The English Learners' Blog

A blog for English learners and their teachers everywhere, initiated in 2010 with the contribution of students from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. More about me on the On-line Profile below. Welcome!

On Erasmus in Barcelona

The essay below was written especially for the ELB readers by Nina Romanska, one of my former students. I would like to thank her very much for her insights and I would like to wish her “Happy Birthday!!!”, as she is celebrating her birthday on this very day. 🙂 🙂 😉 🙂 🙂 

The Erasmus Experience



A Student’s Account

Erasmus is a popular student exchange programme nowadays. As many other students, I decided to take part in it because I had studied abroad before and I knew that it would be an amazing experience. I love Spanish, so Spain was an obvious choice for me. I didn’t have any doubts about the city either, I knew that Barcelona would be a perfect place for me. It’s a big city, the capital of Catalunya, definitely one of the most interesting places in Spain. I had never been there before, but I simply trusted my intuition, the view of the city from “The Shadow of the Wind” written by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, and “L’Auberge Espagnole,” known as the “Erasmus movie,” which describes the Erasmus experience of a French student in Barcelona.

However, my beginnings in that beautiful city were like from some comedy-drama. I remember my first day there. I arrived in Barcelona at about 2 o’ clock at night, tired after the bus ride from the airport in Reus. It was really hot, but I was wearing the coat and pullover that I didn’t have place for in my luggage. I took the metro to a district nearby the Sagrada Familia, where my friend was living. The escalators were out of order, and I could’t find any elevator either, so, with no Spanish prince on a white horse to come to my rescue, I had to carry my suitcase and my backpack all the way… Finally, I saw the Sagrada Familia. I stopped for a while to admire it and then went to look for the direction of my friend’s place. I was really impressed with the church at first sight, but the truth is that I was more concerned with being robbed at the time, as I was carrying all my jewellery, and had the money to rent a room on me.

Next day I woke up at 6 and started to look for a room to rent. The experience was totally horrible. Even if, on the outside, the old buildings in Barcelona are very beautiful, inside I came across dirty rooms and flats, strange people of all ages (renting is really expensive there, so not only students share flats), old guys with propositions, loads of insects, lack of sunshine, funny smells. All of these at an incredibly expensive price. Until I found a suitable flat I decided to share a room with another Polish student. She lived with the owner of the flat, a guy from Morocco who was walking half naked in flat, wearing just pants and a DJ cap, so I felt like I needed to hide myself. He worked as a bodyguard in club, so I could go back to the flat after 11pm, when he went to work.

After six days of looking for a flat from 8 am to 11pm, I found my room and started my true Erasmus life. My new flat mates were three Erasmus students from Romania, Finland and Germany. My room was really small and without any windows, but somehow I got used to it. 😉

Once I got time more time on my hands to explore, I realised that Barcelona is a really great city. There are a lot of really interesting places to see. Thanks to Gaudi (the Catalan Modernist), no other city can be compared to Barcelona. This Catalan architect gave Barcelona a really beautiful gift: an originality and style that made me feel that buildings of his project were taken out of some kind of fairytale kingdom.  Barcelona has everything; we can lose ourselves in the narrow streets of the Barrio Gothic and Raval, admire the elegant buildings of Gracia, walk on the beach or go to a match of FC Barcelona at Camp Nou.

There are, however, some bad points of living in the city. Loads of turists… almost everywhere you look, and this results in high prices and robberies. Barcelona is a really cosmopolitan city, so I felt more Spain in Madrid or Sevilla.

Somehow, Catalan wasn’t a big problem for me. It’s something between Spanish and French, so I had no trouble understanding most of it.

Even though I really loved Barcelona as a city and my newly-found home, the best part of my exchange program there were the people. I met a lot of great people from all over the world. The community of international students became my family, which is something that I really miss right now. Meeting people of different cultures, religions, beliefs and from different continents is a beautiful experience and made me more open-minded. Poland is a country of one nation, one religion, so my friendships with other Erasmus students helped me realise that many stereotypes about particular nations and countries were totally wrong.

As a nation, the Spanish are really cheerful compared to the Polish. They don’t care so much about exams, money, or the perfect look. I would like to follow that joy and optimism in my life.

I studied at the Faculty of Law of the University of Barcelona. The lectures were quite interesting. They gave the students interested in international law a wide range of study opportunities. 

 I also took part in the special programme ‘Introduction to Spanish Law,’ which was organised for international students. The teachers were friendly and much less formal than in Poland. Half of the available courses were in Spanish, and the other half in Catalan.

I would recommend taking part in an Erasmus programme to any student out there. It’s a great adventure, one impossible to forget! 😉  

Filed under: ■ Erasmus, ■ Good Old Student Life, ■ Movies, ■ Nationalities and Stereotypes, ■ Spain, ■ The World, ►12.OFF THE MAP▼

Holiday Colours on Your 2010-2011 Course Menu…

Magda, enjoying the view from the castle in Alicante (Spain)As you are starting a new course menu at the beginning of this new academic year, new hobbies and/or even a new job, let the colours of your holiday shine through!

It’s gonna be a long winter in Poland, so I’ve heard, so you are going to need as much sun as you can possibly get.

My winter will hopefully turn out quite sunny, and I’ll be happy to send through to you warm light beams all the way from Asia (the continent, not the short for ‘Joanna’).

Lovely photo, isn’t it? I would like to thank my former student, Magda, for the magnificent blue of the sea and of the spirit in this photo, that makes you want to say: ‘There’s the spirit of pure blue holiday joy!’

By the way, what colours would your holiday translate into?

In case you’re missing some colour names in your specialised colour vocabulary, take a look at the picture below, taken from the doghousediaries, and adapted by xkcd, both of these highly recommended and fun-guaranteed sites for lovers of comics.

Enjoy some good and healthy

‘Ha, ha, ha!’-s

along with

these colours!


Filed under: ■ Colour Vocabulary, ■ Comics & Doodles, ■ Good Old Student Life, ■ Ha, ha, ha!, ■ Site Scout

Campuses to live for

Kenyon CollegeVisit the Forbes site

to look at the world’s

most beautiful college campuses

Forbes asked a panel of architects and campus designers to nominate their picks for the best-looking campuses in the world. Click on the link to see their top choices. If you thought about great campuses, which campuses would you nominate and why?

Filed under: ■ Campuses, ■ Forbes, ■ Good Old Student Life

End-of-Year Thoughts, Anyone?

This academic year is only a few days closer to its end, so I would like to propose a symbolic toast:

It may have looked like this choir, posing on Grodzka street in Krakow

… or not. Mystery revealed!

Apparatus Blues

was sung by American students. The answer to the question:

Can you guess when it was sung and by which graduates? is revealed by

the Pembroke Record,

a student magazine published by the Women’s College in Brown University,

the September issue of 1923,

that is 87 years ago…

I’m not ecstatic, nor yet enthusiastic

About being acrobatic or doing a gymnastic.

I’d like to be elastic, lithe and supple-plastic

And do those queer gyrastics but I get darn rheumatic.

When I was only eight one didn’t criticise

A person ruminating on sausages and pies

But now alternation is food for contemplation;

So with much agitation I’m reducing in this wise.

Chorus –

I’ve got the ap-ap-ap-ap-ap-apparatus blues, so black and blue.

Oh it’s that hap-hap-hap-hap-hap-hap-haphazard way we jump the boom

I hang my feet on flying rings, shimmy up the great long ropes,

And gee, how they swing.

It’s the things I do that gives me the gol darn blues – I’m black and blue

Patter –

First I breathe 1, 2

Then I bend, 3

Then I twirl on my toe

And that’s where I score.

Turn a summersault.

Then jump on a horse,

If I don’t break my neck

Then it isn’t my fault.

I shimmy up the ropes,

I travel on the rings; I do all sorts of stunts on those BOOMY things,

I hang by my feet till my brains run loose

And now I’ve got the ap-ap-apparatus blues

Chorus –

Well, this is an example of what you could do when you successfully finish one year at University. There is still a little bit of time left until you will graduate, but I would like you to think about the ways you would like to celebrate graduation and the way you are thinking of celebrating this year that is about to pass.

Filed under: 4►LIFE, ■ Good Old Student Life, ■ Graduation

Memories From the Dorm Days…

Pawel Lasko presenting the robot he designed with his team (09.06.10)

Sometimes the best thing about memories is sharing them just to see if others find them as amusing as you do.

Not all of you have lived or are living in a dorm. However, you must have heard some stories in the dorm-days category.  If anyone might ask you to describe a regular day in your life as a student living in the dorm, you’ll probably answer “study, study, study.” Especially now, at the beginning of the exam session, it is only natural, should someone ask you “How does your day look like?”, to answer promptly, “Oh, I study, of course I do!”

What if you were to look back at those particular events and surprises that have spiced up your day and possibly troubled your  in the night’s sleep? Places to hang, eat a great meal, discounts that make it worth having a student ID, daily occurrences, you name it.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez remembers, for example, that in his dorm days “dawns in the dormitory had a suspicious resemblance to happiness, except for the lethal bell that sounded the alarm at six in the middle of the night. Only two or three mental defectives would jump out of bed to be the first in line for the six showers of icy water in the dormitory bathroom. The rest of us used the time to squeeze out the last drops of sleep until the teacher on duty walked the length of the room pulling the blankets off the sleepers.” (Living to Tell the Tale, pp. 194-195)

He further remembers that “starting at  dawn, Guillermo Granados gave free rein to his virtues as a tenor with an inexhaustible repertoire of tangos.” With Ricardo Gonzalez Ripoll, his neighbour in the dormitory he would sing duets of Carribean guarachas to the rhythm of the rag they used to polish their shoes at the head of the bed and the stories continue… HILARIOUS!!!

So what do you do when you don’t cram for exams, read books at the library, attend courses and seminars at University or build robots for international competitions like the students in this picture? What does your “dorm” life look like? Is there anything that you might find difficult to forget – social, cultural, interpersonal, and so on?

Pawel, Piotr & Pawel

Filed under: 4►LIFE, 7►NET WORKS, ■ Gabriel Garcia Marquez, ■ Good Old Student Life

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