever grace the football pitch. The fact that Messi is a part of my generation and I get to witness him, just makes me appreciate the sport that much more. He is different from any other player, he can do things that most other players can’t, a playmaker with an incredible vision and accuracy as well as a striker and winger. He is a better and improved version of any great player to ever play the sport and the record he has broken speak for itself.

I have been watching him play since the 2009 Champions League final when he played against Cristiano Ronaldo, one of his fierce rivals, also considered as one of the greatest alongside Messi. Messi ended up scoring the winning goal in that match, which won Barcelona their third Champions League title and also lead Messi JS7to win his first Ballon D’or, an award for the best football player of the year. Messi has since gone on to win 5 Ballon D’or trophies, equal to Cristiano Ronaldo. He has recently received another Golden Boot award which makes him the player with most Golden Boot award with six in total, an award for players who score the most goals in their league in a calendar year.

Being a big fan of the sport, of Barcelona, (the club Messi has played since the age of 13) and of Lionel Messi, I have always dreamt of watching him play live one day, of finally witnessing his famous jaw dropping dribbles, and it wasn’t till the 2nd of October of 2019 that I was able to do so. I had seen fan posts on Instagram and Facebook saying how he would retire in a couple of seasons due to his age and form, which made me want to watch him live even more. Even though most of my friends didn’t want to go with me, I decided to go anyway – I wasn’t going to throw away the opportunity to watch the greatest football player of my generation. 

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View from my seat at the Camp Nou

I had planned this trip for over a month based around the time that he would play in the Champions League. It was completely worth it! I was lucky enough to find seats near the pitch, on the right wing, the position he plays. The first half of the game, they were playing up therefore he was playing on the opposite side of where I was seated, which was fine because the goals didn’t come until the 2nd half, when he played just a few meters in across from me.  

At the beginning, he looked quite lazy, didn’t try to win possession and waited until his team-mate got the ball before passing it to him, and that’s when the magic started! Every touch was perfection, exactly how I had imagined and seen on TV. They weren’t stunts like the WWE, they were real and natural. I must admit I was both happy and emotional at the same time, being blessed enough to witness history in the making. He completed 12 dribbles in that game alone, the most of any player in this season so far and I got watched it all. The crowd and the atmosphere was insane. Singing and chanting their anthems and giving the rival team abuse. The feeling was nostalgic, it all reminded me of the very first game I went to when I was 5.JS8

This was probably one of the best decisions I have ever made. It taught me to always follow my dreams and to do what makes me happy. To most people this might be a normal thing, but as a football fan, it meant a lot to me. I definitely encourage everyone to do anything that they love because they will be creating a memory that’ll last a lifetime. Don’t be afraid to take chances!

Joel Silva is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter – @joelsilva2112 and Instagram – @_joelsilva21.

A Quickie in Barcelona

Two days in Barcelona is short but sweet. In June 2019 my girlfriend and I took a short, tightly budgeted, 2-day trip to Barcelona. By planning our stay well and sticking to our budget we really made the most of the Catalonian capital. Barcelona is one of Europe’s most popular cities and for me it’s easy to see why. Whether you’re there for a chilled out, laidback week or a quick city break it’s the ideal place to escape reality. With only 2 days in Barcelona, we made sure to fit in some of the main sites including Parc Guell, Sagrada Familia and, of course some beach time, whilst sticking to a budget and having time for a little relaxation.

This is how we spent our 48 hours in Barcelona.

CASA BATLLO AND CASA MILAN & CIUTADELLA PARK

We decided to kick off our Barcelona adventJD10ure with a tour of a couple of famous architect Gaudi’s most famous structures. By tour, I mean we followed a walking tour for free, allowing us to find the buildings easier. Casa Batllo was just a 10 minute walk from our Air B&B, while another of Gaudi’s buildings, Casa Mila was a further 10 minutes along. Both of these buildings are clear Gaudi designs, with the classic curved edges style that the architect is famed for. Tourists can pay to enter both buildings, if you have the time and budget it’s worth it. However, if you’re on a tight budget it’s best to save your pennies for a wander around Parc Guell or Sagrada Familia instead.

Arc du Triomph & Ciutadella  PARK

The Arc du Triomph in Paris may get more attention, but Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf is surrounded by palm trees, sunny blue skies and 30 degree heat, making it arguably even more beautiful. The arc was built as a gateway to the Universal Exhibition held in Barcelona’s Ciutadella Park in 1888, and since then it’s become one of the city’s iconic landmarks. Following our visit ot the Arc de Triomf, we decided we should have lunch outside in the sun

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Ciutadella Park is just at the end of the palm-lined street leading to the Arc de Triomf, and home to one of the city’s most iconic photo spots. The Cascada Monumental is a huge fountain surrounded by shrubbery and topped with a golden sculpture. While we ate, there were a few buskers in the park one playing guitar, the other playing a violin creating a fantastic atmosphere, giving me fantastic holiday vibes.

PARC GUELL

Parc Guell is an unusual yet an enchanting masterpiece, one of Barcelona’s most jaw-dropping destinations. We walked around the outer area for no admission fee before deciding it would be worth the money to enter. To get the real Parc Guell experience we were advised by a tour guide to book a slot for access to the Monumental Zone. We booked well in advance to avoid missing out on one of the most classic Instagram opportunities in Barcelona. Once inside, we took photos from a curved, tiled bench which allowed us to take in the breath-taking views of Parc Guell.JD12

While I’m abroad I love to get a feel for how the locals live. To do this we wandered aimlessly for 2 hours through the narrow, cobbled streets, looking up at the charming buildings, often colourful and decorated with colourful plants and shrubbery. The Gothic Quarter is overrun with countless quaint little shops, restaurants and cafes that allowed us to take a break from the constant walking a grab a cold drink. It seems impossible if you’ve ever been to Barcelona, but we actually accidentally stumbled across the Barcelona 14th century Gothic Cathedral while walking through this area. This part of Barcelona is full of hidden secrets and low prices making it and one of my favourite areas of the city.

For anyone that wants to get a feel for local living or just loves food, a stop at Mercat de la Boqueria is essential. Serving all things Catalan from colourful fruits and juices to baked goods, meats and fresh seafood, the market is huge and you certainly won’t leave here hungry. We grabbed fresh juice from one of the many stalls for just a euro and picked up a few items for breakfast the next morning. We found a nice, green grassy area to sit at, allowing us to watch and absorb the culture and happenings of the market.

SAGRADA FAMILIA

No trip to Barcelona is complete without seeing Gaudi’s main masterpiece and the city’s most famous attraction up close. Work began to build the structure in 1882 and is still uncompleted. The Sagrada Familia is one of the most imprJD13essive pieces of architecture that I have ever seen. From the moment you leave the metro station at the Sagrada Familia stop, you see the immense structure emerge from the escalator. We made our way into the little park in front of the church for the best view from between the trees and across a small green lake. To get inside the church we had to book tickets, we booked the tickets before we went on the trip to ensure we got inside.

BARCELONETA BEACH

In the dying hours of the second day we decided that a relaxing few hours on Barceloneta beach was needed. We hopped on the metro which stops about a 10-minute walk down the road to the seafront. Barceloneta is the city’s main beach, and in the height of summer it gets seriously packed but in the evening numbers decrease. Spending our final few hours in the sunlight with a few beers from a local shop was the ideal end to the trip before heading back to dreary, cold home.JD14

Barcelona is an amazing city with a lot more to offer than what I’ve just talked about! Unfortunately we didn’t have the time to do all the activities that we wanted, so we have decided to return soon for a longer stay!

 

 

Jamie Doran is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter and Instagram – @jamiedoran96

Flying the nest

Moving to a new place can be a daunting experience. The bright lights, the constant hustle and bustle, one day hurtling into the next.

Coming from a small town and being thrown into the city lifestyle can ask a lot of a “culchie” as city slickers like to call us non city folk.

For my university placement year , I decided to move to Barcelona. As the baby of my family I was the last one to fly the nest and leave my family behind. I felt like I was ready to go somewhere different, somewhere new. My dad lived in Spain when he was at college and my sister had lived in Spain a few years previously and I wanted to be the next on that list of ex-pats. Nothing would do that I would get my placement in España.

After a long job hunt I finally found a position in Barcelona as a digital marketing assistant in a Video Marketing Company. As a city I had never visited before, it was scary, exciting and ultimately life changing. If the tough 9-6 job hadn’t been included in the placement year deal,  I might still be there…! The prospect of 8 months in Barcelona was surreal, an opportunity of a lifetime, a brand new venture into the big bad world for me. Accommodation sorted, flights booked, job placement ready I was set for the Catalonian capital.

As a person who loves to always be in company, I found it incredibly hard adjusting to not having my friendship group around to have a cuppa tea or go shopping with. I didn’t like spending time on my own AT ALL. Over time though, I gradually grew to enjoy my own company, so when I did make friends in this new city where I knew NOBODY, it made such a difference to my lifestyle and my general mood. I never thought I would be the sort of person who could enjoy my own company but after this experience I definitely appreciate it a lot more.  Even though making friends took me a little while to do, it was worth it in the end. My Barcelona family circle kept me going through my months abroad, whether they reined from Ardboe, England, Canada or Germany, each one made my experience so worthwhile and I now have connections in all corners of the globe!

 

 

Possibly my favourite part of my time in Barcelona was the impromptu exploring. No plans, no destinations, no expectations. Whether it was roaming the streets of the city or going to the train station and getting on the next train to a neighbouring town for the day. These days always seemed to just, fall in place.

Getting lost on the streets of El Born or arriving onto the beach side train station at Tarragona. From sampling “Barcelona’s best churros” to walking in the Roman ruins in a neighbouring town, our spontaneous day trips were always a great success. Constantly reminding us of how lucky we were to be living in this stunning city.

El Bunkers del Carmel, a showstopper and a hidden attraction. Whether watching the sun rise or the sunset, you are in for a truly beautiful natural spectacle. Birds serenading the sun as it set was the perfect evening treat for any visitor or local.

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Putting aside all the fabulous aspects of moving to another city, I can’t forget about the homesickness. I did suffer a lot especially in the first two summer months. But this wasn’t going to let this stop me make the most of my time. It made me try something new. I joined Barcelona Gaels, the Gaelic team in Barcelona. This helped me find a bit of home in my new city. Joining the team was one of my best decisions. Running up Montjuic on a Thursday evening in 20-degree heat is undeniably a tough test, but an experience nonetheless! This team really made me feel welcome. The team spirit, the happiness for your teammates when they scored or even the craic on a team night out kept me going on those missing-home days.

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As I look back now, I am thrilled that I moved. I’m happy that I persevered on the tough days, embraced the good days and can now have such happy memories.

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I could talk for days on my favourite parts of my Barcelona, a city that will forever remind me of some tough days in work but an incredible myriad of memories that I will forever look back on with a happy heart. When I think of the girl I was before Barcelona and the girl I have become they are just worlds apart. With more independence, more appreciation, more perspective and more motivation, I’m glad I took that leap into the unknown and changed my life for the better…Barcelona style!

Barcelona, a Mediterranean city where new meets old, nature meets city and day meets night. Where buildings are art, food is life, work is play and every night is the night to meet up with friends.

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Derbhla Evans is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/derbhla-evans-132417153/

The PR Diaries: Part II

‘Every brunette needs a blonde bestfriend- Oh, and a little bit of Barcelona.’

 

When deciding upon a blog topic I found myself sharing ideas with my bestfriend.  This was in the midst of sweating profusely at the gym, looking like a very hot and bothered baked potato.  This thought leads nicely to my first point- spontaneity.   Often, the best ideas are created from random conversations, conversations that lead to those little light bulb moments.  The more I shared my ideas with Jordan, the easier it became.  I was simply reminiscing about Barcelona and the friendships that I have gained recently.  That is when it clicked.  I felt the urge to write an appreciation post for the friends that I care deeply about.  Especially those who I have made incredible and long lasting memories with over the past couple of months.  Starting with a cheeky Spanish adventure to Barcelona.

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Friendships are incredible.  As social species we need others to survive, to feel a true sense of connectedness.  Being in the company of others helps us to feel accepted, to feel safe and most importantly to feel loved.  I have been thinking a lot about friendships lately, those that have the power to enlighten any mood.  True friends have seen us at our worst and seen us at our very best but most importantly have been there to elevate our spirits.  We have friendships that we have nurtured from a very young age.  Those relationships are special but those that we form later in life are just as precious.  I am thankful for a lot of aspects of my life and when times become tough I am especially grateful for my inner circle.  We know exactly when we click with someone.  Someone who is on our wavelength and shares similar interests to us.  Usually, it is difficult to locate these types of friends as we are each very unique.  However, I believe that those personalities that mesh perfectly make the best kind of relationships. Jordan Patterson, this is my blog post for you.

Veni, Vidi, Vici.

According to friends, family and social media, travelling alone is one of the best experiences that life can offer.  At 21, I have yet to explore another culture solo, yet it is something I am not ashamed of.  I know that I have many years ahead of me to explore the beauty of the world, it is a daunting yet exciting thought really.  I would like to share one of the best experiences of my life to date, which consisted of an adventure to Barcelona with a bestfriend.  Deciding upon a location to travel to was not hard as we both agreed that Barcelona looked so dreamy.  In addition, we are both HUGE foodies.  We are the type of girls that think about where we are eating and when- all of the time.  There may have been a small percentage of hanger involved on our trip but that is a subject that we prefer to avoid talking about!

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Hanger level 100/100

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5 inevitable things that will happen when you travel with a bestfriend:

I believe in being spontaneous.  As much as I do like to plan, I am probably the most random out of my inner circle of friends. However, it is very rare that you find somebody that matches that inner freak and equally not afraid to show it.  When I met Jordan a couple of months ago we really ‘hit it off,as they say.  Now I am really making us sound like an old married couple and I would just like to clarify that Jordan is taken.  In fact she is engaged and I am bursting with excitement for her!  When telling others that we had planned a city trip to Barcelona, they questioned our friendship, ‘have you not only known each other for a couple of months?’ You see, I believe that the duration of time that you have been close to someone does not matter.  It is the quality of that relationship in the present moment.  If that person makes you happy, makes you laugh, hold them close.  Jordan is a beautiful person, inside and out and we instantaneously bonded following our first conversation (which I am sure consisted of talking about donuts, winner).

It is important to give value to those who give value to you.  Travelling with someone that you have a lot of time for really will put your relationship to the test.  Being friends with somebody is one thing but travelling with them is a different story.  The inspiration for this blog is based upon the countless laughs and good times that we had.  There was not a day that went by that we did not have one major giggling fit- an attractive sight really.  Therefore, I would love to share 5 things that inevitably happen when travelling with a true friend- be prepared for a lot of planned and unplanned photographs- oh and many foodie shots of course!

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Stepping out of your comfort zone- I’ll do it if you do it:

 When we travel, we like to push ourselves.  This was my first trip abroad with a friend which made the experience even more exciting and interesting.  Jordan and I have a very similar sense of humour which I believe  is why we are so close.  One of us just has to say something completely ridiculous and the tears are rolling down my cheeks for half an hour afterwards. There are many aspects of our lives and personalities that set us apart of course.  However, it is important that we learn from a friendship, whether that is the platonic or romantic kind.  We both decided that we should experience ‘Hostel life’ whilst staying in Barcelona which was the best decision.  It was great meeting people from different parts of the world and sharing cultures.  As two random girls, we wanted to do something together that would mark our trip away. Thankfully we dodged the cliché ‘let’s get matching tattoos’ idea at 3am on one very spontaneous night.  Never the less, we settled for ear piercings- wild.

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You will start to say the same things:

For me, adopting a friend’s vocabulary or slang is a first level friendship achievement.  We don’t even realise we have adopted mannerisms from others until we spend quality time together. It’s weird and it is often creepy, however I believe that it is one of the most powerful indicators that you truly know a friend well.  You are comfortable in their presence which is incredibly important.  Friends are great at pointing out our flaws when needed but they are even better at lifting our spirits.  It was great walking around the ancient city streets of Barcelona, mocking each other’s slang words and living our best 21-year old selves.

Food, food & more FOOD- you will eat your body weight

Yes it is true, friends are the worst and best influences when making food choices.  You will gain 3 stone in weight, but I can guarantee that you will burn it off laughing or walking around whilst lost.  Just to reiterate this point, I love eating.  Jordan loves food as much as I do and so it made choosing where to eat very simple.  On our first night we decided to eat on ‘Las Ramblas’ where we very naturally embraced the Spanish culture-ordering two very large Pizzas which did not last for very long at all.  The Sangria counts as Spanish cuisine, right?

‘Brunch and Cake’ is a small artisan café that we happened to stumble across on our wonderings.  If you are thinking of visiting Barcelona I highly recommend this gem as their pancake stacks, waffles and cakes are out of this world.  The best way to explore Barcelona’s food scene is disregarding all plans. Planning is great when travelling but when thinking about somewhere to eat, it is best to stumble across hidden gems.  Hanger was beginning to consume us again on our last night and by chance Jordan spotted an amazing Mexican Burrito Bar.  Again, not very cultural but a great find whilst drinking a few Coronas and watching the Barcelona sun go down.

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Lights, camera, action- you will take MANY photographs.

I have no shame in posting travel photographs.  Little and often however as there is always that risk of posting only our ‘best selves’ online.  There is an element of travel photography that is special but when travelling with a friend, be prepared for some locations to transform into a low-key photo shoot.  By no means am I suggesting that you base your entire trip around trying to take the most perfect and aesthetically pleasing shot.  That is no way to live or experience somewhere new.  Both Jordan and I are strong believers in living in the moment (live, laugh, love) but in all seriousness it is so much better experiencing the beauty of Barcelona first hand.  Not through the lens of modern technology.  However, we are both guilty of sneaking in a few beach photographs which was very hard to avoid given the beautiful climate and scenes.  Being close to a friend means forming a little photography team, knowing which angles and shots suit best.  Several months have passed and we are still posting beach photographs on our Instagram accounts- they will eventually stop, sometime!

 

You will gain a true friend for life:

Travelling with a best friend taught me a lot about myself.  It taught me to be more patient, more resilient and more understanding.  Travelling with a best friend means opening your heart to compliments, constructive criticism and endless conversations filled with love, memories and laughs.  Travelling really does put our relationships to the test and if you truly want it to work, it more than likely will.  You are in each other’s space for several days and when you reach a point of not holding anything back, you know you have found someone very special.  There is great comfort in knowing that your inner circle of friends will always be here for you.  To support you and to cherish you.  In life, we need friends to support our ideas and achieve a sense of connectedness to the world around us.

As much as I enjoy my own company, travelling with a bestfriend was incredible.  If you are thinking of travelling around the world solo, do it.  If you are thinking of travelling with a partner, even better.  Life is full of unexpected twists and turns, yet all we need to do is embrace them and accept them.  Acceptance is key.  Make good out of every dull situation and explore every opportunity that is presented to you.  I would like to thank my inner circle of friends who are always here. Always keen for a chat, laugh, cry or trip to eat food (obviously).  That sense of loneliness that you experience when you return home from a trip away? This simply reminds us that we are invested in that friendship.  It is real.  Life can teach you a lot of valuable lessons, but it is our friends and sense of self that keep us afloat.  Thank you Jordan, for keeping me sane but equally insane. I am proud to call you my bestfriend and I know that the bond that we have formed through our travels will last for a lifetime! Those who travel together, stay together.

Now, let me just check Sky Scanner!

K x

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Kathryn Bigger is a final year student on the BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be contacted on: Instagram – the_fashion_fairypr / Twitter – @KatieB_05 / LinkedIn- Kathryn Bigger.

Sun, Sangria and Siestas – A Placement Year in Barcelona

Sun, Sangria and Siestas – A Placement Year in Barcelona

As I wound through the country roads the morning of July 22nd 2016, memorising the all too familiar miles of green around me, I tried to imagine what the following year had in store for me. The weeks of last minute packing and goodbye parties were actually over and I was exchanging the Emerald Isle for Barcelona. For real. Not just for a holiday but to live and work there for a year.

Of course, there are the obvious pros of moving abroad, like meeting new people, learning a language and broadening your horizons, but we’ve all heard that before now, haven’t we? Whilst sun, sangria and maybe even the odd siesta are all part of a year in Barcelona, there are many more reasons why moving abroad is, in my opinion, simply the best thing an individual can do.

  1. International Experience is in Demand

It’s a vicious cycle that is continuously driven into the mind of students, employers want graduates to have experience. It’s become a broken record! It’s not all doom and gloom however, as an often overlooked, potentially easier way to get this all-important experience, is to work abroad. There are countries out there crying out for employees with knowledge of the English language as a native speaker. Obviously this is dependent on the country, but if you work in a company alongside non-native English speakers, you will automatically be given high levels of responsibility and instead of being the one asking the questions; people will come to you to acquire knowledge. We all know that experience on a CV is a requirement, but international experience? That is very much a desired asset to have as an employee. More and more, companies are turning their focus to the international arena so with an understanding of different cultures and business practices, your CV will stand out amongst the sea of students in your position!

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  1. Personal Development

Working abroad will push you to the limits of your comfort zone and beyond, compared to if you were to remain at home. Your experience abroad will drive you to gain independence, attain indispensable skills in a personal and professional sphere and grow umpteen amounts in confidence. Working abroad will not only help you realise your full potential in your professional life but it will also benefit you personally too. I can safely say it has enabled me to make relative, positive and effective life choices!

  1. The PEOPLE

 It wasn’t all smooth running. I had my down moments, let’s be realistic – everyone does. There were times when I simply didn’t want to socialise. I was stressed from work, missing home comforts and wanted to go home. It was times like these that my Barcelona family pulled me through. It is amazing hat a combination of good people from varying backgrounds and a few beers can do! In fact, as I write about the amazing people I met; a Lithuanian, a Spanish and a Czech are on a flight to see the wonders of Northern Ireland. It is my turn to be the tour guide! As cliche as it may sound, they really are friends for life.

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  1. Travel Opportunities

It should go without saying but working abroad will allow you to extend beyond the border of your country of choice and explore the world! Whilst you may not be able to travel in the traditional sense, you can still make the most of your weekends and public holidays. You could also extend your time abroad after your placement to travel fully so take advantage of your geographic location and see a different side of the world! If you are lucky enough to get some work holidays and use them to take a trip home, you will realise how much we take things for granted, in addition to learning who the most important people in your life are!

  1. You learn SO MUCH

The world may be slowly transforming into one global village, but national and local customs still govern the daily lives of many populations. Doing a year abroad is a funny (but awesome) thing – you feel a bit like you’re on holiday, whilst simultaneously settling into a new home. When you move abroad, you automatically learn about a new culture, other people and languages without even trying, but mainly, living in another country pushes you out of your comfort zone. When you know you’re only in a country for a limited amount of time, you just want to make the most of every opportunity, say yes to everything (within reason), travel everywhere and yes, eat everything. My justification? It’s one year in a lifetime, embrace it.

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It has been nearly 3 months from I arrived home from my year abroad, and it is safe to say that the ‘Barcelona Blues’ are well and truly getting to me. It’s hard to believe that I’ve just spent a whole year abroad, on my own, and survived – for anyone who knows me well, this is a miracle!

My point is, moving to Spain was nothing like I expected it to be – it was 10 times better. As far as I’m concerned, if you can conquer your year abroad, you can do just about anything. I know it will not be for everyone, but if you believe you could see yourself working abroad, in an international environment, then get out there and do it – life is too short!

Check out this short video summarising one of my typical after work picnics on the beach, it’s really not your standard placement!

Chloe Stewart is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. You can follow her on Twitter @ChloeStewart8 or reach out on LinkedIn at  https://www.linkedin.com/in/chloe-stewart-007150a4/