Nikki - University of Salamanca

Bachelor of International Studies
Semester 1, 2018
The social aspect, the nightlife and culture around food/ drink in Salamanca is wonderful.

Academic experience

I studied Poltical Science, Modern & Contemporary History, Spanish Literature, Systemic Functional Grammar and International Relations. 4 of my 5 classes were in Native level Spanish which was obviously a big challenge as a non native speaker. I overcame this by studying as much as possible and creating an index each class of words or phrases in Spanish that I did not know, and looking them up when I got home. The enrolment/ registration process at USAL was extremely different to UQ and frankly, quite awful. Available classes for the semester weren't made available until the first day of class, having been posted on clipboard in the middle of an outdoor courtyard during a snowstorm. We were told to try classes and we had 2 weeks until sign on, which involved getting the courses approved by the exchange co-ordinator then having a meeting with the administration office to finalise the course selection. As it was Semester 2 in Spain, most of the courses available were a continuation from the Semester 1 courses, and required that previous knowledge to be able to complete the course. I was told this wouldn't matter by an exchange co-ordinator at the university and attended these classes for the first week, only to be told by the professors that I wasn't allowed to be in the class as I wasn't there the previous semester. This made it very difficult to find courses that I could enrol in and I ended up signing on to whatever I could, which made it very hard to then receive the appropriate credits from UQ as I had to update my study plan multiple times. The administration and exchange department at USAL is chaotic and terribly disorganised, as every staff member I spoke to gave me different information, exams were schedule for the exam same time and it was the students responsibility to change each exam, my email address was entered wrong by an admin worker so I didn't receive any access to the student platform until months into my exchange and there was just no support for exchange students at all.

Personal experience

I gained a considerable amount of skills and experience form my exchange, through both the negative and positive aspects of the trip. I made a few solid friendships which I will treasure for a lifetime and due to Spain's centrality in Europe, I was able to travel extensively for relatively cheap. Despite how difficult studying in native Spanish was, my language skills improved tremendously, and socialising in bars/ restaurants forced me to speak conversational Spanish constantly which was fantastic practice. I had many problems with my courses and enrolment at USAL which forced me to be very resilient and stand up for myself.

Accommodation

I lived off-campus in an apartment as the University is very integrated within in the town of Salamanca, so it was almost like living on campus. I enjoyed the independence of living in an apartment and how easy it was to function there. Everything I needed was within very close walking distance. If possible, I would encourage future students to stay in a hotel/ hostel when arriving in Salamanca and do an inspection of apartments before signing onto one, as I agreed to my accommodation before arriving and my apartment was very old and not the nicest for how expensive it was. The host university provided no assistance in finding accommodation so the process was a bit daunting, especially if travelling over there alone like I did.

Costs

My rent was 350 euro per month. This was on the high end of the spectrum for an apartment in Salamanca, prices vary from 150 - 450 euro per month. The bills for the apartment were very expensive, particularly the gas bill which was 100 euro each every 2 months. Eating at a restaurant/ going out in general is very cheap in Salamanca, and grocery shopping in relatively cheap as well. I spent about 25 - 30 euro per week on groceries and about 20 euros on social events such as going to bars. I would recommend about 2000 - 3000 euros for living expenses and 500 - 1000 euros for spending money.

Professional Development

My Spanish language skills and knowledge of European history and politics has been enriched thoroughly through my exchange which has contributed to my professional development by giving me a skill set that I can add to my CV.

Highlight

The social aspect, the nightlife and culture around food/ drink in Salamanca is wonderful.

Top tips

Only go to USAL if you are trying to receive credits for general electives. It is almost impossible to find courses at the uni that line up with any required UQ courses. Also, if possible, avoid going in our first Semester as this is 2nd Semester in Spain and the courses available to exchange students are far more limited.