So, the time has finally come. In less than 4 days I will be back in València, but this time with no “fixed” date to return. Its time for the “best year of my life” to start. I’ve started packing, spare charger, new laptop (clearly to be able to do the YARP, and not at all for Facebook, Spotify, Skype or any other kind of distraction that would keep me from completing all of Pati’s tasks…). I was only missing one thing, the essential thing that any year abroad-er needs, the one thing that I have been seeing on my Facebook timeline, reading with delight, excitement, worry and enjoyment… A blog. So here goes… It may not be as well written, as interesting or as well updated as other blogs, but it should definitely offer another perspective on what is shaping up to be an amazing year!

Until now, it`s been stressful, fun, exciting, challenging… and so many more adjectives that I would not be able to fit into one blog post. I’ve spent the summer touring around France (under the general excuse of being able to use the French language in a much more practical situation than what was generally on offer. Funnily enough the hotel receptionists were never that interested that I would be spending a year abroad in Spain, preferring bizarrely the more mundane ideas of optional breakfasts and wifi codes) and also around Spain. From the Valencian playas to the Galician mountains, the grey bustle of the Parisian city centre to the sunny tranquility of Avignon, the summer has been one to remember.

Then came the more practical, challenging and, at times, frustrating parts of the year abroad. The endless piles of paperwork, the never ending bureaucracy… the side of the year abroad that no one ever tells you about until you’ve already committed a year and a half of your life at 18,000 pounds into your language education…

In case anyone reading doesn’t know, this next year I will be taking part in the British Council initiative, teaching English to primary school children in Castelló, València. After finding a house with my girlfriend, Laura, three hundred metres away from La Malvarrosa beach, in València itself, it was time to face the Spanish bureaucracy. In Spain, and I’m pretty sure in any other country, it is required to get a residency card (NIE) for any stay over six months. The way you do this, in Spain, is going to the nearest police station with the available facilities (mine was in Alzira) and ask for an appointment, which they will give you for the morning after.

The next day at 10 am, I turned up certain that I would officially be a resident in this country that I love so much, armed with all the papers that i needed. Only it didn’t go down as planned. It turns out that I needed a “carta de empadronamiento”, which would take forever to get. I was told to come back when I had one and from then it would take 40 days to process the application. I returned the next day, including in my arsenal the email from the British council which gave me a list of everything I would need to get this NIE and which made no mention of any cartas de nombramiento. I was quickly dismissed again and told in no uncertain terms that I would not be given any NIE unless I could produce a carta de nombramiento.

I desperately turned to Laura’s dad (Rafa), who works in the local town hall, and he promised to see what he would do. A day later i had a carta de nombramiento and on entering the police station with Rafa, the policeman greeted us like long lost friends (which, largely speaking we were, as Rafa and the policeman had been to school together and I by now felt that I had spoken enough to the policeman to be able to consider him a friend, in spite of his overall rudeness.) 20 minutes later I had a NIE, it turns out that in Spain friends don’t wait forty days like normal people… aaah the famous Spanish “enchufe”.

And so, here I am, a mountain of unfinished paperwork, unpacked bags and last goodbyes left to do, with only 4 more days before my 1pm flight from Gatwick to Manises… I should probably stop writing and get on with it!

To anyone who wasted their time today to read the ramblings of a slightly stressed, very excited Sam, thank you. And to everyone who has already embarked or is about to leave for this very special year of our lives… GOOD LUCK/BUENA SUERTE/BONNE CHANCE!!!!!