With a year abroad being such an enriching experience for many, it is not surprising that Warwick students are often keen to share their stories of studying overseas. As exciting as these recollections may be, we have a tendency to overlook the inverse. It is a rare occurrence that we reflect upon how exchange students find their time here on campus, crucially missing out on an external perspective of the ‘Warwick Bubble’.
I sat down with Erasmus student, Marta Segovia, who is on exchange at Warwick to study PAIS for two semesters. Originally from Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Marta reflected on the lessons and surprises her year at Warwick has so far presented.
Without a doubt, one of Warwick’s most distinctive features is its central focus on campus life. For Marta, the biggest difference between studying at home and at Warwick is the latter’s campus set-up. While her home university is based in a city setting, Marta has been enjoying the convenience presented by Warwick’s ‘Bubble’.
“We don’t have this concept in Spain of everything being inside a campus. This has made a huge difference to my life because everything is so close. I can really experience student life and I really like it.”
Nonetheless, one trade-off of living on campus for Marta has been the cost of accommodation.
“In Barcelona, I have my own flat. I think that here the prices are very high for living on campus. If I paid the same price I currently do here for accommodation in Spain, I would have my own bathroom and there would be fewer people sharing a kitchen. Dorms in Spain, of the same price, would normally provide access to gyms and swimming pools”.
The people here have surprised me. I didn’t expect people to be that warm
However, despite a higher cost of living, Marta is generally enjoying her Erasmus experience at Warwick. Choosing to study at Warwick due to its campus nature, wishing to improve her English and explore British culture, Marta has been pleasantly surprised, both academically and socially.
“I really like how the classes are structured here. It is easier to learn and the classes are more interesting. Here I can take classes on China, Africa and Puerto Rico. We don’t have that in Spain: in Catalunya, my studies focus on Spanish and Catalan politics.
“The people here have surprised me. I didn’t expect people to be that warm. I feel like everyone here is so nice and always willing to help you.”
Taking a real shine to Warwick’s welcoming atmosphere, Marta has also been keen to take advantage of the SU’s wide-reaching roster of societies, already joining Warwick Amnesty, Warwick Anti-Sexism Society, Warwick STAR, and Boxing.
Everything is pre-prepared and there are a lot of dishes that you can just put in the microwave
“We don’t have this in my home university. We have really small societies but there are not as many as here. For example, we have a debating society like at Warwick, but societies operate on a much lesser scale at home.”
With such a positive experience of life at Warwick so far, it is difficult to imagine any drawbacks to Marta’s time here. Indeed, she admits to having faced very few challenges in terms of settling down and integrating into Warwick’s concept of student life.
However, one thing Marta does miss about living and studying in Barcelona is Spain’s focus on healthy living.
“I feel that food in supermarkets is not very healthy here. Everything is pre-prepared and there are a lot of dishes that you can just put in the microwave. We don’t have that much in Spain; I think that this should be reduced”.
“Also, I really don’t like the use of plastic in British supermarkets. Lots of fruit and vegetables come wrapped in plastic here; there is no need to do this. In Spain, you take your fruit and vegetables without the extra plastic packaging”.
This, in itself, is perhaps why we should give greater consideration to the experiences of exchange students living in the UK. We can learn an endless amount from the way in which different cultures approach daily living. From this, we should reflect upon our own lives from inside the ‘Warwick Bubble’ and see what we can learn from those stepping in.
What can we do better? What are we doing right? How can we make society more welcoming for those who have scarcely experienced British culture previously? The answer often lies where we least expect it.