I went to Eurovision on my year abroad – here’s what happened

The music actually sounds good

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In 2008, by chance one Saturday night, I saw a man playing a toy guitar on TV to 200 million people and fell instantly in love. To the disappointment of my parents, I became a Eurovision fan, watching the contest religiously ever since.

This year and last, I blew all my savings on actually going to see it live. This is what it’s like.

Getting tickets is a bloodbath

Actually trying to get tickets to the contest is like the cornucopia of the Hunger Games. Having gotten the Queue-It page up for tickets on every electronic device in the house, I waited in anticipation for the tickets to be released… to find that none of my devices were even in the top 10,000 people in the queue, with one getting number 90,000.

This means facing the hell of every Eurovision fan – buying tickets for between three and ten times face value on Viagogo. If you're one of the lucky few who manages to get them, you'll pay between €40 and €200. Touts sell them for up to €1,500.

The music

When seeing the songs live at Eurovision, something incredible happens. You know those terrible europop songs that seem to make up 25-50 percent of the entries each year? Suddenly, they're all amazing.

Live in the arena, you enjoy every single song, without exceptions. Combined with all the lights, fire, fake snow machines and projectors that a multi-million pound stage brings, it's one hell of a show. All the effects that seemed so cheesy on TV are stunning, every big note brings the house down, and every roar from the crowd is deafening.

The stage up close

The things you don't see on TV

In the gaps between songs, a kind of organised chaos breaks out on stage. About fifty people run onto the stage, simultaneously dismantling the previous act's set and assembling the next. While fifteen men are attempting to remove an unnecessarily complicated giant IKEA light fitting, another fifteen are attaching a Finnish woman to a two-ton spinning disk, which is being pushed onto the stage by another ten men.

All of this has to be done within half a minute, at the end of which all fifty of them sprint off stage again. Sometimes this overruns, or something goes wrong: next time they cut to the hosts during the show, you'll know why.

In addition, all the big sweeping camera shots in songs are done using huge cranes, flying so low that you have to watch your head, along with cameras attached to rail tracks that move as fast as 40-50mph within inches of the audience and the performers.

Meanwhile, standing within six feet of the pyro effects means you feel the full force of a 50-plus degree blast of heat every time they are used, which is every fifteen seconds because it's Eurovision.

The result

While it is now almost certain that the NUS will attempt to boycott Eurovision at some point in the next year, Netta from Israel was the favourite for a reason and sounded amazing in the arena.

Meanwhile, the UK slumped to an entirely expected 24th place, which didn't stop the entirety of the British population from loudly exclaiming that Europe obviously hates us (they don't), that it's all about politics (it isn't), and that we should just give up with the contest altogether (we shouldn't).

But put it this way: our song was like a slice of bread. Nothing wrong with it, but if you put it next to a five-tier cake, it suddenly seems boring and unsatisfying. That's the UK in Eurovision. We can do well, but this will require us to first retrieve our heads from our own backsides when thinking about the contest.

All in all, the whole experience is unbelievably exhausting and intense, and I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. I didn't think it was possible to make me love Eurovision more than I already did, but somehow it happened. I can't wait to endanger my financial situation and my degree even more by going again next year.