In 2006 I went to one-year Erasmus exchange program to Granada in the south of Spain. It was the best time of my life and a real school of life. Going abroad on Erasmus is like starting your studies from the beginning or even worse. I learned that living in Spain is not an neverending idyll. Find out how my first day at university looked like. Already in my second week I underwent a serious crisis and a nervous breakdown at the same time. Main reason? Spanish and more specifically the lack of Spanish knowledge.
The beginning of the day was rather pleasant – I climbed up a mountain (as it happens that my department was in Campus Cartuja at the very top of a mountain) accompanied by my Polish friend Kasia. Thanks to her I didn’t feel lonely and surely I didn’t feel that I was just starting my academic year.
My happiness didn’t last long, however. I started getting stressed right after I entered a lecture hall. I got the impression that we were the only Erasmus students and the whole rest were the Spanish who knew one another from other classes. It got even worse later. Although my professor was very friendly and tried to speak very clearly, the rest of the Spanish students were uttering words at the speed of a machine gun. If I hadn’t understood the questions she asked, I would have never figured out what these people could be discussing.
The worst part was that the professor was constantly quizzing people. And the first one was a frightened Belgium guy who tried to explain that he didn’t speak Spanish. Then was the whole group of Germans. Luckily we avoided being quizzed. It’s such a nice feeling that I won’t be an only mute in a classroom. Kasia spoke Spanish fluently so she didn’t understand why I was so frightened.
Unfortunately, there was no preferential tariff for Erasmus students at our department so studies had nothing to do with holiday. At our department, as you’ll find out later, one really has to learn. It gets on my nerves when I hear my friends complaining how hard it was for them in Poland and how lucky I was to leave for Erasmus exchange. I surely didn’t have to do anything and I got my credits for nothing. No way! To all (the jealous) it may concern- I, like other Poles with lousy knowledge of Spanish, had to work twice as hard as we would do at Polish university.
The course mentioned above was Socjologia de turismo i ocio (sociology in tourism and recreation). It wasn’t any easier at other subjects at all. The courses and the lecturers were very interesting but getting credits was very difficult. The lecturers required their students to participate actively. The final grade was multi-step and it consisted not only of an examination but of casus practicos (something like case study in Poland), team work and reading of set books. In general there was a lot of that and everything, of course, in Spanish.
It was a real challenge for me because I came to Granada knowing practically a few sentences in Spanish naively hoping that the classes will be instructed in English. I should have listened to my dad who warned me that I would flank out my studies. I decided not to give up since I dreamt of Erasmus in Spain since the beginning of my studies.
My only hope, like the remaining 90 Erasmus students (!)- was a business English lecturer (ingles commercial). Her classes were credited on the basis of an attendance list and they were just about reading English texts and translating them into Spanish. In other words, I could learn more Spanish than English in this class.
I forgot to add that for the first month I didn’t attend lectures in a normal mode. Erasmus students were included in the so called trial period in order to check all courses and set a fixed schedule. Lecturers, however, follow their program mode. Due to this fact, every day one takes as many classes as possible in order to get to know them and start the education process as soon as possible. In practice it comes down to the fact that I had classes from 10:30 until 9:30pm with breaks between 1:30pm – 2:30pm and 3pm – 5:30pm. You guess that I didn’t have strength to do anything after I had come back home. It was supposed to be much easier later but it wasn’t at all, especially that I got ill and spent half a year on treatment process. However I recommend Spain and Granada for Erasmus definitely.