Valentina Gourieh, Nursing programme, University of Alicante, Spain
Hej, Hi, Hola!
I had the best time ever during my exchange. My time abroad was filled with energy, and one word that would describe my exchange semester would probably be ‘’colourful’’, let me tell you why.
My name is Valentina Gourieh, and I’m currently studying my 6th and last semester in the nursing program at Jönköping University, Sweden. But before I made it to where I am now with my studies and with my life, I was studying abroad during my 5th semester. I decided to go with the Erasmus-program and study at Universidad de Alicante in Alicante, Spain, because, well why not? I have always loved the Spanish language, the music, dances, the culture, food, and of course, the weather in Spain is nothing to complain about. In the beginning I thought that Erasmus was only a scholarship, but as soon as I moved to Spain I realised that being an Erasmus student was a lifestyle, there where so many different activities, travels, parties, invitations, help etc. for all of the ‘’Erasmus-people’’. I realised that I didn’t have to travel across the world to experience something completely different from Sweden. Alicante was such a special place that made me feel like home, even though it was different from my real Swedish home.
(Fiesta in our apartment, the police came, if you wanted to know)
Me and three friends of mine, whom I study in the same class with in Sweden, decided to do this together, so we got our big apartment by ourselves because we wanted live together in the center, near Mercado central, it was like a 10 minutes-walk to the beach, restaurants, food stores, el barrio (the place where all of the fun parties are located). We took either the train or the bus to school, which was so beautiful, the campus was huge! We used to sit on the grass outside of our building and eat food, with palm trees around us, before class started. Our schedule was not the same as in Sweden. I had Spanish class at 13:00 and finished at 15:00, and then we had our nursing courses at 18:00 and finished at 20:00. The nice thing about that was that I did not have to wake up too early to go to school, and in the 3 hours gap between the courses was the perfect time to study so when I came back home from school I could have the night free and be with all of the amazing people, from all over the world, that I got the chance to get to know.
(The fantastic four from Sweden)
(Our building at the university)
I also had a practical course, which was really interesting. Most of the patients couldn’t speak English, and in the beginning of the semester my Spanish was not the best, so it was a challenge to communicate with both patients and understand what the nurses where telling me to do. I got the chance to see a lot of operations, everything from tumour-surgeries to a hip-surgery and the best of them all was the childbirth surgery, I cried so much, it was beautiful, and the staff where so nice, it was never a problem for them to let us be in the surgery room to see bigger surgeries. It was really fun to try to communicate with the patients, they became excited when I told them that I was from Sweden and not from Spain, which a lot of the people thought. It made me happy that the patients, and the people in general, still wanted to try to talk to me even though the verbal-language was not the best at first.
In the beginning it was a little bit hard to get used to the ‘’regular spanish day’’ that involved everybody being late to everything, but it was never a problem for anybody, stress was nothing they wanted to have. It could be annoying sometimes when nothing was done in time, like some school-papers etc, but we got used to it so we just had to go with the flow and think ‘’mañana, mañana’’ which means ‘’tomorrow, tomorrow’’. Everybody was always so nice, all the people who worked in stores or bakeries etc. always had a smile on their lips, it made me feel welcomed and it made me feel like home. Sometimes I forgot that it was time for siesta and that a lot of the food stores and restaurants where closed at that time between like 14:00- 17:00 or 15:00 -18:00. The stores and restaurants opened after that again and where open to late. It was common to eat dinner late in the evening, everything from paella to tapas.
I had the chance to travel when I had free-time, I travelled both with my friends from Sweden whom I went to Spain together with, but also with other exchange students. I have been to Valencia, Murcia, Benidorm, Denya, Barcelona, Granada, Isla de Tabarca and Calpe. It was amazing, and all of the people whom I met made the trip even better, we all became an Alicante-family, we saw each other almost every day, we went to the beach together, ate together, travelled together, partied together etc.
A place, except for the beach, where all of the students loved to hang out on was Castillo de Santa Bárbara, a fortification in the center of Alicante that stands on Mount Benacantil. We bought something to eat and started walking up to the top, and just sat there, had good conversations about life and watched the sunset, it was beautiful. After that, we either went home, ate some late dinner, or took a siesta before the fiesta. El barrio, a street filled with bars and parties that where open every day, was the meeting point, and after we all met up, we had the time of our lives. Sometimes we stayed up so late that it became morning and we could go to the beach and watch the sunrise.
(Sunset from Castillo de Santa Bárbara)
(A peaceful place we found in Isla de Tabarca)
(Sagrada Familia, Barcelona)
(Frida Kahlo-art in Valencia)
Every Monday there where salsa-night, a bar took away all their tables and chairs and opened all of the big windows, and two salsa teachers came and taught all of the people how to dance salsa. We exchanged dance partners all the time which was an amazing way to meet new people. On Tuesdays we always went to a place called John Mulligan’s, where they had a beer pong tournament every week, a place where all of the exchange students and Spanish students went.
All of the new experiences, the adaption to a new culture and lifestyle, all of the new amazing people from all around the world whom I today can call my friends, everything that happened during these 4 months, good and bad things, made me grow more as a person. 4 months doesn’t sound a lot, but it can be a lot depending on how you use the time. I was really happy in Spain, nothing was grey, everything and everybody was always so happy with colourful souls that only spread happiness, energy and put colour on the days. I recommend everyone who is thinking about studying abroad to do it, wherever it might be, you will grow and have the time of your life. I miss everything so much, but like we always said to each other in Spain when it was time to leave: ‘’nunca adios, solo hasta luego’’ which means ‘’never goodbye, only see you later’’.
If you would like to know more about my experience or have any questions, I would be more than happy to answer! Contact me on: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook: Valentina Gourieh.