Accommodation Awards: Bianca

When looking for accommodation I wasn’t sure what I wanted, I’ve never moved out of home before so I knew this experience was going to be one of many firsts. When choosing accommodation for my exchange here the University of Oviedo offered 3 options: finding my own flat with other students or professionals, living in a university residence or living with a home stay family. I ended applying for a spot in one of the University of Oviedo’s three student residences; El Colegio Mayor san Gregorio, El Colegio Mayor America and the Residencia Universitaria de Mieres. The odds were in my favour and I was lucky enough to get a room in El Colegio Mayor san Gregorio (my first pick!), and it is now the place I call home. While I had been hoping to get an individual room, I have ended up in a double which is slightly cheaper and I now prefer. I got really lucky with both my room and my roommate!

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Accommodation Award for best size and location:
The university residences here are a lot smaller than the ones in Auckland, having between 94 and 112 beds, this means that all the staff get to know you and learn your breakfast orders! While the location is not quite perfect for me, because of how long it takes me to walk to my campus; the location of the Colegios Mayores is excellent! They are located on one of the University’s 6 Campuses in Oviedo and I feel as though I live in a huge sports complex. If you are studying computer sciences or sports medicine these residence would be ideal for you because you would be living 100m away from the faculties! While my walk to uni every morning is a bit long the walk to and from the centre of town is around 10 minutes which is perfect for going out, which everyone here does! If you decided to live here you should be prepared to hear people coming home from a night out between 5 and 8am particularly on weekends.

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Accommodation Award for making life as easy as possible for students:
The residences have a cleaning service that cleans all the rooms’ everyday of the week except Sunday. They come in while we are at uni, make the beds, clean the floor and the bathroom. Towels and bed sheets are also provided by the residence and those get changed every Wednesday by the same lovely ladies that clean our rooms. They also feed us! Unfortunately the food is not included in the price of our rent, however I just pay for everything at the beginning of the month. When it comes to food they have a few options for how you can pay. There are a few people here who have bought their own fridges with them and use the communal microwaves to cook their own meals every day. You can also pay for individual meals, the complete menu everyday or as they call it here the media pension, which is what I do. The media pension means that I pay for breakfast everyday and get either lunch or dinner included in the price, which is perfect for me because I am always still at uni for lunch.

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Accommodation Award for most intense beginning to life in a residence:
One thing they don’t tell you about living here is that for the first three weeks of semester they have novatadas (initiations) for all the new residents who want to take part. It was pretty strange for me at first because I had no idea what everyone was talking about, what are these novatadas? But as my Spanish has improved over the few weeks I’ve been here I’ve begun to understand what is going on. I was told that this year’s initiations started off a lot easier than last years to prevent everyone quitting in the first week like in the previous year. Unfortunately the novatadas a pretty exclusive thing, so if you aren’t part of it you can’t watch any of the activities they plan. For example this week they had a talent show for the initiations, while eating dinner we saw they all head into the common room and thought we would join them, however before the show started they said that anyone who was not taking part wasn’t allowed to even watch. So while it is a great way to get to know some of the other students living here it is a pretty exclusive ‘club’. Some of the activities that were part of this year’s novatadas were waking everyone up to run laps around the track at 4am, staying out till at least 3am every night despite having classes the next morning and blindfolding people and tricking them into believing they were jumping out of a second story window.
Compared to the other accommodation options I had, I really do think that this was the best option for me. I am really enjoying always having people around and always having someone to go out with on the weekends. However, if you prefer your own space there are plenty of well located reasonably priced apartments around to rent. The University of Oviedo also has a housing office with regularly updated lists of available rooms and flats close to the different campuses. All of the Erasmus students I have met since coming here found their own flats and they are finding it really good to. Many flats are a combination of Erasmus students from different countries but there are also flats that are made up of predominantly Spanish students.

Until my next update!
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First Impressions: Bianca

Welcome to the cleanest city in Spain and the only region never to be conquered by the moors. After a few weeks  in Europe, exploring Spain I arrived in Oviedo late in the day to a completely overcast sky and much colder temperatures than I was used to. Less than ideal weather never makes for the best first impression of a place, but my opinion has gone up in the last two weeks. Although the process of getting to this point has been less than smooth, it is definitely worth it! Oveido does not have it’s own airport, however the region Asturias does, with bus transfers from the airport to Oviedo. due to my travels I took the train from Madrid to Oviedo which only took four hours and gave me the opportunity to make a new friend. Oveido is well connected to other cities through the bus station, train lines and the airport, although this is the most expensive option.

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The first thing I had do upon my arrival here was to go to the International office so they could register me in the system. So on my first morning here I reached out to my buddy (assigned to me through the voluntary a-duo program here at the university) to see if he could help me out with finding everything. It wasn’t until we had been waiting in the international office for half an hour that we were told that I needed an appointment to be seen. Luckily they had a computer where we could quickly make an appointment for me that same morning.

The University of Oviedo has 7 campuses spread throughout Oviedo and the neighbouring city Gijon. Each campus is home to different faculties, I have become very familiar with the Cristo Campus as that is where my faculties are located. The university also has many successful alumni including past and present ministers in the Spanish Government.

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A day trip to Gijon is super easy with the bus

Unfortunately I missed the international student orientation session last week as I had compulsory classes on a different campus 40 minutes away. This followed my experience with Spain and Spanish systems up to this point, I have often found myself asking for information that would otherwise be automatically supplied and the organisation of events is not always as smooth of logical as I am used to. However this university has a huge community of Erasmus students from all over Europe so I have been able to meet many people through taking part in some of those events.

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The best experience from this first week would have to be the festivities that accompanied Dia de San Mateo, basically a week long, city wide party with free concerts every night! While I didn’t know any of the groups playing it was an awesome opportunity to see the night life and to get to know some more Spanish music. The highlight of this festival was the 30 minute firework show at midnight on the 20th of September to officially welcome the day of San Mateo.

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Hopefully over the next four months I will be able to break down the language barrier but I’m sure it will be heaps of fun either way!

Adobe Spark (5)

Spain

University of Auckland students have the opportunity to study at three partner universities in Spain:  Universidad de Granada, University de Oviedo and the University of Salamanca. 

Let’s hear what our students have to say…

Sonya Stephen_Granada 1143 (1)

Granada, Spain was an amazing place to live and spend my semester abroad. It is a small city with hundreds of years of history and such a diverse culture. Because Granada was the last region in Spain to be conquered by the Catholic monarchs, it still retains much of its Muslim heritage, which I found to be an exciting mixture of cultures. (Sonya Stephen, University of Granada)

The lifestyle in Spain was also a highlight for me, with food prices being very reasonable, and the timetables being very laidback and relaxed, it made it possible to go out for tapas or drinks on a regular basis and in Salamanca it was possible to go out any day of the week, as the student atmosphere was so great. (Hannah Freeman, Salamanca)

Nanako Ohashi_Granada 1125 (2)

The culture in Granada is really different from Auckland as well, due to the more easy-going nature of the Granaiños (as they are called.) Normally, in Granada, the weekends and the nights are taken up by hanging out with friends in the many teterías (Arab tea houses), going to the tapas bars or going clubbing. Eating out the Spanish way (tapas) is extremely economical as buying a drink means that you will get a small plate of food for free. (Amelia Tan, University of Granada)

The main highlight of Granada was, without a doubt, the tapas -you pay 1.5 to 2 euros for a drink and an always amazing tapa dish (Bar Poe is my favorite place in the world). Tapas is a traditional Spanish custom, but also a crucial part of Granada’s huge youth culture -one third of the city are University students, which gives you an idea of how vibrant it is. (Angus Blyth, University of Granada)

The highlights of my exchange was just being surrounded by Spanish all the time, meeting a mix of people that I would have never met, and exploring a new culture with other exchange students. I loved Spanish food, the tapas that Granada is famous for, and the weekly trips that were organised by student groups of the university. I loved all the nature I was surrounded by, and all the culture. There was always something to do there. (Nanako Ohashi, University of Granada)

The city itself is very attractive, centered on the magnificent Plaza Mayor, which is buzzing with people almost without pause. As the city is so well known as a place to learn Spanish, there are many, many exchange students from all corners of the globe. This can make finding the Spaniards tricky, as they tend to keep themselves to themselves… but it can be done, particularly through language exchanges – meeting someone who, for example, speaks Spanish and wants to learn English, and having a conversation, practicing both. (Harry Harknett, Salamanca)

In Oviedo there is an organization called ESN which is dedicated to the foreign students, they organize all kinds of trips around Spain and to Portugal as well as parties and ‘tapas nights’. (William Webster, Oviedo)

Angus Blyth Granada 1153 (3)

Having already been to Salamanca for a month previously with the Spanish Study Abroad program, I was already more than familiar with the city. At first I stayed with a host family while I studied at the Uni’s language school (highly recommended to get a head start with the language, given that all classes in Salamanca are taught in Spanish) and searched for an apartment, after which I was flatting with two others for the remaining four months. The apartment was nice and had a spectacular view of the cathedral, although the inability to turn off the heating proved an issue for quite some time! Living costs were incredibly cheap compared to Auckland – 350€ a month for accommodation, utilities, food. (Harry Harknett, Salamanca)

Before arriving, I found a flat online in the centre of the city with two flat mates that I was yet to meet, but would soon become great friends. (Hannah Freeman, Salamanca)

Holly Gillan_Granada 1153 (2)

Course difficulty and workload varies immensely between subjects. Arts subjects such as Political and Social Sciences seem to be quite straightforward and not too heavy on workload, but check the prerequisites first. Science subjects, like Maths, on the other hand, shouldn’t be underestimated: read the syllabi thoroughly before choosing your courses and try not to overload on papers because you could find you’re in too deep, especially as they can be really tough on marking and have very different teaching and assessment methods to what you’re used to! (Gabrielle Dyson, University of Granada)

Something that was really different from Auckland is that the relationship between the professors and students are not so formal either, with the students addressing the professors by their first names and meeting up for coffee to talk casually. (Amelia Tan, University of Granada)

The official exam period for semester 1 typically runs from mid-January to the beginning of February. However, a great many courses, though not all, offer everyone the option of taking earlier exams. That said, they are generally flexible, and will allow exchange students with pre-booked flights home to squeeze in all exams before they go. Expectations and workloads could even vary dramatically between two professors who co-taught the same course. Not going to class would be a bad idea, because at least in my courses, a couple had attendance/participation marks, and almost all did not specifically upload class notes to Studium (the CECIL equivalent). On the whole, it was much like UoA in that I had professors whose teaching style I got a lot out of and learned a lot from, and a minority, where this was less true. (Aine Kelly-Costello, Salamanca)

Sonya Stephen_Granada 1143 (3)

Luckily in Salamanca there were a lot of exchange students, and through tours of the city and meetups I made great friends from all over the world that I was able to hang out with and travel with during the year. Since they were all from different countries, including Spain and South America, I ended up speaking Spanish almost the whole time during my exchange which definitely helped me improve and allowed me to enjoy using the amazing language. (Hannah Freeman, Salamanca)

One of the great things was ERASMUS, an international student organisation that allowed you to meet other internationals and they organised a lot of trips around Spain. Travelling around Spain was relatively easy with cheap busses, I managed to explore a lot of Andalusia, Barcelona, Ibiza, and even got to travel to Morocco, which only takes a 1hr long ferry ride from the bottom of Spain. (Kathryn Chung, University of Granada)

Holly Gillan_Granada 1153 (1)