What would you recommend to UAL students preparing to spend one semester or year at your University?
I would recommend them having an Erasmus exchange at my home university to see another way of learning and different techniques of developing, not only in the studying field, but also gaining abilities in the entrepreneurship area. Students over there are really competitive, which has its pros and cons obviously. But focusing on the bright side, it pushes and motivates you to participate more, being more active during classes and encouraged to think more in terms of a future independent manager, especially in building your own business, studying the market environment and the segmentation of the customers.
Which are some of your favourite spots at the city/professors at the university/restaurants/trips/special festivities, etc?
There are lots of great corners all over the city – my favorite spot is at Rruga e Kavajes, a street. There you will find lots of restaurants serving grilled food – Zgara Korcare or Zgara Suprem is nice for having lunch or dinner. If you go there ask for Korca beer (national beer) or raki (our traditional drink made of grape, but careful: take just one shot, it’s really strong alcohol) and let yourself to get lost on the different flavors and delicious food.
If you are looking for a pastry shop I would recommend Cioccolatitaliani. The Italian influence is very common in Albania, especially in the capital – people love to speak Italian, eat Italian food – best pasta and ice-cream you can find it over there, no need to travel to Italy. The best ice cream in this area you will find at La Nocciola Gelateria (again Italian) with its natural flavors – my favorite one is dark chocolate with rum – highly recommended. You can go to Gjiro Kamara to taste some sufllaqe (Greek souvlaki). And if you want to party hard, I would recommend Cinco Cavalli, Lollipop and Folie Terrace.
Close to this area you have the Artificial Lake of Tirana – you can walk, run, bike all over the area and enjoy the nature. A bit further away there is Dajti Mountain, you can see all city from the top and have a cable car ride to reach the peak of the mountain (or you might go hiking and explore the surroundings by yourself, or by local guides – they cover less than 10 Euros). The sightseeing is amazing and you have also an attraction park. Or you can have some romantic dinner under the moon light (best way to date with a girl – Albanian girls and really beautiful and the boys fit enough – most of them go frequently to gym).
Why did you decide to study abroad?
I decided to travel abroad for several reasons – mainly to get in touch with another culture and meet lots of international students (whom latter became my friends) – something lacking in Albania, since the population over there is really homogenous.
Secondly, to open more myself toward new cultures, new mentalities, new points of view. And test my limits, break my own mental barriers and challenge myself at the same time during this new journey.
Last but not least, I always wanted so bad to live in Spain and having the opportunity to have my Erasmus exchange here was like a dream came true.
Why did you choose Almería?
Without doubts, I would recommend to other students to study in Almeria; the university provides really good teaching techniques, the professors are nice and friendly (even though if you don´t speak Spanish and you are going to have your lessons in English, prepare yourself for some Espanglish), and the campus is really good. You can make great friends – natives (Spanish people are the best, even though careful flirting with them – here they call themselves picaflores, kind of Casanova) and international ones.
Did you take classes in English or Spanish? Was it hard to get used to the language? How long did it take you?
I took my lessons half in English and half in Spanish. I have to admit that at the very beginning I preferred to attend all my classes in English as I felt myself more confident with this language but due to the overlapping of classes I had to make some changes and ended up having my lessons in both languages. At the beginning it was a bit confusing, especially with the terminology in Spanish, I wasn´t used at it and it cost me a bit, but in 2 months I could manage it pretty well. So, it ended up a very interesting and challenging at the same time learning experience.
How hard were the classes? Was it difficult to pass? Which were your favourite/least favorite classes/professors?
For me personally the classes weren´t hard at all. Like all over, some professors are better and more dedicated and others less, but in general all of them had a good knowledge in their fields and tried to transmit it to us the easiest way. I didn´t put much effort and neither study a lot at home (since I wanted to make some time and enjoy also as a cultural exchange), but tried to attend all the classes (even though it was kind of hard to concentrate on some morning lessons without sleeping at all) and I managed to pass all my exams.
Was it hard to find accommodation? Any advice for future students?
It wasn´t difficult to find accommodation, maybe speaking already Spanish before coming here helped me, since I could contact directly with the landlords in Spanish (just google Milanuncios on the Internet and you have hundreds of posts for renting houses/apartments). But any international student can go to the ESN office. The volunteers over there are really helpful and friendly.
How do you think this experience has changed you?
All this experience has changed me a lot actually. Starting by the fact of breaking lots of barriers, becoming a much more open minded person, accept much more the diversity and enjoy the cultural differences rather than trying to compare which one is the best. It helped me realize that there are amazing people, interesting history, architecture, cities and sightseeing all over the world, all you need is to open your eyes and your heart and embrace the diversity.
It helped me to boost my confidence and stop comparing myself with the others and start competing against myself, trying to improve day after day and love the process throughout all the changes.
Finally, how did you experience the COVID pandemic here at Almería? Are you happy with UAL?
So, I would consider that this is a long reflective period which also had the bright side of making me realize what really matters in this life.