By Amy Baird
Students take on the world: What studying abroad is really like.
Stepping on that plane and waving goodbye to your family is always hard, but what awaits you at the other side is the beginning of something incredible. Pamplona a city in the heart of Northern Spain is where Sabrina from Australia and Tamara Stevulova from Slovakia both chose to study during their autumn semester from September to December 2019. They are both studying in the Faculty of Communication at the University of Navarra explaining that the classes have been ‘’eye- opening and a different way of learning.’’
Sabrina studies a double degree of Arts/Music back home in Australia. Within Arts she is majoring in media and communications, minoring German. Within music, she is specializing in contemporary voice performance and music business. However, she is only focusing on her media and communications major out in Pamplona. Tamara is studying mass media and communications both in Pamplona and back home in Slovakia.
When studying abroad you always want your experience to be filled with exploring and socializing with new people. However, we can’t forget about the reason everyone goes on exchange in the first place, yes that’s right education.
Sabrina explains about the difference between her classes here and back home. ‘’My classes are very different in Pamplona. In Australia, media and communication is more theory based. A lot of classes end the semester with a big project where you present a ‘physical product’ rather than a final exam.’’
Tamara on the other hand talks about how the university system here in Pamplona doesn’t differentiate to the ‘University of Cyril and Methodius’ which is where she studies back home. ‘’The only differences are the variation of classes you can take here in Pamplona. We don’t have that much choice back home. Our degree program is very similar however, to the program I have chosen to study for my semester abroad.
The students Erasmus experience hasn’t come without hard work and sacrifice. Studying abroad isn’t cheap and especially when students find it hard to turn down a night out or a trip to the shopping mall. What most people don’t understand about being accepted to the study abroad program is that the preparation begins months in advance. If you want to get the most out of your study abroad experience you will need money and a lot of it.
Sabrina took on two jobs back in Australia to be able to afford her trip here to Pamplona this would then be her money for travelling, food, social activities and learning books she may need to buy. The stress of having a time limit to save can be daunting but the more you save the more you can experience on your four -month adventure.
Since starting university Sabrina knew that her passion for different cultural experiences made her want to go on the adventure of studying abroad. However, for Sabrina Pamplona wasn’t actually her first choice.
‘’Pamplona wasn’t even on my list of choices…I stumbled on my universities page for Pamplona by accident, I saw the school was high ranked and thought why not?’’
Tamara on the other was influenced by her friend who previously studied abroad in Pamplona.
‘’My friend spoke to me about her experience in Pamplona, and I wanted to go and experience it for myself. The different culture and the thought of an exotic country influenced my decision a lot.’’
The studying abroad experience is always an array of emotions from petrifying to over whelming, but more than likely everyone will come away from it saying it was an ‘experience of a lifetime.’
‘’My experience has been eye-opening, personally challenging and warming.’’
One thing people often forget when coming to somewhere like Pamplona is that it is not a tourist destination so usually next to no one speaks English meaning learning Spanish is a necessity for you to survive your study abroad. Both Sabrina and Tamara took an intensive two- month Spanish program which consisted of an outstanding four classes a week in the hope to better their Spanish speaking skills. Pamplona offers this program to every Erasmus student from A1 which is beginners’ level to C2 which is advanced. Being given the opportunity to learn a new language is not only an experience but something you will carry with for the rest of your life.
‘’The locals really appreciate it when you speak in Spanish, so my advice would be to learn the basics. A lot of them are older, so be respectful of their age and what is ‘their’ city.’’
The Erasmus experience has many benefits for example, students have a chance to see the world experiencing new outlooks and being able to visit neighboring countries.
Sabrina and Tamara have been lucky enough to explore many other places whilst being on exchange. Barcelona, San Sebastian, Valencia, Biarritz and Pyrenees both in France, Dublin, Munich and Berlin in Germany, Morocco, Seville, Sweden and Budapest are just some of the countries and cities Sabrina has travelled too during her semester abroad.
This experience gives you a chance to venture out of your family home for possibly the first time. Letting you go from childhood to adulthood in the space of a few months.
Sabrina and Tamara both had a similar outlook.
‘’I wanted to live out of home for the first time and experience ‘college life.’ As back home its extremely rare for a student to live away from home because of how expensive it is for accommodation on campus.’’
The Erasmus exchange gives students an opportunity to build new friendships. It can be difficult when you feel like you are in primary school again having to make friends from scratch however, this time you are making friends from all over the world.
‘’I’ve made some brilliant friends in Pamplona, but three months of school isn’t quite long enough to build the sort of bonds that you have back home. I have struggled with this when I am having a ‘down day or week’ not having my nearest and dearest within my immediate reach.’’
Sabrina and Tamara’s study abroad experience, here in Pamplona has created new goals and opportunities for their future ahead.
‘’My exchange has been an opportunity for me to grow up in ways that I didn’t realise I needed to. From moving out with complete strangers, to immersing myself in a culture that was completely foreign to me. It’s been an experience I wouldn’t give up for the world. Exchange gives you the opportunity to get to know yourself, which by extension allows you to make more informed choices about your future- your career, what you value and what you enjoy.’’
The chance to create new memories, live independently and help students build and develop personal trait is what studying abroad aims to do. Students are able to gain and learn new things about their social persona. Finally, the experience enhances employment opportunities in the future helping you get a good job.
Studying abroad isn’t just about the academia, it is about the freedom of exploring new opportunities and the chance for you to enjoy an experience that happens possibly only once in your life.
Grab new opportunities whilst you can before you are filled with regret.