“There truly is no other experience like it”- Olivia Bennett on Erasmus+ in Universidad de Granada
By Aoife Cooney
Posted: 13 April, 2023
How would you sum up Erasmus+ in a few words?
Enlightening! This was my first time living abroad and being completely immersed in a new language and culture. Not only did I learn so much, both in terms of improving my Spanish language skills and studying in a foreign university, but I made so many friends, and memories to last a lifetime! There truly is no other experience like it.
What feelings come to mind when you think about Erasmus+?
Erasmus was such a joyful and fun period of my life. From day one I felt so included, specifically with the Erasmus groups, having activities, events, and trips for all Erasmus students who are in the same boat as you. I truly enjoyed every minute and felt very relaxed under the shining sun in the south of Spain and getting accustomed to the Spaniards relaxed way of life!
Tell us about your unique experience of the programme?
I was placed in Granada, Spain for my Erasmus programme, which was such a beautiful city! The city is perfect for students, with various Erasmus groups and trips each weekend, including trips to Portugal, Morocco, as well as various Spanish cities. The Spanish are also incredible partiers, and each night out is guaranteed to be fun and is another opportunity to meet new people! I had the opportunity to meet so many students from all over Europe and broaden my mind.
What has been the main take away(s) of your Erasmus+ experience?
Reflecting on my Erasmus experience now, my main take away was that I can truly go anywhere and embrace myself into any culture. Erasmus is just a taster of living abroad, but for me, once I got the taste for it I realised living abroad was something I definitely wanted to do. It can be daunting thinking you’d like to live abroad after university and having to take full time contracts to live in a new city. Once you go away for a semester you can truly see if this is something you’d like to do in the future, or simply a fun time that you’ll always cherish.
What advice would you give to students heading off on Erasmus+?
Remember to have fun! Although studying in a new European university is an incredible experience, personally, I believe the most important aspect of the programme is embracing the culture and meeting new people. Avail of every opportunity to travel at the weekends and activities with the Erasmus groups or fellow friends and classmates. It’s a time you’ll never get back, so don’t waste it by constantly studying and having your head stuck in a book (though this is definitely not something you should neglect!) – you can learn a lot more outside your window!
Is there anything you wish you had known in advance of your Erasmus+?
I wish I had known more about the university system in Spain. Spanish university was much more difficult than Ireland, and in Granada you were left a lot to your own devices in terms of making timetables, sorting out exams and really any administrative issues. I would make sure to research a lot about modules you can take, specifically if you’d like to take English modules.
What was the key challenge(s) for Erasmus+?
A major challenge is finding accommodation. It can be difficult when you are unsure of the safe areas around the city and how trustworthy people are prior to going over. A lot of people have cases where accommodation falls through, it’s not as described, or they simply can’t find anything available. My advice would be to start looking for accommodation the minute you know where you’re going, do your research, and maybe find someone who has been to the university/city before for advice – it could save a lot of hassle and stress.
What did it mean for you?
Erasmus undoubtably allowed me to develop as a person and gain more confidence in myself. I truly feel like I came home to Ireland a changed person, having so many experiences in terms of academia, language, culture and excursions. Even the stressful and challenging times allowed me to realise that I’m capable of overcoming such challenges. In short, it meant personal development and obtaining a greater understanding of the world and the people in it.
How did you overcome the challenge(s)?
Any challenges I faced I looked at logically and overcame them my maintaining a practical mindset. It can be daunting when faced with challenges while in a totally new country, but it’s important to realise that support is there, both in terms of the university, the Erasmus groups, and all of the friends you’ll meet along the way. You are never alone, and people are for the most part more than happy to help on any aspect you’re being challenged with. Stay calm and remember, without challenges and overcoming these challenges we can never grow!
How can Erasmus+ be made even more green / more digital / more inclusive?
From my experience Erasmus was incredibly inclusive, and due to Covid, some classes had already been digitalised. Erasmus+ could try to be more green in terms of travel, perhaps getting involved with ferry and train companies and offering discounts to students willing to travel to and from Ireland and around Europe this way.
Erasmus+ could also offer online services to get in contact with past Erasmus+ students to offer personalised advice. By setting up group chats with people who are all attending the same university, this may also be a good way of getting to know people online prior to meeting face to face.
Any other thoughts/ feedback/ comments to share?
Erasmus will be something you’ll remember for a lifetime! No matter what you’ll have so many stories and memories that can never be erased. If you have the opportunity, embrace it with open arms!
Thanks so much for speaking to us, Olivia- we loved hearing about the amazing time you had in Granada!