Why did you decide to study abroad?
Because I'm interested in other cultures and languages. Due to my career, I thought it would be a good idea to go abroad and good opportunity for me not just in terms of my career but also for my personal development. I’ve studied Spanish for 4 years, so I wanted to go to Spain.
Why did you choose Almería?
In the first place, I was planning to go during the winter semester and I wanted to go as south as possible, because of the temperature. I wanted to be in a coastal city. Then, I looked for the partner universities which we have in Munich, and Almería was one of it. I learned about different cities and just liked it the most, because it's not that big and touristy. Even if I study Tourism, I don't like crowded and touristy cities for such a long stay, while it's always good for visiting, but not for four or five months. So I applied for Almería and I was lucky to get it.
What did you expect from UAL that turned out to be different from reality?
It was just a little bit complicated, the organization with the Erasmus things, not the learning agreement itself, but the changes and everything. This was very difficult in September, October and in February. I got the impression that the organization within the UAL or within the international office was a bit chaotic - But everything turned out to be fine in the end!
Would you recommend other students to study abroad?
Yes, because it doesn't matter what you are experiencing, any kind of experience, no matter it's good or bad. It's always good for you in the end because you grow as a person, meet new people, know more languages, get more and your horizon is getting bigger. In general, I would recommend going and studying abroad to anyone.
As for UAL, I only would recommend if you already have a certain level of Spanish. It's possible to study there in English, because my flat mates were from Turkey and Gaza and they only speak English, but if you want to connect more with the city of Almería, the people living there and the culture, it would be good if you already have a certain level of Spanish.
Did you take classes in English or Spanish? Was it hard to get used to the language? How long did it take you?
I had all my classes in Spanish in the first and second semester, but I have to admit at the beginning I was completely lost. It took me about four to six weeks to get used to the Almería accent because it's different, but I get used to it from the middle of December. In my third or fourth month, I was able to understand them without thinking a lot.
How hard were the classes? Was it difficult to pass?
In general, the classes were really easy, as the content of the classes was really basic compared especially to Munich. So it was not really difficult for me, for the Erasmus students or the students abroad to pass them. But the exams were kind of hard because you really had to write a lot, for example, in Munich, the majority of our exams are just multiple choice, so you only have to set your crosses. So it was really hard for me to write like four to six pages in a language which is not my mother tongue. It was really crazy, the first exam especially, but we passed everything wonderfully. It's a challenge, you only grow with these kinds of challenges, so it was good.
Which were your favorite and least favorite classes?
I really liked the Geography courses, which I had two of them in the first semester, because the professor she was really kind and I love geography, so I obviously enjoyed the course. We also made three excursions with these courses, so I think these were my favourite classes. My least favourite class called Operation and Management of Touristic Companies. Due to the whole situation with the pandemic, and the fact that we had to do all the group work from home, we didn't meet one single time in the whole second semester, so it was really difficult to organize that, and the content was like what the hell are we supposed to do, I didn't really understand a lot. But it's not bad, it was difficult for all of us students and for the professors, and especially the online lessons for the professors who are 50 years and older.
Where did you go for those 3 excursions?
The first excursion was in two little villages called Alboloduy and Terque near Almería, we had to look up several things, make small questionnaires with the people living there. For example, there were a lot of museums we visited them all, it was really nice actually. There is a really nice landscape up there, and I really enjoyed that because if we didn't make this excursion, I would have never gone there, so I really appreciated this.
The second one was also in November, we went to the Comunidad Autonoma of Murcia, and we visited a holiday resort - actually it was a city, but full of hotels. In November, it's really a ghost town, so it was kind of scary there, because it was empty, just huge hotels and nothing else. There was one street where we spent one and a half hours, and we saw maybe five cars. It was really scary, but it was cool anyway. In Cartagena, we visited the city, which had a Roman theatre, it was cool.
The third excursion was in December, and then we went to the ski station in Sierra Nevada, it's actually not far away from the city of Granada, we also had to make interviews with the tourists there and stuff like that. It was really interesting.
If you could change something, what would you do differently before your study abroad experience?
Actually nothing, because you never know, like you can't prepare yourself in a proper way, you only can organize all your stuff, take all the important documents with you and inform yourself the most possible about the country, the city, a little bit about the culture. But I wouldn't change anything because when you are there, you meet the people and make the first experiences, you never know what awaits you, so just be open-minded and see what's happening.
Was it hard to find accommodation? Any advice for future students?
For me, it was not hard to find accommodation because I read some reports from the former students and we publish these reports on our university's website, they recommended like Facebook groups, I don't know if it's the usual thing for every university. There is also an online platform called Idealista which is the typical platform to search for accommodation in Spain, I looked up there. In the end, I found my flat via Facebook and then I contacted the woman, we exchanged our WhatsApp numbers and we also made a video conference, and it was pretty easy. I was very lucky, because I heard different stories as well. For example, one friend, she had to go to court because she had rented an apartment that apparently didn't really exist. It was very crazy. In general, the Facebook groups and Idealista are the best option - you always find something there. It's also possible to search for accommodation simply once you’re there: just arrive and start searching for accommodation while you're in the hostel in the first week, you also find some things because the flat market in Almería isn't that bad, so you will always find some fine accommodation.
What did you think of the atmosphere at your home university?
At Munich, my faculty is in an old and very small military building. Sometimes I have the feeling that we are just like in the school, not in the university - not because of the lectures or the professors, it’s just the outer appearance, I didn't really feel like studying at an actual university. But the studying atmosphere itself and the quality of education is really good at my Munich faculty. In Almería, it's like the other way around, we have a very nice campus, nice university with the sports center and everything, you really feel like an actual student at university, but the quality of the lessons at Tourism is not as as good, although I think there is potential.
Which places in your home city would you recommend?
The city of Munich itself is really beautiful, even if I studied like already for two years, there are still many places to see. But the main places are marine clubs, the Englischer Garten - this huge park is really recommendable. Also, towards the direction of the Alps, there is a train line with which you are able to go out and make day trips. It's just like one hour and really recommendable especially for exchange students because it's something completely different than the city. For the different festivals in Munich, the Tollwood in summer and winter is really cool, these places and the Olympic Park.
What would you recommend to do at your hometown?
We have a lot of leisure opportunities in Wernberg-Köblitz which is a very small city, for example, different sports courses, city tours and a lot of museums, so these are very interesting things. I always drove to my hometown because I live in a small village, which is two hours away from Munich.
How do you think this experience has changed you?
In general, I am more open-minded, and got to know myself much better than I did before because I lived on my own. I lived in a flat with other people and had to do all my things alone, so I grew as a person. I would say, about the whole pandemic thing, that I didn't expect to live such a thing abroad apart from my family, friends. I stayed in Spain throughout the whole pandemic, and a lot of my friends like almost everybody took a plane in the middle of March and all went home, so I was kind of alone for the rest of the semester. I just lived there with my flat mate. I thought the experience abroad is already very challenging, then the pandemic came and made it even harder, but I don't regret and will never regret my decision to have stayed during the whole pandemic, so I feel like personally very powerful because I live in another country and my relation I have with Almería and Spain is now even stronger than before. Even if it was a very hard time, I just gained the positive face of it. Of course, my Spanish is way better now, which was one of the main purposes why I went to abroad.
Are you happy with UAL during the COVID pandemic?
Yes, I have to say they managed for my career. I couldn't complain, there were good days and bad days, and you could see that the professors were really stressed from time to time, in general, it was okay for me. I heard a lot of different stories, but for myself, I couldn't complain.
What would you recommend to UAL students preparing to spend one semester or year at your University (housing, traditions, cultural shocks to be expected, etc.)?
We also have ESN or different mentors in Munich, like people who take care of you when you come to Munich, so I would say if you are anxious or whatever, go and speak with them because there are always people who can help you. You don't need to feel helpless or desperate. I would recommend learning German because I know we have some lectures in English at my home university, but I don't know if it's possible for the Erasmus people to have these courses, so a proper German level would be nice. With the housing, I think there is an office in our university where you can go and get help, but if you already come to Germany, you don't need to come here, you can have a look before like book a hostel.
The German culture is completely different, especially in Munich which is a really big city, especially in the mornings and evenings with the rush hours, when things are very stressful. This is something I hate about Munich, because you're always so stressed. It's also very crowded, not only the metro or the buses but also throughout the city, the places and the restaurants – it depends on where you are, but the typical spots are very crowded, so you should try to be prepared for this which could turn out to be a culture shock.
I would also point out our coffee culture, which I have almost never seen in Spain: here in Germany there is always coffee to go. You can always see somebody with a paper cup or a reusable one. It's very stressful, we don't sit down to have a coffee, we just take it with us.