She left behind the country of chocolate and beer to discover the country of Jamón and Sangría: Amélie Windels has spent four months working as an intern for International Relations at University CEU Cardenal Herrera in Valencia. Before packing her suitcases and heading back to Belgium, Amélie told us about her experiences in Valencia.
Hallo Amélie. You got here in February – during wintertime even in Spain. Were you still given a warm Valencian welcome?
Amélie: Definitely! Of course, it was much colder at the time of my arrival than it is now. But when I got out of the plane, I saw the blue sky, the sun was shining and people were in a good mood – what else could you ask for? During my first days here I stayed in a hotel to find a flat – the landlords I met there were all so nice and friendly. One showed me around the city, the landlord of the flat I chose in the end picked me up with the car and all gave me a very warm welcome – not only in the city but also at work. My colleagues, my mentor and the other interns were really helpful and nice right from the beginning.
What was Spain for you before you came here and what is it now? Have you overcome any prejudices?
Amélie: Before I went to Spain for the first time I always thought it is really similar to Italy. Of course, the countries have things in common like the climate, but I soon realized that the food, the traditions and the people are totally different. In the first year of my studies I spent eight months studying in Barcelona – there I got to know the country quite well. Due to the fact that Catalan is very strong in Barcelona, I thought it might be the same with Valenciano here in Valencia. I was very happy to find out that people here do speak Castellano and I can actually communicate with people here.
You have also successfully completed your Spanish course with the best results of all – were your Spanish practices with your colleagues the key to success?
Amélie: Talking and hearing Spanish all the time in my office was a really good practice for me, my colleagues here helped me a lot improving it. In combination with the grammar I have learned at the Spanish course it was the perfect way of learning the language. I want to find a way to continue practicing it in Belgium although it is not very easy because after Dutch, French, English and German Spanish is the fifth language for many of us. In Barcelona all my classes were in English so that did not really help my Spanish, but here I have the feeling it has improved.
Could the Valencian specialties “Horchata” and “Fartons” compensate Belgian beer and chocolate?
Amélie: Although Spanish food in general is quite good, I guess Belgian chocolate cannot be compensated by anything. Until I went abroad for the first time I had never realized how good our Belgian chocolate is. That was something I really missed.
What would you consider your top three experiences during your time in Valencia?
Amélie: The best experience during my time here was without doubt “las Fallas”. It was so impressive to see the whole city live and breathe this celebration. Everyone was so excited, all the people dancing in the street, the huge “falla”-constructions – that was an experience I will never forget. Another really special day was my birthday, which was just one week ago. It was so nice to have all my friends gathering in my flat: all the other interns and my flat mates. In general, it was great to meet so many nice people here who are really friendly and helpful when they notice that you put in effort to get to know their culture and traditions. You need to show respect to the Spanish way of life – which is something you should do wherever you are of course.
That sounds as if you have really enjoyed your life in Valencia. What did you like best about your internship at University CEU Cardenal Herrera?
Amélie: The University is a very interesting place to work – there are so many faculties, from Medicine, Architecture to Communication. It is a great possibility to get to know those faculties. Some of the best experiences here at work were the International Open Days. About 150 new students with their families from all over the world came here to discover the University CEU Cardenal Herrera. That was also a great opportunity for us so get an impression of all the faculties and facilities of the University. I also liked my daily tasks a lot – translating, giving tours around the campus to new students and their parents or conducting interviews with interesting people were my main tasks which I enjoyed a lot. My department was also quite happy to have someone studying International Business helping them in the Science Faculty.
I really do not want to leave because I have enjoyed this experience here so much. I will definitely miss Valencia and the nice people I got to know here at the University! I need to go back to Belgium now because I have to do another exam there and next year I will go to France to spend my last year of studies there. But who knows, maybe I will come back to University CEU Cardenal Herrera to do my Master’s here.
Muchas gracias – to my mentor, to my colleagues and to all the other nice people I got to know here at the University. I will certainly come back.
We hope so, Amélie! Thank you very much, good luck for your studies and come back soon!