AUA student Vanine Ghumashyan (BAB ‘19) recently returned from a five-month educational experience in the southeastern city of Murcia, Spain through the Erasmus+ program. Below she discusses her expectations, experiences, and realizations during her semester abroad.
I learned about this specific Erasmus+ exchange program in Murcia through an email sent out by our BA Business Program Chair, Dr. Knar Khachatryan.
What did you like most about the city?
What I liked most about the city was that it was immersed in really beautiful nature – a mix of evergreen and palm trees surrounded the city as well as orange trees sprinkled throughout the winding, narrow streets.
What were your expectations before arriving in Murcia and to what extent were they met?
I honestly thought that a small city like Murcia would not have many activities to offer. I also expected that with a population smaller than Yerevan, everyone would know each other. Although the city has only about 440,000 inhabitants, I was impressed by the diversity and amount of things to do. From festivals to concerts, there was always a celebration happening to be enjoyed with friends!
What is one difference you noticed between education in Spain and education in Armenia?
I think that the Armenian approach to education is much more relaxed than in Spain. I noticed that, in Armenia, students participate much less in class and spend less time on their studies. The exams are still quite difficult, but I always felt more prepared than my classmates. It was also interesting to observe the different way in which course material is presented to the class from what I am used to at AUA. In the Spanish classroom, professors would use examples from Spain, the European Union and the US, while at AUA we generally focus on examples from the US.
What was one part of Spanish culture that you were most excited to experience?
I was very excited to try the food in Spain and explore the national cuisine. It is by far the most delicious cuisine I have tried. Apart from that, I was thrilled to explore Spain and its astounding architecture.
I was also excited to practice and learn the language. I learned a little bit of Spanish before going, and this really helped me integrate quickly and experience the culture all the more deeply. I was so impressed with how willing the locals were to teach! Anytime I experienced difficulties with the language, someone would offer to help me. I felt welcomed and really enjoyed their eagerness to teach me how to talk and act like a Spaniard!
What was the most important lesson you learned there?
Definitely how to engage with a different culture. Reading and hearing about another culture is never going to be the same as experiencing it first hand. Through cultural immersion you are exposed to new perspectives and ways of living that changes your own view of the world. I think this changes how you interact with your own culture once you return home, giving new eyes to a familiar environment.
What are your future plans?
I know I certainly have to pursue my master’s degree in the future, most likely in finance.