Studying law abroad at the University of Valencia in Spain has been an eye-opening experience for me. As someone who doesn’t speak Spanish fluently, being immersed in new traditions and festivals proved difficult at first, but it has turned into an invaluable life experience.
According to a report by the British Council, Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world, with 400 million native speakers as of 2010. So it’s no wonder that so many students are choosing Spain or South America as destinations for their year abroad.
Spain was the most popular destination country for Erasmus students, with 40,202 incoming students in 2013, according to a report by the European Commission, which funds the programme.
I’m sure not every international student studying in Spain will have the same experience as mine. Spanish universities are as diverse an any other country’s, after all. But here’s what I’ve learned so far from studying at a Spanish university.
Student-lecturer relationships are less formal – and all the better for it
One of the first things I noticed was the informality of the classes. “Lecturers and students often call each other ‘tio’, which translates roughly in English as ‘mate’,” says Lizzi Gold, 20, a chemistry student at the University of Bristol, who was also struck by the casual nature of lectures at Salamanca University.
“Professors in Spain will make an effort to memorise every student’s name, which we don’t see much of in the UK,” she adds.
After becoming accustomed to PowerPoint presentations, handouts and recorded lectures, stepping into the Spanish lecture theatre felt like I was travelling back in time. Our class was greeted by a cheery professor, a blackboard, a piece of chalk and a giant yellowing computer, which we later discovered didn’t actually work.
Seminars are lively, heated debates
Another thing I noticed about my Spanish university early on was the constant debate and argumentative nature of seminars. At Bristol, where I study, questions from our esteemed law professor are met with frightened silence and students afraid to speak up for fear of being wrong.
By contrast, my seminars in Spain resemble lively debates with opinions and questions being shouted across the classroom. It’s refreshing to encounter students who are eager to question and challenge their lecturers, rather than simply accept their viewpoint. After a while, you start wondering who’s teaching whom.
The exam process couldn’t be more different
When it comes to exams, you may as well forget your years spent essay planning and writing; end of year examinations often consist of 15-minute oral exams. Similarly with coursework, UK students are used to strict adherence to word limits and referencing. However, upon asking my Spanish professor about the word limit for my most recent piece of coursework, I was told that there was no word limit, and I could write as much or little as I felt like. To me, this was unheard of.
Alice Cottle, 21, a French and Spanish student from the University of Sheffield studying at the University of Valencia, was also surprised by the lax coursework requirements. “One of our teachers was surprised at the number of students apologising for submitting their coursework a few minutes late. He said that if he had received them days or even weeks later, no penalties would be applied,” says Cottle.
It’s not all work – Spanish students definitely know how to party
Having made the mistake of going out at midnight in my first week, as we would in the UK, I quickly discovered that many clubs don’t actually open or are completely empty until around 2am.
As well as adjusting to my new surroundings, I realised I’d have to completely re-adjust my body clock to cope with the incredibly late nights and early-morning starts (lectures often start at 8.30am). As a result, siestas have become an integral and welcome part of my daily life.
While being so different from home, studying in Spain has changed my view of education
After studying in the UK for so long, it’s easy to become accustomed to solitary, independent learning. Developing square eyes from reading online legal journals for hours on end becomes the norm. Spain, however, has shed new light on the entire concept of studying.
Lax coursework guidelines, the informality of classes and the chance to deliver your own opinions allows for more freedom and innovation in your learning process. Once your Spanish starts flowing more freely, you begin to appreciate and understand the culture of Spain in a way you hadn’t grasped before.
Not so long ago, students wouldn’t have been offered the opportunity to study in another country. While this experience isn’t exactly what I expected and has been difficult at times, I’ve learned invaluable lessons and I would recommend it to anyone.
[Source:- The Gurdian]