Erasmus+ Alumni Feedback
Student of 2nd year, bachelor programme of Computer Science. Mobility period – spring semester of 2020 at the University of Jaen, SP.
My mobility period in Spanish University of Jaen within Erasmus+ program came to the end. So, I can now give feedback about it. The review has the following structure: first pros and cons are described, then a couple of useful tips to the future Erasmus+ students, and finally conclusions.
1) Pace of life differs from Ukrainian one: in Spain the weekend begins almost Thursday, often I could not get the needed services because the employee(s) have already left. On Sunday almost everything closes except cafes (i.e. there are not convenience stores at all), because of this on Saturday there are quite large lines to shops. During the pandemic, all supermarkets closed at 19:00 (before that at 21:00), so I had to stock up food in advance. My bank was open until 14:00, so even before the pandemic, I could hardly get there before closing because university classes took the same period of time. Finally, the siesta when almost all the stores close for two hours, was very unusual for me.
2) A number of English-speaking people. If among young people you can often meet persons who can understand you at least then such people are critically few among the more adult population and just the same people are the majority of employees of shops and banks. Studying Spanish during a semester helps you to understand at least what you are being told but this is also not so easy because of the Jaén accent.
3) Climate. If we have a clear division into seasons in Ukraine and can easily adapt to each of them then in Spain everything is a bit different – either hot or cold.
There is no central heating and that’s why in winter it is very cold in apartments and we had to use electric heaters. On the other hand the heat comes very quickly (almost in a week) and it is almost impossible to escape it. The average temperature in June here was higher than what we call “hot” weather in Ukraine so summer is not very comfortable season here for Ukrainians.
1) People are very kind and responsive. Almost any passerby can help but the language barrier hinders at the beginning. I have never been refused assistance for the entire mobility period by both university employees and ordinary people. We are also very lucky to have a “buddy” a person who is “provided” by University “Buddy Programme” and helps you throughout your mobility especially upon your arrival. There is an International Office on campus where very kind people always help you with your problems.
2) Prices are not so high. Before the trip I expected prices from three to four times higher than in Ukraine but actually depending on the product prices are 1-2 times higher. In general the grant fully covers all expenses if you manage your money well.
Housing costs are in average 200 euros and ~50 euro for communal services, food is around 150-200 euros per month (it’s rather individual). Local people have told me that the prices in Jaen are less in comparison to the average in Spain and much less than in Europe and most likely that is true.
3) Beautiful architecture. If you look at the pictures of Spain online now then you will see exactly what I saw for 5 months. The weather is almost always sunny and cloudless so the light reflected from the old Spanish houses creates amazing landscapes. Almost any picture taken even with a cheap smartphone can be used as a desktop wallpaper. Streets in Spain are well-groomed. There is no garbage on the roads, all buildings are in harmony with each other and form beautiful views.
4) Studying is very good. In our conditions (quarantine for 4/5 of the term of study) does not allow me giving a full assessment, however, even that period of live learning I liked very much. The approach to learning here is a little different than in Ukraine: a great emphasis here is a practice and you have to learn yourself a lot of from notes, the Internet, communication with the teacher and in general you have a choice.
Teachers are professionals and very adequate people which have a special approach to the foreigners. All notes are available in English on demand. If there are many people who want to study a course in English then the University can create the separate English groups (we had such a course). All lectures are accompanied with slides and teachers do not read presentations but explain in their own words. Practical classes mean for practical exercises and for solving the tasks (in some practices students simply coding sometimes asking the questions).
All practice rooms are fully functional and equipped at the highest level and in general you can learn here even without having your own computer. There was no demand to use the specific tools and we were almost always allowed to implement tasks using what you know (for example, any programming language).
5) Cuisine. It is unusual like almost everything here but very tasty. There are almost no soups but you quickly get used to it because the Spanish cuisine has such dishes as pasta carbonara, paella, jamon, cheeses, sweets and a lot of various baking. The dishes are not complicated but very delicious. You can cook them correctly almost the first time and many local like your roommates will be happy to help you to cope with it.
6) Good attitude towards foreigners. Many people in city know about Erasmus+ and may even wonder where you’re from. For visitors there is a special program of various events lasting more than a month organized by ESN (Erasmus Student Network). Its representatives are nice people who speaks English fluently and helps students to get used to the new environment. During the first month there were several tours over the city, barbecue, hiking in different clubs, international cuisine day and much more. In short, you can’t get bored.
Now a few tips I’d like to give based on my experience and the mistakes I’ve made:
1) Find some apartments in advance. Your buddy can help you with this but you can manage with this yourself alone and find several options a month before your arrival. This is very important as you will be doing paperwork in the first couple of days and you may not have time to find a place for living. Many apartment owners have WhatsApp or other messengers and you can use a translator to communicate.
2) Feel free to ask teachers for the English version of the course materials and explanations in English. All materials here are provided in .pdf format on online platform, so a translator may not be able to help and you will regret it if you do not ask for them beforehand.
To sum up Erasmus+ is extremely useful and interesting experience that allows you getting know a completely different country, different cuisine, different people. Such an experience is priceless because it allows you realizing that your country is not the only one but one of many and that your culture is unique and you are its representative among hundreds of others. It is very difficult, almost impossible, to realize this without leaving your home country.
Student of 2nd year, bachelor programme of Artificial Intelligence. Mobility period – autumn semester of 2020 at the University of Jaen, SP
While someone only dreaming of sunny Spain, NURE’s students can try to live in this beautiful country and to learn what European education means in own practice. I was able discovering this from my own experience. In 2019 due to the European ERASMUS+ student mobility programme I went to Spain where I studied at the University of Jaen for 6 months.
How it started?
A great desire, good marks in the score book, knowledge of the language (English and German in my case), a standard package of required papers – these are all you need to participate in the ERASMUS+ mobility programme. One of the most important documents which should be mentioned is a Motivation Letter where you explain why you want to become a student of Spanish University. I advise to write essentially and from the heart, don’t use the template from the Internet. Be prepared for an interview and for the fact that you will have to go to the General Consulate of Spain in Kiev in order to get Spanish student visa. In addition to the usual set of documents you will need an invitation of the host institution (it will be sent if your application is approved). All documents must be translated into Spanish.
ERASMUS+ programme is built so that you will not be left alone with emerging questions and problems in a foreign country. The ESN (ERASMUS Student Network) branch works in the city where you come. The staff of this organization will help you to adapt in a foreign country.
What’s it like living in Andalusia?
So, after keeping all the formalities, a 5 hour flight from Boryspil to Madrid I came to the capital of Spain. From there I had a 5 hour journey in a comfortable bus. 4 my friends and me were sent to Jaen – province of southern Spain, in the eastern part of the autonomous community of Andalusia.
Jaen is a cozy clean city where life flows calmly and quietly. Nobody hurries anywhere and there is no fuss. There is a feeling that life is slowing down. You quickly adapt in this environment and start living in the same slow rhythm. From two till five o’clock everything tails off. It is time of siesta. Everyone is relaxing though there is no heat in the street in December. You slowly get used to the fact that impossible to buy the products at 3 o’clock in the day, get used to the local habits and start chatting with shopkeepers and neighbors.
Jaen is a not too big city but very beautiful. I quickly found new friends. I had a fun multinational company consist of Spaniards, guys from Turkey, Japan, Belarus, Russia and France. We loved going up the hill with Santa Catalina Castle which is a great viewing point where you can enjoy breathtaking views of the city and its surroundings. If you are lucky to get to Jaen, I advise you to visit the Cathedral – one of the most magnificent Catholic cathedrals. I also recommend seeing the Royal Dominican Monastery and the ruins of the ancient city wall of Jaen.
Language peculiarities and difficulties of translation
In Spain, you will rarely meet a person who speaks and understands Russian (and moreover Ukrainian). Not so many Spaniards speak English. The main language of communication is Spanish, but each province has its own peculiarities of dialect and pronunciation. In Andalusia, everyone talks pretty fast with a specific accent, swallowing the endings. Therefore, even if you speak Spanish then understand little at the beginning. Only a few weeks later you begin to realize that people are trying to explain to you in the street and shops.
Teachers have a great experience teaching foreign students that’s why they understand the language problem well. They are always ready to repeat the words several times so that the student understands the meaning of the phrase.
Study in Spanish
The teaching system of Spain differs from the Ukrainian one. Students are given more freedom. Much attention is paid to self-education.
Teaching is mainly in the Spanish Language. Some courses are offered in English but the variety of such subjects is less. Student personally composes the schedule and list of courses. However you can always look in any lecture.
Teachers (not all, naturally) are enthusiasts of their business. Their attitude to students is kindly and friendly. Just during the lecture you can ask a question and get an answer. Among my favorite teachers is a teacher of computer graphics who tried to convey the essence of his subject to every student. Returning to Ukraine, I continue to correspond with him on Facebook ☺.
Accommodation and financial support
Jaen University provides foreign students with accommodation very seldom. That’s why we rented an apartment. We lived for three. The apartment has 5 rooms, kitchen, bathroom, hallway. In each room there was a bed, a small table, electric cooking top, a microwave, a toaster in the kitchen as well as a set of tableware and kitchen utensils. There was a TV, a sofa and a large table in the living room. We paid 150 Euros per person for this apartment that is quite cheap.
Winter in Spain is quite cold (especially at night) but houses are not equipped with central heating. We “warmed” by electric fireplaces and plaids which were gladly provided by the owners.
The Erasmus+ program grant (€ 800 per month) is sufficient (with a rational approach) to pay for apartment, purchase products, travel around the country and even abroad. The grant is transferred to a local bank card which issued by bank branch located at the university.
Leisure and Travel
Indeed, student life in Spain is not just study. During 6 months of my staying in this country my friends and I visited several times Madrid, Cordoba, Granada, Málaga, etc., bathed in the Mediterranean Sea in Barcelona, traveled to Portugal and visited the “edge of the world”.
Spaniards are sociable people. In the evenings, they go to cafes, bars, pubs where they noisy discuss the events of the day and of the world, laugh and simply talk. We also often get together to relax with the company or just walking the streets of the city.
To summarize I can say that education within mobility is an invaluable and very fruitful experience. It helped me to see new places, to find new friends (which I can visit) and to obtain new knowledge. From my experience (which I want to repeat again) I can only advise: do not be afraid of difficulties, believe in yourself and apply!