I was first introduced to the Spanish language and culture early on in high school and the more I learned about this amazing country, the greater my fascination became. This developed even further as I became enchanted with Spanish food, music and movies. Years later, I finally got my chance to visit the country I’d come to admire in July 2017 when I participated in the week long International Science Week Zaragoza programme, which took place in the north-eastern Aragon region. The programme, funded by the University of Zaragoza aims at giving European students a glance of the university, the Faculty of Science and the city and culture of Zaragoza. This was an amazing opportunity for me and I took so much away from it.
The participants comprised of a total of fifteen European students from: England, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Romania, France, Poland, as well as University of Zaragoza students – all majoring in science disciplines. The daily schedules were intense and packed full of activities, which made it fairly easy to get the hang of things early on and to quickly become at home with the environment and people around me. The vast range of events included tours of the university, visits to science museums and the historic Aljaferia Palace, a tour of Zaragoza with local students and staff, scientific laboratory activities and sports sessions. Additionally, opportunities were provided for one-on-one meetings with researchers working at the various research institutes. This gave us a chance to get to know the scientists working in our respective fields and for those of us interested in doing an internship or studying abroad, to ask questions and get the relevant information.
The best moment for me however was the day-long excursion to the Pyrenees. The trip included a visit to the Laboratorio Subterráneo de Canfranc, an underground scientific facility located 850 meters deep under the Mount Tobazo in the Spanish side of the Aragon Pyrenees. The underground location of the lab protects it from cosmic radiation, making it advantageous for research on rarely occurring natural phenomena such as “dark matter”, a great unknown that takes up 95% of the mass of the universe. Being inside the lab was a surreal experience, and it made me appreciate how lucky I am in having the rare opportunity of seeing how this research was carried out.
Going to Zaragoza not only placed me outside of my comfort zone where people spoke a language I was not fluent in, but it also gave me an insight of a university experience in a different country, as well a chance to learn more about the culture I’ve come to admire. Although the week was somewhat tiring at times, the experience was well worth it as I met some amazing people and got to see things not many people in the world have. After the programme, I was also pleased to learn that the Vice Dean International of the University of Zaragoza had contacted the head of Natural Sciences asking whether UEA would like to sign an Erasmus+ agreement with their university. I would therefore strongly encourage any student given a chance to study abroad, regardless of whether this is short or long term, to take the opportunity. You never know what might come about from your experience and the difference you can make. Spain instantly felt like a second home to me and this trip gave me the confidence to be more open to challenges. Since Zaragoza, I have gone back to Barcelona and Malaga and I cannot wait to explore the different regions of Spain!
Sauda is a UEA Natural Sciences who participated in a week long short course at Zaragoza and received funding from the Study Abroad Office.
If you’re interested in participating in a European short course get in touch to see if you could be considered for a short course scholarship.
University of Zaragoza is also a study abroad partner – click here to read more.