On 13 and 14 October, the exchange programme board of Voronezh State University chose students to participate in exchange programmes. Twice a year, over 50 Humanities and Natural Sciences students try to produce the best impression on the members of the board, demonstrate their fluency in foreign languages and their interest in their specialisation. The winners of the exchange programmes competition are going to leave their Alma Mater, their home city and country, and spend the next term abroad. Eager to help the students overcome the fear of the upcoming trip we decided to talk to the students who are on an exchange programme at the moment and ask them to share their impressions of their internships.
A second year student of the Faculty of International Relations Anya Meremyanina and second and third year students of the Faculty of Romance and Germanic Philology Anastasia Smoliyaninova, Kristina Zelenina, and Margarita Panfyerova who are on exchange courses in different Spanish universities with a long history of cooperation with our university, spoke about the hospitality and sociability of the Spanish, their culture, traditions, and the system of education:
'What I like most of all is how friendly the Spanish are: they will always give you directions, help you, and if they can’t, they will never leave you alone, and will start asking other people. The same can be said about students – I have never met anybody who was more open-hearted. It was not difficult to become a part of the team because you are welcomed warmly and with lots of interest. The Spanish are a very talkative nation and I realised quite soon that I will always have someone to chat with. As for the studies, if you want to complete the course successfully you have to work hard. Just as in our university you are given loads of information that you ought to analyse independently and draw conclusions, thus learning to shape your own well-grounded opinion. Discussion is one of the central parts of each class – students share their views on the topic and debate. I think it is great. I should also say a few words about students who organise leisure activities for exchange students. They have worked out a very diverse and well thought-out entertainment programme. Every day you can take part in an event and have a chance to meet other exchange students and that is really exciting. And, of course, Madrid is absolutely amazing. It is a city that never sleeps: people of all ages walk the streets, sit in cafés, dance, and enjoy themselves any day of the week. The city has a lot of energy and an unforgettable atmosphere', said Anya Meremyanina who is doing a course at the University of San Carlos.
'The very first day in Granada I understood that this exchange programme will become an unforgettable and highly valuable experience. Spain welcomed me with warm weather, adorable architecture and kind and open-hearted people. Siesta, dancing and cheerfulness of the Spanish – everything I had been told about, proved to be true. The University of Granada has students from all over the world. Every new day brings new opportunities. And you want to do everything. For example, I am planning to visit different Spanish cities soon. I am very grateful to VSU for a chance to become a part of the culture I have been studying and for an unforgettable experience,' said Anastasia Smolyaninova from the University of Granada.
Kristina Zelenina shared her impressions of the first days of the exchange programme at the University of Leon:
'I have spent over a month in Spain. I am living, studying, meeting new people, and travelling here. At first it was quite unusual, but I did not have time to be bored from the very first day. Spain offers lots of entertainment opportunities and some of them are organised by the university. For example, on 3 and 4 October we celebrated San Frolian. It is an old historical and religious festival that is only celebrated in Leon. It goes back to the 12th century when almost the whole of Spain was under Arab caliphate rule. I was lucky to watch the festival and also to take part in it, including the performance which is one of the stages of the celebration. I was one of the so called 'nobles' – a girl of noble birth who had to be given to the Arabs by the Christians. The event took place on the main square of the city where there were crowds of tourists from all over Spain and other countries. Everything was very thought out. The most amazing thing were costumes that were made according to the fashion of the 12th century. Unfortunately, the weather was not very nice – it was freezing. Nevertheless it did not bring the audience and the actors down. I absolutely loved it and I look forward to witnessing something similar'. 'Leon is situated in the northern part of Spain. Here it is warm during the day and quite cold at night (below +5°C). And the Spanish are absolutely puzzled why the Russians are feel cold when dressed in jeans, a T-shirt and a cardigan. They think if we come from Russia we should never be cold.
The most noteworthy is "Erasmus-life". In the first week of our visit we had a trip to Las Medulas and to a typical Spanish village of the previous century that represents the daily life and buildings of the time. We met a lot of other students during the trip. The Spanish are very easy to communicate with; they are a very open-hearted and friendly people. If you do not know or do not understand something you can always ask them to explain it to you and they will always do it, even if you need it again and again. Every Monday AEGEE members organise a 'linguistic meeting' where in an informal atmosphere you can meet new people, practise spoken language and learn new words (for example, slang). Every Tuesday AEGEE members give thematic pub parties organised especially for 'Erasmus'. AEGEE offers various affordable trips to many Spanish cities', said Margarita Panfyerova who is studying in the University of Leon.
Internship in Spanish universities is a wonderful opportunity to extend your knowledge and your experience of communicating in a foreign language. Students who take part in exchange programmes in foreign universities which are partners of VSU learn to get on well with different people and adapt to a new way of life. They see the world globally and believe that the sky is the limit. They have a highly valuable experience of studying in unusual conditions; they can compare education in Russia and abroad. Moreover, exchange programmes offer a great opportunity to make friends all over Europe, learn about other cultures, and exchange knowledge and experience.