Embarking on an exciting academic journey is like setting off on an adventure – it’s not just about exploring new places on a map, but also about discovering your own potential. Imagine a Venezuelan student who, driven by a thirst for knowledge, set off from their vibrant homeland to the captivating landscapes of Spain. In this article, we’re diving into the wonderful tales of their experiences, the hurdles they crossed, and the victories they celebrated. After a stint in the United States, Jordi Sans found comfort and inspiration in Spain’s rich cultural diversity. Together, we’ll peek through their eyes and explore how international education shapes lives, the magic that comes from diverse classrooms, and the bravery needed to step out of your cozy cocoon and reach for the stars. So, let’s jump into a story that perfectly captures the spirit of growth, flexibility, and the exciting chase of aspirations.
Where are you from? Where are you studying at the moment? How long have you lived there?
I am from Venezuela. After almost two years studying in Baltimore, United States. I moved to Spain and started to pursue my studies here. I got here back in 2017, so I´ve been living here for about 6 years.
Which countries did you consider on your list of study destinations?
My first choice was the United States, but after the first couple of semesters, I realized that I might have to reconsider my choice.
Why did you choose this country?
I faced two big challenges when I lived in the U.S. The first one is that my plan was to pursue a career in law which meant that I had to go through undergrad and grad school. The second issue I faced was that I wasn´t ready to live in such a different place to that of my home country.
Spain was the solution for both of my problems, culturally and socially speaking, I feel closer to home here than in the United States and it is both easier and cheaper to become a lawyer in Spain than in the U.S.
What is the most inspiring thing about studying in this country for you?
At my university, I had the privilege to share a classroom with people from all around the world. I had classmates from Norway, Sweden, Italy, France, the US, Chile, Argentina and, of course, Spain. I also had the chance to share a couple of classes with students from Kazakhstan and Latvia. This not only made my days a thousand times more interesting than if I were to attend a homogeneous class, but it also pushed me out of my comfort zone and to learn about many different cultures and life perspectives.
What were the main challenges you faced when you moved to the country?
Being shy. When you are new to a place, you miss a lot of opportunities just because you don´t know how things work. Who should I ask for certain things? Who can go to when I need something? Where should I go? Can I do that? Those are questions that I had no answers to as I was too afraid to ask and made myself look like a fool. It might seem silly now, but when you are young and by yourself in a new country, being afraid of asking might be a bigger challenge than it looks.
Is there a language barrier?
In my case, there was no language barrier. I live and study in Valencia, but I was never required to speak something different than Spanish. Even though there are places in Spain where they have a second language (Catalan, Galician, Basque, etc.) I have never faced a situation where I was forced to speak it or understand it.
Overall, how do you find the living costs as a student (accommodation, transport, food, insurance, etc.)?
Spain is a great place to live as a student. I would say it is a really affordable place to study, even though housing is getting more and more expensive every year, so it is everywhere else, from what I´ve heard from other international students and friends going abroad on Erasmus, prices here don’t really compare to those in other countries in Europe.
Have you joined any extracurricular clubs in your university? Are there any associations/clubs specifically for Latin American students?
As a student of a double major in Law and International Relations, I joined both “Equipo Europa (Europe Team)” and “Asociación de Alumnos para el Derecho y las Relaciones Internacionales (Student Association for Law and International Relations)”; both of them are oriented in deepening the involvement of young students in the affairs of both the European Union and the United Nations. However, there are also plenty of opportunities for social gatherings and networking.
Have you made local friends? What is the main lesson you learned from the locals?
I have made lots of local friends. It was difficult at the beginning, but once I put myself out there, it was really easy. For me, the main lesson I’ve learned is that there is more than one path in life. We all come from different backgrounds and there is a lot to learn from people who have lived their entire lives in the place where you are a newcomer.
Do you have the opportunity to work part-time while studying? If Yes, what fields of work are available?
I did spend a couple of years working while I was a student. First, I worked at a restaurant and then I got a couple of internships. The first one was in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and then I had the chance to get myself into a shipping line where I have over a year working as a full-time employee after three months as an intern.
What are your career goals after graduation? Do you consider staying in the country or returning to your home country?
Six years after first coming to Spain I can’t say but I will that it is my new home. I plan to live here and launch my professional career in Spain with the tools and education I’ve managed to obtain here. I’m starting a master’s degree in October and I hope to get a PhD afterward.
How do you evaluate the whole experience of being an international student in the country?
To be a student in Spain feels like being a student of the world. You have the chance to study not only in the classroom but in every spot in the city, you can find a lesson to learn everywhere from centuries-old buildings and constructions to museums, stadiums, and theaters. The way I see it, Spain is a synonym of culture, history, tradition, and animosity. There is always something to do and somewhere to go. I would rate my decision to come to Spain as the best decision I’ve made so far.
What would be your advice to the students who intend to study in the country?
Put yourself out there, go to that concert, attend that 8 a.m. lecture, go check the local team for whatever sport you like, and, of course, come with an open mind. Public transportation is very cheap and efficient, you can go from Madrid to Barcelona in less than two hours by train, but you could also go to Andalusia or the Basque country in a few hours. Come to Spain, study in Spain but also travel across Spain. If that is not enough for you, you can always get a ticket to any country in Europe and be in Paris, Berlin, Brussels, or Rome in less than 5 hours.