||Bachelor of Architectural Studies
||Polytechnic University of Valenica
Why did you choose your host university?
As I’ve always wanted to live in Spain for a few months, I chose Polytechnic University of Valencia because it was the only UniSA exchange partner university that offers architecture subjects in Spain.
What was the university like?
The UPV campus is large and has good facilities. Their website isn’t constantly updated as there were still old subjects you can enrol in that weren’t presently running. I enrolled in some English architecture courses months prior to coming to Spain and the UPV accepted me to do these courses. When I arrived in the UPV to organize my classes, I had trouble finding the times for these classes. It took them two weeks to figure out the English subjects I enrolled in didn’t exist anymore. They had no subjects in architecture that were taught in English in 2014. This forced me to take some architecture subjects taught in Spanish and other subject such as business, just so I could do an English subject.
The classes were organized poorly. A Spanish language class was changed into an intensive subject for whatever reason, after initially being a full semester subject. The Spanish language subject I enrolled in initially, changed from a level A1 to a higher level in A2. This made it a little difficult for me as I was an A1 level with little Spanish language background. The assessment dates for some of the classes were constantly changing and didn’t really have a fixed date.
There was a language barrier with some of the teachers as they didn’t speak very good English (can’t really blame them for that as it isn’t their first language). There was also a language barrier with some of the international exchange office staff as some of them didn’t speak English at all.
What did you gain from your exchange experience and has it changed the way you think or altered your approach to life?
The overall exchange experience was unforgettable and amazing even though there were a few issues with the subjects. When I arrived in Spain I didn’t have accommodation sorted, as I couldn’t do it whilst I was in Australia, and I also didn’t have any friends. This worked out very well in the end and it can be a daunting situation for some in the beginning.
The experience helped me to be more independent, confident and to always stay positive that everything isn’t going to be as bad as you thought. My social skills have improved immensely as I met and made friends with locals, local students and other exchange students from other parts of Europe. This also gives me confidence to face more challenges in the future knowing that I am capable of doing whatever challenge comes along.
What accommodation options were available to you? How affordable was accommodation and would you recommend the same option to others?
Living on campus in dorms was suggested by UniSA, but I didn’t choose this option and instead chose to live in a shared flat with other exchange students. This option was much cheaper than living on campus and it was only a 10 minute bike ride to the Uni. The accommodation was affordable as I paid around 300 euros per month including all bills. You can expect to pay 450 to 600 euros per month living on campus. Closer and cheaper accommodations are possible to find as I’ve seen other flats advertised for as low as 150-200 euros per month.
I would recommend living in a shared flat as it’s cheaper and more relaxed. I found the flat I stayed at on a Facebook page/group. The groups can be found by searching “Valencia Erasmus flats”, ESN Valencia etc. There are many of these pages advertising flats and other exchange events.
Describe your travel experiences; did you travel locally or to neighbouring countries?
My travel experiences were the highlights of my exchange. I travelled before the semester started. The semester finished 1 month early in comparison to the previous year giving me more free time to backpack around Europe. I travelled locally and all across Europe whenever I had the opportunity also during public holidays, Uni breaks and weekends.
It was a great experience travelling with other exchange students as it gives an opportunity for new friendships to flourish. I visited Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, England, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russian Federation, other parts of Spain, and Sweden. It was pretty easy travelling from one country to another as most of them are only 2 hours apart by plane. I used buses, trains and planes for my travel transport.
Describe how you adjusted to life in a different country and how you met new people.
Adjusting to life in Valencia was mostly easy and enjoyable. The Spaniards are laid back who love their fiestas and siestas. Getting around was fairly easy as everything is close. I recommend using their “Valenbici” bike system as it’s cheap and efficient. Riding everywhere is fun too and a good daily exercise. Taking the metro and bus is also a good option for longer distances or when it’s raining.
Communicating with supermarket, restaurant and other shop workers was a bit of a challenge in the beginning as English isn’t widely spoken, mostly among the older generations. It got easier as time went on and when my Spanish improved. I recommend learning some basic Spanish before coming to Valencia to make life easier for oneself.
Meeting new people was really enjoyable and easy. Living in a shared flat was a good start to make friends with my flatmates. There will always be students to meet everywhere if you choose to live close to the Uni. I found the exchange students were really approachable and easy to get along with. There are a few Valencia student exchange Facebook pages and websites whom organize events, parties and trips especially for students. This is a really good opportunity to meet new people.
Can you see any benefits from this exchange to your future career?
The benefits I took from this exchange were to be more open minded, cultured, independent and confident. I believe this will help me with my future career as I’ll be working with many different types of people and it will be important to get along well with them.
What advice would you give to a student who was hesitant or considering joining the exchange program?
My advice would be to take this amazing opportunity. You will have your ups and downs but the whole experience will be totally worth it. This program gives you a chance to learn many new things and experience different things. You may also learn something about yourself and improve your outlook on life. This opportunity may never come along again so do it while you can, while you’re young and free!
My top tips are to learn as much Spanish as you can before coming to Valencia and say yes to every great opportunity that comes along!