Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Erasmus in Spain

Castellón de la Plana, Valencia, Spain

Jrisa was looking forward to going for Erasmus abroad, some years now. She took the opportunity to live alone for the first time and create a little new life before she goes back in Greece. 
Here are her impressions and pictures. And God save the Erasmus.

Name:     Jrisa Kommata
Age:        21
From:      Piraeus, Athens
To:         Castellón de la Plana,     Valencia, Spain
For:        6 months Erasmus  in Universidad Jaime I

1. Which were your top options and why you chose Castellón de la Plana?

All my options were in Spain because I've started studying Spanish and I really liked it. My first options were Sevilla and then Granada. Castellón I didn´t knew it before I come here and I chose it since I wasn´t accepted by first choices... But finally I think that I made the right choice.


2. Your motivation for following the Erasmus program.

I wanted to follow the erasmus program even before I got in the university.  I think that is a very good oportunity to meet new people, “discover” yourself, new cultures, learn new things and exercise the languages you know.

3. The first difficulties.

The first 3 weeks, maybe month, it was really difficult. Fortunately, I wasn't alone. I had met in Greece two more girls going to the same city, we just went for a coffee and booked the plane tickets together. I traveled with one of them and the first four nights we stayed in a hotel. The days after, we were searching for a home and we found one, not so close to the university, but in the centre. In the begging we were living with the guys from the previous semester for about one week. 
It was quite difficult for me, because back in Greece I live with my parents and here I had to organise everything about the house and also about the money, by myself. But as the days were passing the things were getting better. Regarding socialization, things were very easy. The guys that we were living together for a little, helped us a lot and we also met some Greek guys who also helped us to get used to the language, as well.

4. Your house. What do you see from your window?

Well, from my window I don't see anything interesting. Only the opposite apartment. But the house is really comfortable and the living room has 2 big windows, so it's very bright. This is what I like the most.

5. Your academic field and basic interest.

In Greece I study Social Anthropology, but here I study history and philosophy.

Spanish night

6. Your impression of the university.

The university is really good. There are buildings for each department separately, plus the building of the library and another one for sports. Also, the lessons are very good and the professors very helpful with us!

7. The food. 

The food here is really perfect! Paella (rice with barbecue meat or vegetables) is their traditional plate and I really like it.They have  some cheeses and jamón, which are a kind of cold cuts. They have also seafood, potatoes (patatas bravas) which has a sause (ali oli) with garlic and olive and the tortilla which is like our omelette. 

8. The people of the city.

The spanish people are very kind, they will help you with whatever you might ask and they are always happy! There is only one problem, the language. Most of them they don't speak English so you have to speak Spanish to communicate with them and this was a big problem the first days here.

Spanish men playing Greek rempetiko

9. Erasmus people.

The majorities of the erasmus people are French and German. There are people from everywhere
(France, German, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, Finland, Turkey, America and Latin America, Austria, Australia).
Most of our friends are from the erasmus programme, not natives.

10. The best and the worst thing about the city.

The best thing about the city is that is a small city and you don't need to use the means of transport, but because of that, sometimes you don't have so many choices of doing new things.

11. A Spanish habit you have almost adapted.

Spanish people, wherever they go out for a long time, they have  a home-made sandwich to eat with them (bocadillo). I think that this is the Spanish habit I have adopted here.

12. How do you see young Spanish people face the economic crisis.

I think that the young Spanish people is like the young Greek people. Of course they are worried for all this situation, but they don't debilitate and they are trying to have fun, even they don't have enough money. I'd also add here that the life here,generally, is cheaper than Greece.

13. The most important thing you have gained from this experience, so far.

Everything. The friends I have made, the places I've seen... 
I believe that this experience made me stronger about learning how to live alone.

14. Where do you see yourself in the future.

Travelling and healthy!

Monday, April 14, 2014

University books and tennis rackets

Athlete and student in USA

At the age of 18, Eleanna left her country to go to the US for studies. A young tennis player, always attracted by challenge, shares views and experience about her new start.

Name: Eleanna Fulop 
Age: 18 
From: Athens, Greece 
To: Springfield, MA 
Purpose: Studies and tennis training

1. Your life before leaving for the USA.

Before leaving for the US, I was still in school and played tennis on a championship level. I wanted to leave and thus considered the US a very important opportunity for my life. The US is the only country where you can combine studying and doing your sport on a good level. Namely, to keep improving in the sport you have been doing many years on a competitive level and study at the same time. Moreover, it’s a country that provides scholarships to athletes. This is a basic reason I chose to come here. I had the possibility to choose among several universities offering a scholarship for me to study in the US and play in the tennis team. 

2. The first days there.

Emotions were mixed during the first days. First of all, I felt sorrow and insecurity because I left my family, my friends, and my boyfriend behind, but simultaneously, I felt excited about such a big change. I was anxious whether I’d be able to do everything on my own but also very eager to cope with this great challenge that “landed on my doorstep”. During the first days, for about 2 weeks, my mother was luckily with me and this helped me a bit since I didn’t have to swim through deep water right away. But as soon as she left, it was rather very hard for me to get used to both her absence and the absence of the rest of my family that I would get to see after 4 months.
When it comes to accommodation, I didn’t need to look for a place. I reside in university premises and this was included in the scholarship I received.

3. Your daily life…

Every morning, I have lectures that I am required to attend, then there’s a small break to eat, rest and Skype with people, and later at noon I have training until early afternoon. Some days it’s tennis training, while others it’s gymnastics. After I’m back from training, I eat and study. In the first semester, I used to watch matches of other sports in the university over the weekends, and sometimes I went out to dinner and shopping or to the gym. Now that the season is over for most sports, I get some more rest in the weekend. Our season is also about to begin so we will be travelling to matches in the weekends, thus I don’t think I will have much free time to do things.

4. You and tennis. What does it mean to you and what is your biggest goal?

Tennis is a part of my life. I cannot imagine my life without it. I love it very much and I don’t believe I will ever quit playing. By no means am I pursuing a professional level, but I continue training hard on a championship level. I want to improve more and more every day and reach my limits. I enjoy hard training and prefer it over a match. I can be in the court playing tennis for hours on end.

5. What’s the thing you like the most in Springfield?

I would say that Springfield is a weird area. Even though it’s one of the biggest cities in Massachusetts and full of universities, there aren’t so many things to do there and, as most American cities, it is unsafe. I have not discovered the thing I like the most about Springfield. I guess I could say that I get very excited by the fact that I see little squirrels around the campus as if they were pigeons in Athens. This could be the thing I like the most after all!

6. What was the toughest thing to get used to?

I would say that the toughest thing to get used to was the absence of the people I love from my daily life. I was, and still am, very close to my family so it was very hard to get used to their absence. Even now, after 5 and a half months of being here alone, there are times when I cannot realize that I don’t see them daily; that they are so many miles away from me and I cannot see them no matter how much I want to. I had to wait until Christmas and now I have to wait until May when I complete the first year to go back and see them. 

7. Your favorite new habit or routine?

My favorite routine is my lessons. I am really excited about them and I think they’re very interesting. Plus, the fact that they are not in my native language makes it even more challenging to cope with them.   

8. What is it you see from your window?

Unfortunately, I live in the basement so I see the grass. There’s also a bush right outside my window but I also see the lower part of a building right across. Ok it’s not that bad… I don’t mind much.

9. Your favorite place in the city?

It’s a restaurant with very good Italian food. The US is not particularly popular for its nice and healthy food; hence the food served in the university isn’t the best quality. And since I am forced to eat it every day, a good meal will be something very exciting. Thus a restaurant with good food will become the favorite place in the city. 

10. Which are the most beautiful places you’ve seen so far in the US?

I think Boston is one of the most beautiful places in the US. It’s lovely! I was really excited and enjoyed it very much. It’s a place I could live in. Also, New York. Even though it’s a very boisterous city with so many people, it is really impressive on the first visit. Personally, I think you cannot live there for a long time. Boston is much better. 

New York

11. What do you miss the most?

What I miss the most is my family and my boyfriend. It’s very hard to get used to living away from those you love. But for better or worse, you need to make sacrifices in life and show the strength you have inside.

12. What are your thoughts about going back to Greece?

I haven’t thought about it yet. Whether I’ll go back to Greece or not… Time will show...

13. What is your biggest dream in life?

Tough question… Definitely, one of my dreams is to succeed in completing my studies and then do a master’s, somewhere in Europe perhaps. But I still don’t know what my biggest dream is…