Keith, feeling part of the CEU family before even setting foot on campus

I decided to meet him a few minutes before he attended the Welcome Day for Erasmus + students, so I invite him to a coffee in our cafeteria so we can have a quiet chat before the event. “Let’s see how coffee tastes here”, he tells me with a smile. True, I had forgotten that coffee is a national symbol in his native country, Colombia.

First I want to talk to him about his expectations and motivations as an Erasmus + student here at CEU Valencia. Then I’ll ask him about the coffee.

His name is Keith and he comes from Bucaramanga, a city that is almost in the centre of Colombia, quite close to the border with Venezuela. He tells us that it is a quiet city with a great university atmosphere, and that he studies at the Universidad Santo Tomás. His degree, Law. And now at CEU Valencia to live an international experience that, we hope, will be an unforgettable one.

Keith, in front of our Faculty of Law, Business and Political Science

Keith, the first question that comes to my mind is: why does a Colombian student decide to do his Erasmus+ here at CEU Valencia?

The truth is that, ever since I started university back home in Colombia, I knew that I wanted to have an international experience. Already during my first weeks at my university, our International Relations Office told us that students, after passing approximately 50% of their subjects, had the option of going on an international exchange.

When I was in my sixth semester I started looking for the different options available. And one thing I already knew in that moment: I wanted to come to Europe. Of course, there was the possibility of having an exchange experience with other universities in Latin America, something that was even cheaper… but it was not what I was looking for. I wanted, as we usually say there, to cross the pond and come to Europe.

I would have enjoyed France, but since I do not speak any French, I started looking for different alternatives here in Spain. I looked for photographs of different Spanish cities, I visited the universities’ websites, I studied their study programs… and finally I chose Valencia. Also, I have a friend here who graduated with me from school and I think that having an acquaintance is always an additional support.

On the other hand, I believe that CEU Valencia shares some values ​​with those of my university in Colombia. Both are private universities, they have a very strong humanistic orientation. Let’s say that they were both compatible and it just seemed like the most logical option to me.

You told me before that you have been in Valencia only for 10 days and that this is your first experience in Europe. Tell me about your first impressions of the city!

So far, everything has been positive. When I arrived at Barajas I found myself in a huge airport with an awful lot of people, but already at that time people were friendly. In general, people are very friendly here in Spain: if you are looking for an address and you ask anyone, immediately they take out their mobile, open Google Maps and show you your way.

As an anecdote, as soon as I got my Carnet Jove or Youth Card, for example, I lost it and I had to go back to the office to get it again. They kindly told me that I did not need to pay anything, that I had already paid for it the first time. It was a very good gesture that I really appreciated.

As for Valencia, I like it very much: I love the layout of the city, the transport system, I have already fallen in love with Valencia! I really like the old riverbed of the Turia, which they say is like the Central Park of Valencia.

I have the feeling that, when this is over and I have go back to Colombia, I will already feel part of the CEU family.

You speak of the Carnet Jove very naturally, it seems that you already speak some valenciano. You also have an advantage over the rest of your Erasmus+ peers, which is the language.

It is true that here in Valencia there are many signs and street names in valenciano, but that does not represent any kind of problem. I take it as a cultural thing and, in the end, one can more or less understand the meaning without any difficulty. I already know, for example, that cognom means surname.

And speaking of Law, do you already know what you are going to study with us and how our academic program is articulated?

I have chosen many subjects in the international area: Human Rights, Political and Electoral Behavior, European Union Policies… all of them very focused on internationalization. Let’s say that the Spanish and Colombian systems are not very distant but there are certain aspects that are obviously different, although there are no big differences in International Law. This choice just seemed pertinent to me.

Is that the area you would to work in?

Actually, I am very interested in Public Law, including Criminal, International, Administrative Law… all under the umbrella of Public Law. In addition, there is something vocational about it: I want to work in my home country and make a difference, do “something” for my people. My parents have always been very involved with human rights; My mother has worked with UNHCR, my father was the head of an NGO… that humanistic spirit is in my genes: become a lawyer and do something for my people.

Keith, ready for his Erasmus+ experience at CEU Valencia

You have just started, you have not even officially “landed” in our University. Nevertheless, would you recommend this experience to other students back in Colombia?

Obviously I would tell them to take the leap, to go for it because it is something that we should all experience. Not only because it is very enriching from a professional point of view, but also because it is a great personal experience.

I told my parents and friends back in Colombia that I came here as one person, but I will surely go back as a different person.

I know this adventure might sound as something just for the brave ones, but I really think that everyone should do it because there are also a lot of resources at our reach. We Latin Americans must stop thinking that coming to Europe is something unattainable: the Erasmus+ grants are a great example of the opposite!

Thank you for sharing this moment with us, Keith. We hope that your CEU experience here in Valencia will be an unforgettable one.

I have the feeling that, when this is over and I have go back to Colombia, I will already feel part of the CEU family.

You already are part of the CEU family. Welcome.

Keith finishes tasting his white coffee and says: “You know what? The truth is that it actually tastes good…”. We have passed the test.


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