When I decided to study the degree for primary education, I was already sure that I would take the opportunity of the Erasmus + program and live for half a year in another country (which is located by the sea!). After having my first Erasmus meeting and narrowing down my choice to Portugal and Spain, I decided to choose the most southern city of Europe – Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
The first weeks in Las Palmas
Although it wasn’t the first time in my life that I had gone abroad for a while, it was totally different this time. It was very difficult to leave Graz, all the great people and also my usual everyday life of the last years. Until then, I wasn’t used to be completely out of my comfort zone. However, the excitement prevailed after 2 hours of sadness on the plane, and I was looking forward to all the experiences that may come. For the first two weeks I had chosen an Airbnb near the beach and was glad to finally arrive there and to be able to start my stay. As I sat by the sea the same evening and just enjoyed the moment itself, I knew that I had made the right decision to come to this beautiful island.
My Spanish vocabulary was limited to the two words “hola” and “gracias” and, after my first purchase, I wasn’t even sure anymore if these two were right (instead of “hola”, the salesman greeted me with “buena”, and “gracias” was pronounced “gracia” (the Canarios usually do not pronounce the “s”, they only “breathe” it). And on the basis of the fact that the English language is not a serious alternative in Spain, I quickly decided to take a language course in order to, at least, not walk completely lost in translation of google translate through my life on the island.
In the first week, a “Welcome Week” for Erasmus students took place and, because I never had problems to find connections to new people in my life so far, I went to this event quite relaxed and had already made my first international contacts at the end of this day. Together with one of these newly won friends (because of this friendship my semester here has already been worthwhile), I decided to look for a shared flat. Even though I really wanted to live in the area around the city beach, I finally ended up in a completely different area. In the old town, far away from the tourist epicenter, I found a room in an old Spanish house with an impressive roof terrace and a lovable cat (so, loneliness turned away before it could even come up).
The university is what I was worried about the most in the beginning days on the island. I wasn’t sure where to go or whom to contact. Also, people didn’t seem to care a lot about that a confused Austrian was wandering around their campus. With the help of the two students from Graz, who already spent their Erasmus semester here before me, I finally managed to find my way around the campus and managed everything in an orderly manner. It must be said that I see myself as a calm and relaxed person, but the Spanish looseness more than once drove me to despair in this time. So, if you are a driven person and would maybe like to think a little less, I will recommend you a semester in Las Palmas. You are literally forced to do everything a bit more relaxed and accept this attitude to be part of your life here. I was more than happy, when I had finally organized the internship and all my courses.
In general, I was very lucky with all of my courses and especially with my professors. I attended two English courses and a Spanish music course. In all of the courses I was the only (non-Spanish) Erasmus student, but the linguistic barrier didn’t keep me and my fellow students from exchanging quickly. All of the groups welcomed me very warmly and quickly integrated me into their life outside university. In addition, I also attended a Spanish course at university.
I can’t say that I didn’t have to do some work for my courses. However, it were only things that I could use for my future teachers’ practice. Except the fact that I had more than enough time to enjoy a lot of beautiful things in life (#sunsetlover).
The School Practice
I want to start with one of my personal highlights, since I chose to become a teacher: I held a lesson in which I told the 2nd grade students a story (“Elmar the Elephant”) and afterwards let them make a “Hand elephant” by themselves. At the beginning of the lesson the teacher went out to the teacher’s room. After a while she came back and gave the class a concerned look, because all the children were so fascinated with the topic, that they were completely silent. She said that this nearly never happens in Spain and that this is something very unusual here.
To sum it up quickly, for me it was one of the greatest experiences that I’ve ever made. I really enjoyed my time at the school a lot and the time passed by very quickly. I was impressed by how many positive impressions I was able to make and to get a unique insight into the school life through that time. Moreover, I could learn about useful teaching methods, how to cope with problems in a different way and got a lot of inspiration and ideas which I want to use in a certain way by myself. Especially to plan classes for children, that maybe couldn’t understand all of what I was saying, let me think of building up classes in a completely different way. The fact that I was able to, in my opinion, do some great classes without completely understanding each other gave me some self-confidence, I would have never achieved in Austria. Last but not least, I have to say that I’m very thankful for the warmth welcome of the children and all of the teachers, I felt very pleased and happy to be around them as they integrated me very quickly and tried to help me in the best way they could.
To sum it up, Erasmus wasn’t the “time of my life”! I have too many great people with whom I have had such memorable moments until this point of my life. This semester was more of an “opener” for me to be able to turn to other things in life and the opportunity to spend time with the person with whom I felt the last few years didn’t do enough – myself.
I spent so little time at parties and in bars, which wasn’t the case before. Because I would regret to spend, all the sunny days with at least 20 degrees, with a hangover in bed. One thing for sure, if you are sports enthusiastic then Las Palmas could be your personal Mecca. You can do pretty much every sport and actually swim in the sea all around the year; surfing belongs to the everyday life anyway. Nevertheless, I spent some time in various bars, of course, and there are a lot of concerts on squares, especially in May, and the majority of life takes place on the streets more than in any other club. If you want a place to party, I can definitely recommend the island for these reasons.
If you live on the island of Gran Canaria, you also have the opportunity to enjoy the incredible luxury of applying for a Residence Card on the island, with which you get 75% on flights within Spain. So, I spent most of my free time traveling around this diverse and great country. I have been able to experience a lot of great things in such a short time and visit places (Galicia, Basque Country, Valencia, Andalucía, Madrid, Canary Islands) that impressed me deeply and which I highly recommend to everyone. This was probably the main difference between me and other Erasmus students.
In summary, if my report has convinced someone to spend a semester on this great island and wants to know more, then you can contact me for further information (especially organizational help).
Author: David Fleith.