Why did you decide to go to Las Palmas?
My cousin was studying in the island of Tenerife one year before my departure, thanks to his Erasmus project. That was the very first time I ever had a contact with the Canary Islands. That experience made me feel so excited that I didn’t have any doubts to choose the island of Gran Canaria as my Erasmus destination. The University of Las Palmas is located in Las Palmas, which is a capital city in the autonomous community of the Canary Islands together with Santa Cruz de Tenerife. I was deeply fascinated by the atmosphere that can be breathed over there, by its mild climate (one of the best in the world), and by its diverse landscapes and its typical movida.
What is most important to bear in mind before leaving?
I think the most important thing is to have a strong spirit in order to become familiar with a new environment such as the one in Gran Canaria. You will especially live at night, just like in the rest of Spain. People usually have lunch at 2:30 p.m., dinner is at 10:00 p.m. and it’s quite normal to stay up late. Life over there differs from Italy’s. Its pace is way slower than what we are used to here.
Is it important to know the local language?
It’s advisable to know at least some basic rules of the language at the beginning of the experience, considering that you will attend University there. Learning Spanish, however, is way simpler than any other foreign language. Once arrived in Gran Canaria, I didn’t know much but some basic rules and even fewer words. Afterwards, I didn’t find any difficulties in understanding or learning a new language, because of the evident similarities between Spanish and Italian.
What about the cost of living?
Another advantage about Gran Canaria is its effective low cost of living, an important point to think about when living a study abroad experience. Renting a single room in a students house is way cheaper than in Rome, and so are food and primary products (their price/quality ratio is excellent). In fact, I think it is one of the cheapest places in Europe.
Which classes did you attend? Which exams did you convert back in Italy?
There was a number of classes I could choose among (I had already attended over a half of the courses I was supposed to, in Italy). I had already looked at the huge amount of interesting and unusual classes offered by the Spanish University when I was filling in my international study curriculum at home. For example, I could learn something new like Anthropology of the Architecture. There is an only negative thing I have to say: there is not homogeneity between faculties in different European universities when it comes to deal with their own system of credits. For example, I had to pass two exams in my host University just for one Italian class.
Which are the main differences between your university and the one of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria?
Its name already spoke for itself (Higher Technical School of Architecture), and so did the courses it offered: courses in my host university generally had a more practical approach. This way, I could gain some experience in new fields I would not discover otherwise, since it offers students some optional courses in addition to ordinary ones. There, you can learn to use innovative softwares for the processing of data and images, which turned out to be very useful at the end.
Socially speaking, I could confront myself with the strong role of architecture as a tool of investigation in people’s daily life. We worked on social problems through different surveys on the spot: e.g., the issues of council houses, the ways to overcome the architectural barriers and the way people become familiar with technological innovations in the field of architecture. Don’t think that a University located on an island, which is a sort of confined reality, can’t offer a wide range of study curricula. There are even more services you can make use of: a very cheap centre to print materials and documents; informatic labs where students can freely use computers for a complete approach to their classes; different classrooms where students can use light tables and more generally the possibility to stay at university until late.
Which is your advice to students willing to leave for an Erasmus project at Las Palmas de Gran Canaria?
First of all, students should make the most of every opportunity to live the atmosphere that Gran Canaria offers with its traditional festivals. They must as well organize their own daily routine in a way they won’t be swallowed in the sea of such a great entertainment, being it an island where summer never goes away with its shores and pubs (a 24 hours-long amusement). You can’t miss travelling inside the island, where many different landscapes come together (from mountain and sea to the desert area in the south). Besides, visiting other islands in the archipelago doesn’t cost so much. In conclusion, some tips about the University: it is important to attend classes to pass easily and learn Spanish faster and better. Furthermore, most courses are held inside the super modern labs, which are definitely worthy of your participation.