When I looked at the partner universities of the PH Steiermark, it was very clear to me: I will definitely apply for a semester abroad in Gran Canaria. That’s how it was, I applied for Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria as my first priority and Universidad de Barcelona as my second priority. I can recommend this directly to you: Don’t wait until the new year to start applying! After the turn of the year, I got into quite a bit of stress because you tend to underestimate the amount of work involved in different applications, including all the formalities and bureaucratic things. In the end, however,I made it and at the beginning of March I received my acceptance letter and a place at the ULPGC. I accepted the place as soon as I received it. I can advise everyone to prepare the Learning Agreement as soon as possible, as the ULPGC receives a lot of students from abroad every semester and I know many people who had to wait a long time for a signature from the ULPGC and then for their matriculation certificate (Matrícula). Due to the large number of Erasmus students, this is not always the case. Unfortunately, I received my matriculation certificate very late, which was very stressful for me. But again, I can tell you: sooner or later (in Spain rather late than early) you will get your matricula. The arrival at ULPGC was very warm, there was a general welcome event. Although I had taken care of everything very promptly, the first week was a bit of a mess. We didn’t get the times of the courses until much too late and had to change our learning agreement again very often. For this reason, the first week forall Erasmus students consisted of waiting in front of the International Office of the ULPGC, writing emails and, above all, having a lot of patience. Fortunately, after 1-2 visits to the technical support, I had my finished timetable and was also assignedto the groups. Afterwards, I changed the courses on the Learning Agreement, finalised it, and was later sent a new Matrícula, which then contained the current, final courses.
Studying at the ULPGC was definitely a great experience for me. I would estimate the level of difficulty to be similar to that of the PH Stmk due to the language barrier (my Spanish level was A2). However, the ULPGC is a lot more school-like than what you’re used to at an Austrian university or college. In my opinion, the lecturers are very understanding and friendly. However, compared to most other Erasmus students, I had a lot to do because, as I already mentioned, we had to take 30 ECTS. This was often a bit frustrating when the others could go to the beach and you were still stuck in the library, but I got used to it over time and found a good balance. I really like the campus here. There are palm trees everywhere and it’s very green. There is a large library right next to the FEET faculty with plenty of space to study and a cafeteria.
Administratively, it was very difficult to find a suitable school for me to practice at because my level in Spanish was too low to teach at a normal practice school. I tried to apply independently (as early as April) to the German school, but got a rejection months later. So we looked for a school with an English focus where I could teach English as a foreign language. The whole team at ULPGC was very keen to support me as much as possible.The practice surprised me a lot, because I saw how different the Spanish school system is compared to the Austrian school system. Already in the first four days I noticed many differences to the Austrian school system. For example, the lessons are very frontal. Classes are not designed for open or reformed teaching. Above all, there are no financial resources for this. In addition, the school books are not paid for by the state. Parents have to buy all the textbooks for their children themselves. As a result, part of the class has no textbooks. The teachers are unable to act and have to try to compensate for this lack. Primary school starts at the age of four and lasts until the age of twelve. This is also a difference to the Austrian school system. In this practice, I have learned to appreciate the resources we can draw on as teachers and that this cannot be taken for granted. The times in the Spanish primary school are also very different. School starts at nine o’clock but doesn’t end until two o’clock in the afternoon. One difference that speaks for the Spanish school system is the way the teachers interact with the students. You notice that the children feel comfortable and safe around the teachers.
Accommodation, everyday life and city
My daily routine during the week usually looked like this: I went to uni in the morning, then I did a bit of preparatory and follow-up work at home, if time allowed, I went to the beach and in the evening I usually did something with friends. At weekends, I do a lot with friends, I’ve already been to the other Canary Islands, we go on road trips and little excursions together and of course there’s always a lot of partying going on. You can rent a car from Cicar, Tirma or Sansu very cheaply and usually quite spontaneously. You can do everything on the island, from going to the beach to hiking, because the nature and landscape here are so diverse. The Erasmus Student Network in Las Palmas is extremely strong and there is a lot on offer. In September, we had a plan with activities for the whole month and every day there was everything from surfing to excursions to parties. You could also get an ESN card for 15€. This gives you a discount on various Erasmus activities and also on Ryanair. In September, there was also an excursion every Sunday inall 4 directions on the island. I particularly liked this, as it gave me the chance to get to know the island a little at the beginning and see the classic must-see sights straight away. In addition, almost all activities are very well attended, as there are many Erasmus students on the island. I was extremely lucky with my living situation. Most of the courses took place at the Obelisk campus, where you can reach your destination after a 30-minute walk. The Tafira campus (where I took my Spanish course) was a little further away (45 minutes by bus). Here, the bus is just called Guagua and I bought a Guagua estudiante card right at the beginning, which allows me to take 80 bus rides for 14€ a month, which is more than enough. In addition, almost everyone lives in Las Palmas, which I highly recommend, as there is simply no living at the university (Campus Tafira) and nothing going on there. I live in the centre of Las Palmas in a flat share for 4 people on the 4th floor. On the ground floor there is a restaurant run by locals where you can also eat very authentic tapas. On the first floor, the landlady has a dental practice and Erasmus students also live on the 2nd and 3rd floors. I’m really happy with my living situation, because I made contacts right from the start and we’ve really become a kind of little family in our house. I pay 350€ warm for my room, but there are also cheaper rooms in each flat for 310€ and 340€. The landlady is super friendly and helpful and as soon as there were any problems in the flat, she was always on the spot. So if you are still looking for a flat, feel free to contact me! My flat is in the middle of 2 beaches, Las Canteras and Alcaravaneras. Alcaravaneras is nice to have some peace and quiet, but basically you go to Las Canteras, which is a 15-minute walk away. You can also go surfing there at La Cicer. There are also lots of great places to party. First, there are the Erasmus parties, which are really worth going to. Then there’s TAO, Kopa and Alboroto. These are the clubs we mainly went to. Mostly reggaeton is played here, but you can also easily find opportunities to party to techno. For example, you can go to Fabrica Isletta or Moma. On the promenade near Las Canteras you can find all kinds of places to eat, of course a bit more expensive because it’s right on the beach, but very tasty. In Vegueta, the old town, which is about 15 minutes away from Las Palmas by bus, you can go out for delicious tapas. There is always a Tapas Night on Thursdays.
Evaluation of the stay abroad in academic / cultural / social terms
I can say that I had an indescribably great time in Gran Canaria and can only recommend this experience to everyone. Even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of the university there, it was doable and no matter how hard it seems sometimes, it works out quite well in the end. Besides, everything else about my experience was perfect and I am incredibly sad and can’t imagine that this time here will end soon. I have really made friends for life here and am incredibly enthusiastic about the island of Gran Canaria. So, even if it’s a long way from Austria, I can tell you for sure that it’s worth it! For me, too, it was a big effort to take this step. But in retrospect I can say that I didn’t regret this decision for a single second. I have developed in every respect. This experience has done so much to my personality and attitude towards life. I have learned to stand on my own two feet 100%. From a children’s room to a shared flat on an island, which is five hours away from my home country by plane. From safety to the unknown without being able to imagine what to expect. I also learnt that it always goes on, even once you are completely desperate and don’t know how to go on or what to do. So, I don’t know how many times I’ve already mentioned it, but I’ll say it again: go for it, dare.
Text: Elisa Hubert