From Finland, around the world, and now in Spain! Hanna has spent already two months with us working with our International Relations Office at the Mobility Service and Hospitality, and with the Faculty of Health Sciences. An avid world traveler and a future language teacher, Hanna tells us about her Erasmus+ internship experience at University CEU Cardenal Herrera.
Hi, Hanna! Before we go any further, could you tell us something about yourself?
My name is Hanna Alavainio. I’m a 25-year-old student from Tampere, Finland, where I study at the University of Tampere to become a language teacher — teaching French, Spanish, and Swedish to be exact. It’s my last year at the university, so I’m graduating soon.
During my freetime I like to travel, and I write a travel blog about my experiences: for example, last winter I made a three-month round-the-world trip, visiting Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile… Now being here is nice as I get to see more of Spain.
Why did you decide to do an internship abroad? Was it a mandatory part of your studies, or something that you decided to do yourself?
I had no courses planned for this autumn semester so I had the option to either stay in Finland and continue to work in retail, or to find something more exciting to do. I had already done Erasmus+ exchanges during my studies, but the rules were just changed, and the option to go abroad once more became available for me — so I came here!
It wasn’t a mandatory part of my Spanish studies, but I had previously done mandatory international study and job exchanges abroad. This was something I wanted to do myself, and I had the idea to come to Spain to improve my language skills. After all, I’m about to graduate and become a Spanish teacher, and so I don’t want to be unsure about my Spanish skills. I felt like working here would be the best opportunity to improve my skills.
So you have previous experience from studying abroad? Tell us more!
I spent nine months in Montpellier, France, on an Erasmus+ study exchange in 2012 and 2013. And I have done an Erasmus+ internship before, too: I spent the summer 2014 in Stockholm, Sweden, working in a tourist office. In Sweden I noticed that working abroad is maybe the best way to learn languages!
Sweden is very similar to my home country Finland, so adapting to the surroundings was easy, whereas France had been something totally new and a big step for me. Coming here was in that sense very easy as I had done it before, even though the beginning is always hard.
Let’s talk about your experience working at CEU UCH. How did you find out about our university, and what attracted you to this internship?
I was first mainly looking for French and English teacher’s assistant positions here in Spain, as I knew that many Finns had done this kind of job here. My friend who was working in Valladolid gave me a tip about the erasmusintern.org platform, where I ended up finding this offer!
I had been looking for teaching jobs, but I couldn’t find any that fit my schedule, as I wanted something only for the autumn semester and not to commit to a whole school year. However, I found the position that CEU UCH offered interesting, as I would get to use my Spanish more than I would in a school setting where I would be mainly speaking English as a teacher. And it was a job of which I had no previous experience, which I found exciting.
What has your work as an intern been like? What kind of tasks did you have?
It has been very diverse and interesting, and challenging at times. I have worked in many offices here and so I had to adapt to different duties very fast.
During my first week I worked in the Erasmus Office helping the staff and answering students’ emails. Then I worked at the Hospitality where I aided the new international students with their residence permits and academic documents and other varied problems. And now I have been at the Faculty of Health Sciences where my main tasks have been to create content for their blogs and to assist the staff there with French documents.
Is the work culture in Spain very different from the Finnish one?
Well yes, the work culture is very different from what I’m used to. For example, punctuality is very important in Finland, and because I’m used to being punctual, in the beginning I was surprised at how flexible everybody was with time. To me it felt a bit too laid-back at times!
But what I really like about Spain is the general informality, even at work. I feel welcome, and the co-workers have been so warm.
What has been the most rewarding experience for you during this internship?
The work tasks felt challenging in the beginning, but then I surpassed my own expectations of what I am able to do. Being in challenging situations and then solving the problems — that felt great. And getting good feedback from my coworkers about my work performance was a confirmation that I had done a good job.
Have you liked living in Valencia?
Valencia as a city reminds me a lot of Montpellier where I did my Erasmus+ study exchange. The atmosphere is international and young as there are many students, it’s a very vibrant city. The Old City is nice, and so is the modern Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias.
I live near the Turia Gardens and the Old City, but there is also a shopping mall near, and even the beach is so close to the city centre. It’s great, Valencia has everything for good student life! I can understand why they say it’s among the best cities for international students.
What has been the highlight of your stay in Valencia?
It has of course been nice to travel, but I will always remember the people I have got to know here, our group of interns and my roommates, and I will cherish the moments spent together.
One good experience has been the football match between Valencia and Barcelona I got to see. Even though I’m not that interested in the sport I enjoyed it because the Spaniards were so passionate!
Everybody should try paella and see the sunset at Albufera lake!
What is in the future for you?
When I return to Finland I’ll have to finish my studies, I only have some Spanish courses left before graduating in May. After my graduation, well, I’ll have to start looking for teacher positions, and I’m thinking about moving back to my hometown… But I dream of making a trip back to Latin America!
Last, do you have tips for students who want to go abroad for a study exchange or an internship?
You should definitely do it, especially if you haven’t lived abroad before. It’s a very rewarding experience to live abroad alone, you have to adapt and you grow up. And it’s eye-opening to meet people from different cultures, you will realize that we are not so different after all!