domingo, 30 de agosto de 2015

Testimonial: Yeong Num Yam about Spain: "Best summer in my life"

Last June, a small groups of Southeast Asian students traveled to Barcelona to join the ESADE Summer School. For most of them it was their first time travelling such a long distance on their own. A new challenge in a different country far away from home. They all had an amazing experience and many lifechanging stories to tell. Here we bring back one of those stories.
We are please to introduce you to Yeong Yun Nam, who dropped her plans to climb Mount Kinabalu in her home country, Malaysia, to see fulfilled her dream to travel to Spain and learn first hand about a country she is passionate about. 

Summer Program Experience in Barcelona, Spain (July 2015)

First of all, I never planned a visit to Spain this summer. Actually, I had another plan: to climb the highest mountain of Southeast Asia - Mount Kota Kinabalu this July with my best friends. That activity plan was made since one year ago, however things always happen out of the plan!
At the end of May, I received an email from my Spanish lecturer about the scholarship from SENAI to study abroad at Barcelona, Spain, for one month in the summer this year. I had some hard times to struggle and decide to abandon my original trip.

In Malaysia, Spain is not as popular as countries like UK, US or Australia when coming to the choice of tourism or study abroad. However, I have been influenced by Spain since young, from architectural, cultural to sport activities (specially football) and these are the reasons I chose to learn Spanish as my foreign language option during my university. After taking the Spanish language course (basic level), my understanding of Spain and Spanish culture became deeper and hence going to Spain became an important thing to do in my dream-list. However, going to study at Spain will definitely increase my financial burden. When I received the news of having the chance to go to join a summer program in Barcelona, I definitely did not hesitate to let go of the chance to fulfill my dream. No doubt, I would say that this July is the best summer in my life so far with the incredible international experience.

If you ask me how to define my international experience, I would say that is a bit difficult to explain in only one or two words. My international experience is more like a process or journey of learning and self-development from domestic to global eyesight. The international experience I have gained started once I departed from the airport. I learned to be independent, because this was the first time I traveled alone to such a long journey (approximately 20 hours) and definitely I success to reach the destination safe and sound!
Besides, my international experience is also about to meet people from all over the world and make friends! I have met many people from different places whose have shared their stories of their countries to me and in exchange I have shared the stories of mine too! Nevertheless, I have experience the difference of education system and teaching style in international level. Therefore, with this opportunity, I think that I have gained a better me with wider eyesight and brighter mind! I believe that I have gained the confidence in myself that my future should not only limit in our home country.
The biggest joy for me in this summer program is to experience the differences between Spain and Malaysia. Cultural difference for example the Spanish style of greetings, the cuisine and eating habits, the chillax lifestyle (siesta and fiesta) have impressed me a lots! Nevertheless, the university experience in Spain is totally difference from my university in Malaysia too! The size of campus which I entered is not that huge if compared with my campus in Malaysia but the design of buildings and facilities is new, modern and more up-to-date than my own university. The teaching style of professors in ESADE, Spain, is different from my previous professors in Malaysia. For instance, the professor of one of my courses -intercultural communication- knew the names of all students in the first lesson and he knew our strengths and weaknesses very well which he managed to pinpoint our flaws, keep encouraged and improved us and made us be more confident after the end of lessons. We even have our own video which recorded our performance in presentations from the first lesson to the final lesson. I can feel like having a personal coach which I've never experienced in my own university. In the university in Spain, I experienced the difference of learning style between the students of western countries and eastern countries (Asia). Western students are more active in class whereas the Asian students are more passive. This is well presented during the lessons as western students are more energetic in participating in class by asking and answering the questions from professors whereas the eastern students usually like to be listeners and seldom willing to give opinions. Their way of learning and passion in study have impressed me and made me learn from them.

After staying one month in Spain, I have truly lived the local life there, and there are things I love the most and the least about Spain. I am thankful that I was staying in Sant Cugat, a small town, instead of the city center of Barcelona because the small town is more peaceful, comfortable and suitable for studying and living than the overwhelming tourist hotspot in Barcelona. Talking about my favorites of Spain, first of all, I love their spirit of work hard, play hard, which make them being serious during work times but not forget to relax during weekend or off working times.
This is much different from the working culture in Malaysia or Singapore that is always hectic until work life imbalance. Nonetheless, the circumstances of Barcelona which surrounded by the richness of arts and histories of Catalonia or Spain are always amazing and my favorite of all times. The friendliness of local people there will make you feel so warm and always welcome. Many people have warned me about the ‘professionalism’ of pickpockets but if you are alert enough then you need not to worry much.

This experience is somehow challenging me and it has taught me how to face those challenges. First of all, to accept the offer of scholarship to join the summer program has taught me how to face time constraint. During the period of scholarship announcement, it was my final exam period in my university. I have to be multitasking, studied for exam and prepared for Barcelona in only 2 weeks.  I am very lucky to have the assistances from SENAI team during that time which guided me all the times, help me in transportations, accommodations and many things else in the limited times. Not forget to thank to the diplomacy of Malaysia government with European Union which allow Malaysian citizen travel to EU without visa for 90 days. This had saved my time on the procedure of application of visa.
Besides, I have faced my mental preparation problems. As I mentioned above, this is my first overseas long haul journey. I felt very excited and adventurous at first but also felt worried after that because I was the only one travel all along from Malaysia to the other side of the globe. Again, the professionalism of SENAI team has soothed and calmed me a lots by their prompt response all the times. Their efficiency and effectiveness in answering all my questions on email and through Skype have made me felt confidence and reliable on them. Without their helps I would not have such pleasure experience study abroad in Spain! After I’m back in my country, many peoples are curious and have asked me about my study experience in Spain and I would definitely recommend SENAI to them!

When I had to leave, I was so happy to return home but so depressed to be leaving such an amazing and incredible city. Barcelona, will always have a special place in my heart and I cannot wait to return! I am so thankful for the supports from my family, my teachers, my friends and my beloved SENAI team members. After all, I would like to give some words to any students who wish to study in Spain but still struggling, do not hesitate to give yourself a chance to gain a wonderful lifetime experience and with the help of SENAI team of course. Need not to worry about pickpocket, Barcelona is a safe and beautiful city!

After her summer in Barcelona, Eunice has found a new prespective. She would like to finish her studies and apply for a master degree in the EU, maybe Spain is the country of her choice, and then SENAI team will be there to support her at any time. Good luck dear!

And you? what are you waiting for? Spain awaits you!

As usual, feel free to comment, share and like

jueves, 20 de agosto de 2015

Testimonial - Adhgha Nizar about his summer in Spain: "Immersive, vastly enriching, and unforgettable..."

 As you all know, last June some South East Asian students had the chance to join the ESADE International Summer School in Barcelona thanks to the partnership between SENAI and this prestigious business school. 
It was a great experience for all of them. Now they are back in their home countries and more than willing to share their experiences and stories with you. 
Please let us introduce you to Adhgha, a young student from Surabaya (Indonesia) who spent 4 weeks in Barcelona learning about International Business and Global Governance and Geopolitics

Q.: Adhgha, could you please tell me one sentence that resumed your summer experience? A.: Immersive, vastly enriching and unforgettable

Q.: Question from SENAI's team
A.: Answer by Adhgha

Q.: How did you choose to come to Spain?

A.: It was a very easy decision. First of all, because the trip was (mostly) academic, the academic quality matters. And Spain has a lot of very reputable education institution. In my own case, I was blessed with having the opportunity to experience the academic atmosphere of ESADE Business School, which, despite its very young age, is amongst one of the most reputable business school worldwide, partially courtesy of its constant high position in various business school ranking as is being published by institutions such as Financial Times.
Secondly, summer school is as much about summer as it is about school! And being the Western Mediterranean country that it is, I always have this impression that Spain offers the best of both of the world for students coming from tropical country like myself. First, it is Western. So that you’ll be able to immerse yourself into the Western culture while admiring the grandeur of Western architecture (and really, Barcelona was so beautiful) , the like of which you most likely won’t be able to experience in your country.
On top of all of this, its public transportation and tourism sector is highly developed (at the very least in the Barcelona region), so you tourist would have a lot of fun and easy options to enjoy there. However,
by the virtue of being a Mediterranean country, it is not as cold as the other Western country, moreover in the summer. So it’s a win – win, you get to enjoy the Western without having to adapt a lot to its climate!

Q.: How would you define your international experience? 

A.: It really enrich my perspective. When you’re living your life mostly in just one culture (like I do), you might get this impression that your way of doing things is the way to do things. What I learn from my excursion, however, is that people in other culture might also have that same impression, that their way to do things is the way to do things. When people from different cultures meet therefore, an open mind and a humble heart are needed, for both parties to be able to really decide on how they should do things without insulting the other. This realization compelled me to be less self-centered and more considerate, things whose impacts would really go beyond the duration of the short excursion.

Q.: What do you think did you gain with this opportunity? 

A.: Of course the certificate, hehehe.
But it is really beyond that piece of paper, to be honest. The knowledge that I gained in the class, the non-academic experience (I went to my first ever music festival J J J ), and of course the pride of having the privilege to attend the program and taste a little bit of Barcelona.

Q.: What other facets of this experience have been challenging? 

A.: The trip between the accommodation and the university could be a little bit challenging sometime (with “sometime” mostly means that time when you’re late or that time when the sun is really unforgiving). To be fair, it was not due the place in itself. I know colleagues which had to took a longer trip than myself to go the campus. It was more because of how I did things in Indonesia. In case you don’t know already, we Indonesian do not walk that much. We let the motorized vehicles to do our dirty job of walking. In my time in Spain, of course I couldn’t do that. Due to various reasons, I had to either walk or take the public transportation. To be fair of, I could just took the public transportation. I didn’t, however, because, well, I didn’t think that the trip (which is “only” around 2.5 km) really worth the price (which was like 2 EUR/trip). So I chose to walk the full distance everyday. Thankfully, it was a beautiful neighborhood to walk through, with a lot of new things to experience while passing by.
I was once coming home from class when I passed a plaza with a band playing Spanish music when suddenly tens of locals put their bags in place and made circle around it. Holding hands and dancing to the music, with more and more people joining the circle. It felt so warm to be there, with people having fun together though I was that most of them were complete strangers to each other! I end up spending my whole evening there.

"I was once coming home from class when I passed a plaza with a band playing Spanish music when suddenly tens of locals put their bags in place and made circle around it. Holding hands and dancing to the music,(....) It felt so warm to be there (...) I end up spending my whole evening there.". Photo credit: Adhgha Nizar

Q.: What are the biggest differences you have seen between the university experience in Spain and in your home country? 

A.: The lectures are way way more inclusive. The professors wanted to make us (well at least those that are actively engaged in the class) to genuinely feel that our opinion matters in the class. I have one experience when the professor asked a question and there was one student that answered with an answer that was, in my opinion, really off. The professor however, went into a great length of effort to somehow incorporate the answer, “corrected” the answer without insulting the student. These kinds of behavior really encourage us to engage more actively in the class.

Q.: What do you like the most/the least about Spain?

A.: There are so many good impressions that Spain left on me, many that might always stay there. To sum it all up, Spain really fulfill my expectations. It is a very developed, cultural, and beautiful country.
What I like the least? The working hours here! hahaha.
A professor once asked my class what words came up to mind when he said “USA”. And one of my friend answered, “convenience”. He explained further that in USA it is more convenient to do things (though by things he basically meant shopping). You have chains of supermarkets that are opening way until late so it is convenient to do your things. I believe that is also true with Indonesia, where, mostly due to the rivalry we’re having here between chains of supermarket, it will be harder to walk a kilometer without finding one than the otherwise. In Spain, I found that shops are closing a little bit earlier. And remember, many of them take like a 2-hour break for lunch.
My most shocking experience, however, came when I went to a local supermarket to do my grocery on Sunday. It was closed.

Being Indonesian, that was so weird for me. I mean, it was Sunday! People do grocery in Sunday! At least that’s how it is in Indonesia, and Malaysia and the Philippines as fellow summer school students from those countries told me. To be fair of, however, turned out that it wasn’t “Spain things”. My colleagues from France and Italy were as shocked as I was on that Sunday when they knew that we did our grocery on Sunday back home. Most supermarkets also closed on Sunday in France and Italy. One more thing about inconvenience. There was one midnight when I was wandering in the downtown of Barcelona. Feeling hungry, I rushed myself when I recognized an outlet of my favorite fast food chain. I was shocked, however, to find that it was already closed. I just find it hard to discern. I mean it was only like 00.10 AM, it was in the downtown, it was in a tourism hotspot, and it was a high season for tourism. Why do you close that early, why, why... Back in my hometown Surabaya, this kind of outlet would open for 24 hours.

Q.: How SENAI helped you during this time?

A.: Pretty much by leaving me with so little things to do by myself. Of course I’ll still have to prepare for both the visa application and the trip, and showed up in person anytime the visa process required me to do so. But aside of that? SENAI took care of my application (and even offered to correct some mistakes that I made in my cover letter), addressed every concern that I have to ESADE, arranged the meeting for the visa application, searched and arranged the accommodation for me in Spain, offered the flight plan for the trip, arranged a pick up service for me in the Barcelona’s airport. Pretty much everything. When you’re going somewhere you’re unfamiliar with, or doing something you never done before (it was both my first time to apply for visa and to go abroad alone), these kinds of help are really invaluable.

Q.: Would you recommend SENAI and study in Spain to other students?

Q.: Absolutely. Studying in Spain is a very enriching experience, an experience that is so immersive and beyond the academic. Due to the unfamiliarity, however, it could also be discouraging. This is exactly where SENAI fits in. They can help you with pretty much every concern you might have about going to Spain, without which, I honestly believe that my preparation to Spain would be way more difficult.

Q.: Is there any other comment, suggestion or advice that you would like to give to students going to Spain in the future?

A.: Compared with where do you come from, Spain could be very different. The culture, the food, the way things are done. At times, these differences could be discouraging. When that times do occur however, I suggest that it would be beneficial for you to keep your mind open and focus on the goal that you’re trying to achieve when you’re there.

Adhgha is now finishing his studies in the the Airlangga University, Department of International Relations, Surabaya, Indonesia. He is also a proud member of Post Keynesian Study Group. You can check out his own blog here.

We will keep you posted with more experiences, more stories and more satisfyed students who have enjoyed and tasted what study in Spain is like.
As usual, do not hesitate to comment, share and like :)
Have a beautiful day!