“Stepping out of my comfort zone has been the best decision I could ever make,” says Gabriela Arnoštová about her Erasmus stay at Mondragon University Arrasante in Spain. She chose one of our latest partner universities for her studies abroad and, as she said, she didn´t regret her decision at all. Step out of your comfort zone too and choose one of our 52 partner universities in 22 European countries for your studies abroad!
I have been told by many people not to go for something that is not proven. Yet my personality shown through, and I put all my eggs in one basket and left for the Basque Country. I decided on Mondragon University, which my university recently entered into an agreement with, as the right place to spend my semester abroad. If I decided to go for an easier and proven option, I would have lost the opportunity to experience many rare and valuable life situations.
In my opinion, the Basque Country – “Euskadi” in Basque – is because of its mesmerising nature, gourmet experiences, outstanding beaches and persistent rain among the unjustifiably forgotten gems of Europe. On the other hand, it is hard to get close to the Basque people. They are far from being the same nature as their neighbours from the south. The Basque language is also very challenging. As a person that has never heard such a language, it sounds like it is from another world. There is no similarity to any other. Thankfully, the Basques are mostly bilingual. The reality is that everyone speaks as good Spanish as Basque. English is another matter. Simply, if one speaks Spanish, there is nothing to worry about. Then, it is enough to get by with a few basic Basque words.
In terms of administration duties before and during the stay, I had no issues. Both international offices were ready to help in every occasion. However, most of the other international students and I had the same trouble with changes of subjects during the first weeks of the school. This was mainly caused by misinformation from the receiving institution. In the end, not in all of the cases, but in my case, it had been solved quickly.
All in all, the semester spent in Mondragon, called Mordor by the locals, taught me a few life lessons. All the fun began right after delivering all the important materials. Firstly, school residence halls had been taken so quickly due to high demand that there was a shortage of accommodation. Secondly, contact with the agency the university had provided for us turned into one big problem from the very beginning. After exchanging several emails, asking for information and reservation of a student flat, results were anything but clear. Excluding the language barrier on the part of the agency that offered accommodation for international students and the intentions to send emails in the Basque language, no information was given before leaving. Overall, the concerned information about the cost in total, including all the fees, which in the end doubled, changed. So did the information about the flat itself, the date of moving in, etc. Mostly, people did not know where to go when they arrived in Mondragon. From my perspective, I was the lucky one as I accidentally arrived on the first day after the agency opened after the summer holidays and somehow I got an apartment.
The university offers its courses from the humanities to technical fields on four different campuses. In terms of my major, I had to choose the technical faculty. Each and every faculty differs a bit. The difference was that those of us in technical faculty A had a project based learning. The traditional lectures turned into a practical methodology. All international and local students were given a project that included a bit of all subjects from semester. Groups of three to four people had to work on the project until the end of the semester using all the knowledge gained during the first three months. I liked this method a lot because I was able to learn and interpret more knowledge than just by attending lectures.
As I had mentioned before, the Erasmus students are fully integrated with local students. Although the materials and lectures had to be given in English, most of the time, we had to deal with Spanish as well. It was very challenging to study Spanish materials for an exam in English. The best thing about Erasmus, in this case, was that I had the chance to meet amazing people from all over the world and made lifelong friends. All the trips we made and events we took part in turned out to be unforgettable – for example every week we visited the famous Thursday Pintxo Potes, when everyone in town went into streets and enjoyed the night, were perfect to relax and to decompress. During this time, we also experienced the celebrations of Maritxu Kajoi, local bank holidays. We made trips to stunning beaches and spent days by the ocean learning to surf. If lucky with the changeable mountain weather, we would climb the mountains and hike, travel the rest of Spain and taste the local Pintxos - the Basque tapas, or visit famous places from the Game of Thrones.
Every coin has two sides, and so did this semester. The beginnings were not easy. Teachers made us work really hard to make it through. Rainy and windy weather did not make it better, but the people around did. Thanks to all of the circumstances, I became a different person. Stepping out of my comfort zone has been the best decision I could ever make.