Mads Cieslak, elev på uddannelsen til personvognsmekaniker i Odense.

Following story will tell about my two-months stay in Bilbao. The idea of living and working in Spain were born during my Spanish classes in high school. I thought that learning the language and the culture better than just reading about it, was a good idea, and then I thought to myself, that I needed to go there! When I had my gap year, I got a lot of different ideas, so the dream about living out my Spanish adventure were put on standby, and I started my education as a Passenger Car Fitter.

When I heard about going to another country to do a part of your education with the Erasmus+ concept, I was sure that I wanted to go! Therefore, I contacted my studying coach, and told her about my dreams. And well, yes, four months after, countless of meetings, numbers of applications, I suddenly found myself standing in the airport, waiting for my flight to Bilbao.

Bilbao – here I come
Thursday afternoon, the 5th of January, I left Denmark, and went to Bilbao. The trip started in Billund, where the first airplane went to Amsterdam, and the one after to Bilbao. Here I was welcomed by Alfredo, my Spanish contact person. From the airport, Alfredo gave me a lift to the hostel in the city, where I would be living. Normally, students would choose to live in a shared or so, but I've had some good experiences with living at hostels, here you get to meet people from all over the World, and there is always a local in the reception that you can ask for help. Besides that, you are never alone, and that’s a big thing for me, especially in a big city. 

When I checked into my room, I didn't wait for more than a few minutes before a fellow from Argentina asked me who I was and invited me to join their party, where they were drinking beers and playing games. Already there, with a cold San Miguel in my hand, I knew that this was going to be two good months! The next day, I joined the people from last night, and we went to a city called San Sebastián, which is about 20 km away from the French southwest boarder. Great trip! The cool thing about being young and travelling is that you never know what’s going to happen! The most important thing is just to say "yes" (with reason of course). Say "yes", because every time you say "sure, why not", then you will know that there is a new adventure on its way, that you might not have done other ways. 

The weekend was spent with walks around Bilbao and getting to know the city, both in day and moonlight. Super funny, and we had a party, every night! 

My new job and meeting with Spanish work atmosphere
Monday morning, the 9th of January, I started my new job at Grupo Ortasa. This is a large group of workshops, who amongst other brands, makes Honda, Hyundai, Subaru and Porsche. I would be working in the Honda part. Here, I would be working together with three other mechanics called Iabi, Victor and Jesús. I would mostly be working by myself or with Jesus. Nice guys! At the workshop, the atmosphere was good. Good music, laughs, kindness, and everything was in order and under control. Very nice! It was a workshop very much likely a modern workshop in Denmark, just with Spanish kindness and openminded. We made a lot of oil changes, electronic fault repairs and generally maintaining of cars.

We started working every day at 0800 and were done at 1700. The first, and only, break during the day, was at 1300-1430. That was a thing that I needed to get used to, but I was told that I could just have something to eat when I wanted to, so I ate an apple around 1030. Normally in Denmark, you don't work more than 2,5 hour without a break. 

In the break, you could eat at home, at the workshop with your lunch pack, or at a little bar/restaurant/diner. For most of the days I ate at the workshop, but occasionally I ate at the diner. The diner was a really craftsman place, where you got a beer to your food, served on a cover made of paper, so it was easily changed. After that, you went to the bar, had I liquor and a coffee and a chat with the other guys. Very cozy and I enjoyed it!

That was how the days at the workshop went by. Normally people would go for a month with two weeks in school and two weeks in practice. But I wanted to stay at the same workshop during the whole time, so I could get a routine and feel the Spanish spirit. And I did that, quickly. 

I got a nice visit from some of the employed at my school, who was attending a meeting in Bilbao with other professors from Europe. It was nice with a little something from home.

Great opportunity to improve a language
One of the main reasons that I chose to go to Bilbao, was to improve my Spanish language. It was very hard in the start, and I had a hard time trying to speak this crazy language. But despites every expectation I caught up fast and after three or four weeks I found myself at a good "communication" level. It was easy, especially at the workshop where I just asked and pointed at the thing I wasn't sure about, and then I got it explained.

Before I went to Spain, I was told that the Spanish people, and especially people from Bilbao, was proud people, so I was a little bit nervous about how they would treat me, when I didn't spoke their language so well. But the warm welcome that I got, and the kindness I met everywhere was overwhelming. They could see how hard I tried to speak their language, and they were amazed about that. I, by the way, got to speak the language well, so if you want to learn a foreign language, just move to a place where they don't speak anything else. I can recommend that!

On a social scale, the workshop was up to date. Everyone talked nice to each other and said hello when they met. One time when I was there, we met together, all of us, a Saturday noon, and spend the rest of the day together, drinking, walking and eating. It was nice, and all the guys appreciated their spare time with colleagues, and their philosophy were that you spend around 1/3 of your adult life with your colleagues, so it is important to take care of the social life with them, and not just work with them.

Besides the day where we all went out, I often went out with a guy from the Skoda part of the workshop. His name was Borja and lived about 5 minutes’ walk away from me. He showed me a lot of nice places in and out of Bilbao, and loved a beer after work. He gave me a ride home every day, and he didn't wanted money for gas, so instead I bought him an Iron Maiden CD because he loved old rock. He was a good guy and a good friend!

My social life outside work was very good. I have just met so many new people from all over the world and I can barely remember half of them. The guys that I got to know down there was a group of five, three from Sweden and one from England. All of them started living at the hostel, but after a week they moved in flats because they would be staying there for a while for studying or working. We had a great time together, went out every weekend, went hiking and seeing beaches and different stuff around in Bilbao together. Besides them, I think that I have met people from every single continent!

A better mechanic with a stronger confidence
After this journey, I have become more independent and I have courage to do more by myself. I've become good at Spanish, and I feel that I have a good understanding for the Spanish culture. My social values are now more strong after travelling by myself, and I've got new friends from all over the world. Besides that, I've now become a better mechanic.

I'm very great full for the help that I have received from Lone, Susanne and Alfredo, who has helped me, to make my dream come true. It has been a pleasure, and I have once more been confirmed that if you just reach out for help, someone in the other end will answer. Thanks, goes to Erasmus+ concept to make this a reality, it is a great investment in the life of young people and in the future of the world. We are all very thankful.

Hasta luego!