In October, EPITA organized an event for its 2nd year preparatory cycle students to help them prepare for their Erasmus + academic exchange semester, which will begin in January 2019. Logically called Erasmusday by EPITA, this event brought together future exchange students with those who have already spent a fabulous semester abroad. Augustin Abele (EPITA class of 2021) came to speak about his experience in Spain, from January to June 2018.
Where did you spend your semester abroad?
I stayed close to France, studying at the University of the Basque Country in San Sebastián, a city in Northern Spain near the French border in the Basque region, as its name indicates. This was my first real experience abroad, or at least the longest.
Why did you choose this destination over another?
Although EPITA offers many destinations, including Thailand, South Africa, etc., I really did not want to live on the other side of the world! What I found interesting about the University of the Basque Country was their choice of classes taught in English. I felt that it was the ideal location, where I could enjoy the sunshine as well as reassure my parents!
Where did you live when you were there?
I left for Spain with another student from EPITA and we decided to share an apartment in order to make our stay easier – it is never simple to find accommodations from afar. We were lucky to get an apartment close to campus. In fact, it was located slightly outside the city center, near the university.
What did you think of the University?
It has a quite new and rather large campus that houses several departments. I obviously studied in the IT department, but there were also others specialized in law, architecture, etc. In terms of the classes, I would have to say that they were consistent with those given at EPITA. The level is high, with courses such as linear programming, C and Java, software engineering, operating systems… The only additional class they offered by comparison to EPITA was the Spanish class, given entirely in Spanish, which is quite practical for learning vocabulary and making daily life easier. In fact, all of the subjects I studied in Spain were useful and will continue to be over the next few years of studies in Paris.
What did you think of San Sebastian?
San Sebastian is great city that is perfectly located between the mountains and the ocean. And, of course, it is always nice to head to the beach after class! However, like most Erasmus students, it was hard to build relationships with local students, although I’m not really sure why. Thankfully, this was not the case with the Erasmus group, mainly composed of Mexicans and Europeans: we became very close.
Were you able to travel while in Spain?
I was able to discover the region. The area surrounding San Sebastián is magnificent, with numerous Basque villages that are worth visiting. In particular, there are some of the pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela near San Sebastián, which have astounding landscapes. I also really enjoyed jogging outside of the city and I have such good memories of my time there!
Did this semester help you improve your English?
Totally! Although I made progress in Spanish, I improved my English much more, thanks to the classes and spending time with other students. In the beginning, it was not very easy because my level of English was not great. Nonetheless, I was able to rapidly improve.
Do you have advice for EPITA students who would also like to spend a semester there?
To begin, I suggest that they go the university directly upon their arrival to find out exactly when classes start. I would also recommend that they rapidly join Erasmus groups on social networks, particularly Facebook and WhatsApp, even before leaving France. It is really practical, especially for finding accommodations and discovering the city with other people. It is a real advantage that will help facilitate the integration process.