Gaia Martinelli is one of the many Erasmus students coming from Italy to Zaragoza. It is the most repeated nationality. She was at Unizar during the first semester, sharing a class with the students of the Journalism Degree. After four months of getting to know our culture, she tells us about her experience:
What led you to apply for an Erasmus scholarship?
I had the option at my university, I applied and won the competition for this scholarship. It was a bit of bureaucracy, but it ended well. I didn’t need a visa as I was an Erasmus. So the process was simpler.
Why did you choose Spain as an Erasmus destination?
Because of the culture. I had already been there several times and I wanted to go deeper and learn the language more, because I would like to do something where I could speak Spanish.
Apart from Zaragoza, did you have other cities in Spain as an option? Which ones?
I had other options like Barcelona or Madrid, but I like Zaragoza more because it would be a smaller city where I would feel more comfortable, meet more people and be more relaxed.
How was your language skills before coming to Spain?
I had studied it in school, but I had not practiced it for many years. I think I had a low level. I hope it has improved in the Erasmus course, because that was my goal.
What do you think of the city of Zaragoza and its people?
I love the people of Zaragoza because they are all very kind and very welcoming. I met a lot of nice people. Everything was very nice. I can’t say anything that went wrong. I was surprised by the fact that Zaragoza is one of the cities where people live better. I have always been able to walk in the street and I have never felt in danger of being robbed. I have met very friendly people who have made my experience a very good one.
What did you visit in Zaragoza?
I tried to see as much as possible, because I liked to get to know the city well as if it were my home Obviously, I saw the Pilar because, if not, what do you do. I also went to the Parque Grande, the Parque del Agua, the old town, the museums like the Goya museum which is very well done… I also went to the Santa Isabel neighborhood which is a bit stranger, the Gran Casa shopping center and Puerto Venecia.
What did you visit in the rest of Aragon?
We went to Huesca, which we liked a lot. It is smaller than Zaragoza but it is interesting to know its history because of its location. We also went to the nearby mountains like Monteperdido, the Monasterio de Piedra and the Ordesa park.
Outside Aragon, what have you been able to visit?
With my Erasmus classmates we tried to go see as many places as possible in Spain since it is a unique occasion where you are there for a short period of time. We went to Barcelona, Madrid, Coruña, Valencia, Santander and Bilbao.
Spain and Italy have similar cultures, but what shocked you the most about our customs?
The culture of Spain and Italy are similar but the Spanish are friendlier than us. They are also welcoming but in a different way. You always feel like you are with family or among friends, even if you don’t know each other. Meanwhile, in Italy it is like that but to a lesser extent.
The culture in Spain seems more open to me. In social issues people are more active. In terms of activism, people are more aware of politics and social problems, while young Italians are a little less so. Maybe Zaragoza is a bigger city than the one I am from and that is a differential factor.
How was the relationship with other Erasmus students?
It was facilitated by the associations that organized meetings, so it was very easy to meet people. In the end, in a not so big city, we got to know almost everyone, especially because there were a lot of Italians. I think it is very well organized how Erasmus is developed because you never feel alone. There are always people like you and it is very easy to find them. I have made very good friends there.
How did your classmates welcome you?
Very well, my classmates were very nice. Both me and my classmate in the Erasmus program have been very lucky because everyone in the class has been very nice. We keep in touch with them. I think we have met not only classmates, but friends.
In the four months you were there, did you leave anything to visit in Aragon and the rest of Spain?
If I came back, I would come back because of the people. But yes, some places have been left pending. I would have liked to go to see the mountains but when they were snowed in.
What would you say to those who are considering applying for this Erasmus scholarship?
I would tell them to do everything they can to go because it will change the way you see things. The experience changes your perspective on how you see the world but also yourself, because it uncovers aspects of your personality that you hadn’t thought about before. Even if you don’t like things and they don’t seem different to you, you are always learning something. It’s not about discovering a city, it’s about discovering yourself.