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Tristan Lamarche, Student of exchange in the School of Economics
Journal of a French Canadian in Spain
I had never been outside of North-America before. I had basic Spanish skills and a strong desire to improve them. I was already naturally bilingual thanks to my francophone father and anglophone mother, and I was attracted to the idea of being able to say that I'm trilingual. Consequently, choosing to study for the spring semester in Spain only seemed logical and downright appealing. The town of Pamplona is very charming. Although the distance makes it hard to travel around Europe sometimes, the capital of Navarra has its own treasures: nice parks, a pleasant old-town, and good food, just to name a few.
It's been over fifteen weeks since my plane landed in Barcelona. Fifteen weeks might sound like nothing, but I'm already adapting to the lifestyle in Pamplona. Late night dinners and pinchos are all too familiar to me now. I've even started doing siesta every now and then! Bars close so much later here as well. I'll never forget the first night out. The cafeteria had closed at 4:00am, but my new Ontarian friend and I weren't tired. We grabbed our Dutch friend and strolled down the streets of Pamplona seeking out a cafeteria that would still be open. Our quest proved successful, and I ended up going to bed at 7:30am. This doesn't happen back in Montreal.
First of all, back in Canada I wouldn't have been out with guys from Oakville and Rotterdam. One of the fun things about studying abroad(Erasmus) is that you meet so many people from all over the world, and then these people become your good friends. We go to class together, hang out together, travel together, go to juevinchos together; I simply can't imagine how sad it would be if we all didn't know each other. These memories will warm our hearts forever. Nonetheless, as the good times accumulate, the countdown has unconsciously started. That day that we all avoid speaking of will eventually come. Similar to the countdown when we were each back home, anxiously awaiting our departure for a small town north of Spain called Pamplona. I will definitely miss this Pamplona squad.
You tearing up yet? I am... let's change the subject.
It's amazing how University of Navarra's campus is so spacious. Its landscape is so vast and beautiful with its green scenery decorated by trees of different sorts. Some Basque mountains in the background complement the blue sky filled with white fluffy clouds. A small river flows by one of the campus' paths, just to complete this picturesque view. The only down side is the twenty minute walk from my apartment to the university. It always feels long and the weather in Pamplona can turn this walk into an unpleasant march in the rain. However, when I finally get to the campus I always smile: a lot of people bring their dogs to play and run free on a large grassy part of the school grounds. How can one not smile to the sight of man's best friend running around with such a happy look on its face? This always makes my day. I guess that's what we call enjoying the small things in life.
It is all so different from back in Montreal. Before Christmas, a normal school-day's itinerary to school had such a different surrounding. Traffic, cars blowing their horns, and crowds of people were all part of the typical setting. Day in, day out. The sound of a big city in the morning is a song that stays in your head. It can be tormenting yet somewhat thrilling. After fifteen minutes in a crowded bus, ten minutes in a crowded subway, and five minutes of walking, I would finally be in a classroom at HEC Montréal, ready to learn more about business administration. I like my university and I like the city it is in. I guess I kind of miss the excitement of waking up in a big city like Montreal. On the other hand, when I get back I'll probably miss the excitement of waking up in Spain...
Living in an environment where everything is in a foreign language can be scary. It takes a combination of boldness and courage to leave your comfort zone and face the world. However, if you can find the motivation to do so, you might end up having the best experience of your life. I was motivated because I spoke a little bit of Spanish and wanted to develop this skill. I am even taking a Spanish language course at the university. This is good because I get to learn the language in a structured manner with professors that are there to teach exactly that subject. The school also has a International Coffee every Tuesday for those who want extra practise. There, students, teachers, and school personnel meet for one hour and have discussions in Spanish. It's actually a quite enjoyable gathering!
In essence, I am grateful to my university HEC Montréal for making such an experience possible. Thanks to their connections with over 120 other business schools worldwide, each year they allow hundreds of other students like me to enjoy these unforgettable moments. This experience gave me the courage to carry on in a completely different environment. It allowed me to establish new friendships, broaden my horizons, and most importantly, helped me understand that nothing is out of reach.