We interview to Elien Van der Jeucht, an international student from Belgium who is living and studing at Unicasa… Elien studies at the School of Economics and Business. We talk about her adaptation to Pamplona and the University.
How was your adaptation to Pamplona?
Studying abroad is a big step and it changes you completely.
Compared to a couple of friends, I wasn’t feeling home sick the first couple of months. As a surprise, my mom came to visit me for one weekend in November and weird enough, that’s when I started feeling home sick. Luckily my exams were over soon and I was able to go home for the holidays.
In Belgium, everybody hurries to their work and in the evening everybody hurries to be back home in time for dinner. The culture in Spain is totally different. People go out with friends and family and they play with the little kids in the park. I was surprised about all the green parks in Pamplona, since you don’t have that in Belgium.
Also, in my country almost everybody lives in houses, except for people who live in the center of a big city. Here in Pamplona, the entire city is filled with apartment buildings and you only see a couple of houses in the outskirts of the city.
What do you think of the university atmosphere?
I simply loved the university. In Belgium, all the campuses of the different specializations are in the middle of the city centers and they are spread over the country. Here you have one big domain that belongs to the university. It’s a very green area with a big sports complex, a library, a museum, the university clinic, … You also feel very safe since you can’t go in or out of a building without your university student card.
Apart from the Spanish students, has it been easy to meet foreign students like you?
Before the classes start in September, you get the opportunity to sign up for the Welcoming Days, organized by the International Committee from the university. In these couple of days you get to know everything about Pamplona, the university and a lot of other practical information. All the international students are super friendly and socially so you end up talking in different languages all day long. During this period I spoke Dutch (mother tongue), English, Spanish, French and German in one day. You’ll notice that your language skills will develop rapidly, especially your Spanish listening skills will evolve fast.
What do you like the most about Pamplona as a city?
I like that Pamplona is located in Spain and that it is the capital of Navarra. I like that it’s located in the north of Spain so you can easily visit France as well. Behind the university area starts the Pyrenees, so you can go for a hiking trip in summer or in winter you can go skiing or snowboarding. Pamplona is also surrounded by a lot of beautiful cities and natural phenomena. Make sure you visit Vitoria-Gasteiz, Bilbao, San Sebastian, Biarritz, Barcelona and Madrid. If you like the nature, you must go to the witch caves of Zugarramurdi, the waterfalls in Parque Natural Urbasa Andia, the caves with stalagmites and stalactites of Urdax Caves, the forest with giant lake of Selva de Irati, the desert with rice fields of Bardenas Reales in Tudela and the view over the wooded valleys of Foz de Arbayun. I also like the Spanish culture and the passionate way of living.
What do you like the least about Pamplona as a city?
I don’t really like the view of rows and streets filled with apartments. I am used to the Belgian view; crowded city centers with apartments and houses but also a lot of farm land, a lonely house once and a while when you’re driving from one city to the next. Furthermore, Pamplona isn’t very easy to get there. There are a lot of ways to get to Pamplona, such as train, bus plain but he easiest one usually is the most expensive one!
What advice would you give to international students who are coming to study in Pamplona?
Make sure you pack everything you need. Bring a big suitcase, a trolley and a backpack or a handbag. Don’t waste suitcase space on things like cleaning supplies for the apartment, toiletries, towels, pillows.
Also compare a couple of months in advance the prices of transportation. Make your choice between different airlines and print a map of the city so you don’t get lost on your first days.
Furthermore, make good arrangements with Unicasa. Let them know and help you. You can also go to the mall in old town called ‘Corte Ingles’ to get a cellphone subscription at Vodafone. For 15 euros a month you get 2GB of internet and unlimited texts and calls to other Vodafone users.
Finally, did it help being in Unicasa?
I am very lucky with the service and the location of my apartment since it only takes 10 minutes to walk to the University. Furthermore, Unicasa also helped me to get in touch with other students.
GOOD LUCK AND JUST GO WITH THE FLOW!
PHOTO. Elien the first on the left at the University