Literatures, Languages & Cultures

The Year Abroad Across The Decades: Spain - 1968 | 2019

Graduate Nicholas Rollin and current student Róisín MacFarlane share reflections on their Year Abroad, comparing Granada in 1968 and Valladolid in 2019.

The Year Abroad has long been a key part of many undergraduate degrees in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC). Compulsory for some degrees, and optional for others, it’s a year of great change and great opportunity.

Photo of Roisin and Nicholas
Róisín MacFarlane in Spain, with a photo of Nicholas Rollin on his Year Abroad (inset)

To celebrate 100 years of the Spanish degree at the University of Edinburgh, graduate Nicholas Rollin and current student Róisín MacFarlane have come together online to share reflections on their Year Abroad, comparing their experiences of Granada in 1968 and Valladolid in 2019.

In a fully illustrated article published on Adobe Spark (where our linked image takes you), they discuss where they went, talk about the best, most significant and most unexpected aspects of their Year Abroad, and offer a few words of advice to future students.

The Year Abroad across the decades - Spain 1968 ꟾ 2019

Read Nicholas and Róisín’s article on Adobe Spark

Below, they also tell us why there were keen to get involved in this celebration of Spanish at Edinburgh.

Experiencing the legacy of social and political change

Photo of three students in Madrid
Róisín (right) with fellow Edinburgh language students Maria and Amelia

“Spanish was never taught in my school, and my first experience of the language was at the University of Edinburgh” says Róisín, who studied on the 1A beginners’ course in first year “and not only fell in love with Spanish language and culture, but really enjoyed the way it was taught in LLC”.

“Going on my Year Abroad was my first ever time in Spain, so when I was asked to participate in this interview as part of the centenary celebrations, I was really keen to share my experiences and to try to impart some wisdom to those considering a Year Abroad!”

“Hearing about Nicholas’s experiences was fascinating and I really enjoyed comparing our stories. His Year Abroad came at a time of significant social and political change, both globally and in Spain in particular, and that had a real impact on his experiences.”

“In Valladolid, the city where I’m currently studying, the effects of that change are still present and the fact that the University of Edinburgh has been sending its students to experience that history and culture for so many years is testament to the opportunities which doing our degree can provide.”

Looking to the future

Photo of a street in Granada in 1968
Typical street scene in central Granada taken by Nicholas in 1968

“A few months ago Edit, the University’s on-line alumni publication, highlighted the fact that the centenary of Spanish teaching was coming up in 2019”, explains Nicholas when asked about his contribution to the feature.

“Former students were invited to contact the University with anything they thought would be relevant for celebrating this important milestone. This made me conduct searches, physical and mental, and ended up with me contributing some reminiscences, but not the photograph I was sure I had. This led to an invitation to discuss the Year Abroad as remembered in the late 1960s and as it is being experienced by a current student (Róisín).”

“The exercise points up how times have changed and how the whole approach has evolved. And I am sure that present-day practice shows a marked improvement over the rather charmingly unstructured approach of yesteryear.”

“But whatever the changes, I am sure that Róisín and I would agree that the Year Abroad is a very valuable experience, which can be tailored to a particular student’s aims and aspirations. Let us hope that many more Edinburgh students will continue to benefit from it in the years to come.”

Over the course of his career, Nicholas made major contributions to many bilingual dictionaries. These include the Oxford Spanish Dictionary, the Oxford French Dictionary, the Oxford Arabic Dictionary, the Oxford Study Spanish Dictionary and Oxford School French Dictionary. On her return from Valladolid - where she has been blogging for Scotland’s National Centre for Languages 'Language Linking Global Thinking' project - Róisín will enter her final year of an MA (Hons) degree in French and Spanish at LLC.

Are you interested in studying Spanish at Edinburgh?

We offer a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies (SPLAS). We also teach courses in Basque and Catalan. 

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Related links

Read Róisín's article on Language Linking Global Thinking