Georges Ohanessian-SKEMA University, France
From Francophone and Francophile Country to France Itself! The multidimensional developing country with its globalized stance towards the world challenging issues starting from Global warming to asylum-seeking for immigrants. I’m really enjoying the diversity of population and being close to the Mediterranean Sea which is generating nostalgia. Being in such a developed country is a great chance to acquire the secret of success of the nation from historical aspects to human behavior and compare it with both of my countries Lebanon and Armenia. From the lecturing part to the ethical behavior in the university life within SKEMA, I see the conviviality and the positive vibes that the teachers are willing to invest into their students with both theoretical and practical aspects similar to AUA, however, the additional method of teamwork applied seems to be perfectly fitting with international students in SKEMA but the unceasing 3 hours of class orientation for once a day has as many disadvantages as advantages which we have to deal with it. In brief, both the academic and life experience here are certainly shaping our personality where we are chasing opportunities, facing challenges while breaking through bad stereotypes and creating beautiful ones instead by discovering and enjoying the whole country
Lili Sahakyan-UMONS, Belgium
I would really say that I adore my experience here. Well, when it comes to Belgium I like waffles, cherry beer, and traveling the most. But the real reason for my joy is the opportunity to be an inseparable part of European culture, the joy of walking down the streets full of Gothic and Baroque style buildings, cathedrals, museums full of masterpieces, etc.
At first, the feeling of loneliness and helplessness was the thing that I liked the least but now it has totally vanished. Another Belgian national feature is the horrible weather: humidity, rain, and wind!
Our University is really unique due to the General Education courses being provided intended to develop a personality but not a simple object for the job market. This is not the case in UMONS as there are no GenEd classes to attend.
Armenia and Belgium are quite different but both wonderful. The people here are really nice and helpful. The students are friendly. I guess the biggest difference is the extensive beer consumption in Belgium. Overall, as an Armenian, I feel comfortable and sociable enough to make good friends here.
I really want to thank our AUA for this wonderful opportunity once more and thanks to you as well dear Angela for being interested in us.
Lusine Apresyan-UMONS, Belgium
It has been about three weeks that I am in Belgium and I have already gained wonderful Impressions worth sharing.
From my point of view, the most amazing part of the exchange program is an incredible opportunity to meet a large number of students from various parts of the world and make good friends. It is an awesome way to make others better know about our country, share Armenian culture, and also get acquainted with theirs.
From the aspect of education, it is hard to give any feedback as the majority of my classes at UMONS have not started yet. However, what I have noticed in comparison to AUA is that the system of organizing classes at UMONS differs a lot. Here the classes generally take place once a week with a longer duration per class. It seems that the “compressed” approach is not that effective as the American style common at AUA.
It is a great pleasure for me to be here and enjoy studying in a new atmosphere.
Martina Sardaryan-Paris Lodron University of Salzburg, Austria
Studying as an exchange student in Paris Lodron University of Salzburg was one of the best experiences I have ever had. Within the framework of the Erasmus+ Mobility Program, I had a chance to study for one semester in one of the most beautiful cities in Europe with a rich cultural heritage.
After landing in my new home of Salzburg, a wave of emotions came over me. Primarily, it was an excitement, because I was starting a new chapter of my life in one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. On the other hand, I was slightly fearful, as I had never been so far away from home; I was out of my comfort zone. Studying abroad forces you to be independent. You have to figure out for yourself how everything works in your host country. This gives you the opportunity to confront any social anxieties you may have and become a more confident person as a result. You realize that you can do much more for yourself than you previously thought. Studying abroad really does broaden your horizons. Being in a foreign country and seeing how other cultures approach life makes you challenge your assumptions which turns you into a more open-minded person. Meanwhile, you face such difficulties as intense homesickness, language, and cultural barriers.
Studying in the hometown of Mozart, in an intellectually stimulating and inspiring environment, I enriched my academic knowledge under the guidance of international scholars as well as built a strong social network with students from all over the world.
Shoghik Mkrtchyan-Paris Lodron University of Salzburg, Austria
Studying in the Department of Political Science in Paris Lodron University of Salzburg within the frames of Erasmus+ Mobility Program was the unattainable I was aiming to reach. Granted the opportunity to complete a semester within this exchange program I gained the knowledge and experience that will guide me through the challenges I face on my education and carrier path in the future. The enchanting city of Salzburg its breathtaking sights and the university with half a century of history and eminence broadened my perspective and worldview. Upon completion of the program, I find myself challenged to aim higher. The diversity I experienced did arm me the skills and knowledge to be prepared for the goals I am yet to achieve.
Donara Sargsyan-CETYS, Mexico
I was lucky to visit and study in a small conservative country that is very proud of its history and nation.
There were surprisingly more similarities between Armenia and Mexico, but I guess some would be that Mexican culture was less conservative but also very similar to Armenian culture. Music and cuisine were also very different. Mexican food is very tasty; it is spicy-sweet. The program organized events to specifically introduce international students to the cuisine and culture of the cuisine.
I felt very safe. I would suggest to Always travel with groups and a minimum of 2-3 people. I visited vineyards, cafes, La Bufador, and the beaches. There were so many things planned that it felt like we didn’t have time to rest, but everything was great.
I would advise our students not to go anywhere alone, not to feel shy, make friends, and plan activities with students outside of the program.
Mari Sahakyan-John Cabot University, Rome
Everything in Audencia Business School was very educational. A lot of in-depth knowledge of corporate finance and investment banking, cultural sophistication, new friends, a lot of unforgettable memories.
The transfer of the credits was total mass. First of all, I had problems with the conversion ( in France professors do not give too high marks. The highest you may get is 16/20. But in AUA they require at least 75 or 85 ( I don’t remember clearly). So I studied really hard in France, got quite good grades back there, but couldn’t transfer some of them back to AUA. So I would advise our students to revise the credit transfer policy.
Overall, there were a lot of differences between AUA and Audencia Business School and I would like to mention some of them:
- Grading ( they grade super low )
- The proportion of the exams in total grade ( I had classes with 70% and 100 % for the final exam)
- Professors in France were not available for the students all the time
- The overall difference between American and European education styles
Sadly, they don’t always know were exactly Armenia is.
They were quite impressed by my knowledge (that I gained in AUA).
Sinara Gharibyan-University of Mons, Belgium
My home university is more flexible as compared to Umons, besides the competition among students is more severe in AUA than in Umons.
Belgians are more relaxed people and don’t make panic for small issues. Some of them know almost everything about our country and university and have a quite positive opinion, others even have not heard about Armenia and AUA.
Arpine Kirakosyan-Kansas State University, USA
I applied to UGRAD exchange program because I love cultural exchange and traveling. So studying in another environment for one semester was exciting for me. Furthermore, I wanted to discover USA so it was a nice experience to know what it’s like to live there.
I liked the diverse opportunities the university gave an active student life. The university offered very practical courses connected to audio and video production. It also had TV channel and studio where students created a morning show, live news, and broadcast it. I was there as a camera operator and got the chance to work in a real-life working environment. They also had productions within the university that were creating visual content for it. All the students were employed by the production and were paid for their job. I was part of it. It was called WildCat Watch where we were shooting videos and editing them. We were also creating monthly short movies all based on our scripts. Kansas State University also provided all the necessary equipment to EC department so every student in the department could take the equipment for a few days to create whatever they wanted. So the equipment was for use not only for certain class projects but also for personal projects that gave the opportunity to have a good practice with equipment and explore creativity. Student life was also very active with very unique events like international student parade during homecoming, or fall events like pumpkin carving and Thanksgiving dinner.
I did not like the weather. It was crazy with strong wind and random temperature changes.
The public transportation was really poor or even non-existent in the city.
I guess the hardest part was that I had to direct a theatrical play in English and play an English speaking role. It is a totally different experience than just communicating in an English speaking academic environment. It requires to be more flexible with the language and be more attentive while speaking because words matter.
The student population is huge there around 25000 that is why the campus is huge as well. That was half of the population of the city so Manhattan was basically a university city. Everyone around me was students and youth and everything organized was for youth. So there were a lot of fun events and places to hang out near the university. Also, the university has a lot of sponsors so they have huge practical labs and studios for all the departments. For instance, the student bakers had hands-on experience in baking bread and selling it to the public on Saturdays. Thus, students have internships within the university as a learning process. Moreover, each student had to have, if I am not mistaken, 2 lab/practical courses in order to graduate. Furthermore, organizations were willing to take students as part-time workers. Here companies mostly offer full-time jobs and left out university students who want to study and work at the same time.
There are some Armenian students and professors most born and raised in the USA who created some positive perception of Armenia among Americans’ eyes. What I heard and also shared with everyone is that Armenia has great and tasty cuisine especially as fruits and vegetables are organic here. Americans consider Armenia to have a rich culture and history. They were also very impressed with my English as most international students were struggling with their English. I shared that I am studying in an English speaking university and they thought it to be interesting and impressive.
Araks Karapetyan-University of Almeria, Spain
Limerick, the city I lived in, was a bit small, so there wasn’t as much to do or see there as in the bigger cities, like Dublin, Cork or Galway.
The university has a different academic system, so everything from grading, to course schedules was a bit unfamiliar for me at the start. In general, the way lectures are taught is very different in Ireland, especially since my department (Contemporary and Applied Theater Studies) had only a handful of students. Because we were so small, the lectures were a little more intimate and also, we didn’t really get a chance to interact with the students of other departments, as we do in AUA.
People don’t really know much about the country, outside of iconic figures and historic events. There were a few cases when people were actually quite informed about Armenian culture, but most people didn’t really know much about it.
Irish people are very easy-going and very sociable people, so it wasn’t in any way challenging to get to know people or to interact with other cultural groups. They’re very open-minded people, so I never really felt like I had to act a certain way to communicate more effectively with them. The people are very easy-going and are very approachable.
I noticed how people were a lot less tense in Ireland than in Armenia. I’ve always felt that we Armenians have innate alertness to us, which makes us not as approachable and keeps us from being as sociable as the Irish. And while we are just as welcoming of foreigners as the Irish, we’re nowhere near as open-minded as them and don’t always welcome differences with open arms, which I again, attribute to our constant cultural tension.
Lusine Mnatsakanyan-University of Cadiz, Spain
Anush Abrahamyan-SKEMA Business School, France
“I am certainly going to encounter a different culture and enjoy my time in France to the fullest”- those were the words I was repeating in my mind on my way to France on January 1. Now, I am fortunate to say that what I have experienced during my stay in France met my expectations, and even the ill-fated lockdown in the country was another experience for me. Luckily, my semester abroad provided unlimited opportunities to expand my intellectual as well as cultural horizons. I was excited to study at a different university in a different country to compare the educational level and the teaching approach at my home university and at SKEMA Business School, where I spent my semester abroad. SKEMA is an international school, so it is also allowed to see how competent the representatives of other nations are. During the semester, I felt an immense difference between the education AUA, SKEMA, and other universities could give to their students. And I am more than happy to be a proud student of AUA as it makes its students qualified at an international level with the knowledge it provides. AUA is open to creative ideas and encourages students to take over challenging projects and assists them throughout the process. The good thing about SKEMA was the diversity of students. You could make friends and share cultural backgrounds with people from different countries of Africa, Asia, North America, etc. One thing I did not like about the university was that the instructors would start speaking French to explain some matters to the French students, and they forgot that more than half of the students were international students and did not understand the language. Despite that, it was a worthwhile experience, and I am happy I took part in this exchange program. What relates to the cultural differences between Armenia and France, French people are not open to foreigners. This has an impact on the perception of hospitality. On the other hand, Armenians will do their best to make even a passerby satisfied with their servings. However, the French are helpful and polite, especially the old generation. They will do their best to accommodate a stranger with anything they can. That was the spirit I liked the most. Another thing is that strikes are an integral part of their culture, and I am pleased Armenians do not strike that much. Yet, it was also a challenge for a person to live in a country the language she does not understand. I lived in a city where people did not understand English, so it added to the challenge. But it was easy to overcome the language barriers and make the communication effective. Overall, studying in France was an eye-opening experience. My experience abroad enhanced my adaptability, decision making, and leadership skills. It allowed me to be a member of different groups consisting of people from different cultural backgrounds and shape my multitasking and communication skills.
Lora Sukiasyan-University of Murcia, Spain
Studying in Spain was a great experience for me, except for its brief ending due to COVID-19. I loved how friendly the locals were because the moment I stepped out of the airport, everyone would go out of their way to make sure I felt welcomed in Spain. My Airbnb landlord who hosted me for only 3 days took me to get my SIM card, showed me around the town and we’ve been keeping contact ever since. I liked the fact that there were students from all over the world and it was so easy to make friends with great people and learn about different cultures. I was able to utilize Spanish and improved my speaking a great deal.
However, there were some things I didn’t like as well. I felt that some of the professors weren’t as qualified as what I’m used to and some of them spoke English poorly. I was never able to cope with Spanish “siesta” because different stores and restaurants have them during different hours and there is this period during the day when you’re hungry and you just don’t know what to do.
In Universidad de Murcia, the classes are divided between 2 professors; one who teaches the theoretical aspects and one who teaches the practical. While for some of the classes this was helpful, for others it caused a problem because one professor may have been great and the other one not very good. For some of the courses, you rely purely on instruction as there are no books or anything to rely on. What cultural differences have you noticed between Armenia and the country of your stay so far? The cultural differences between Spain and Armenia are quite vast. People in Spain are very laid back and calm and it seems like they’re never in a rush to get anywhere. They party a lot and go out for drinks almost every night. Drinking beer is like drinking water for Spanish people, and in some places, it’s cheaper than water! It stood out a lot though that the cafeteria in the university served beer and you can just go grab a drink and go to class.
Anahit Hovhannisyan-University of Murcia, Spain
Erasmus+ mobility program has always been our dream coming true in Spain. From the first day of our stay, we fell in love with Spain and Spanish people, with their kindness and hospitability. It was interesting to see how two different cultures of Spain and Armenia, developed in completely distinct areas, shared common things that made us feel like home. We got a lot of Erasmus friends and invited everyone to visit Armenia. Moreover, we spent a very good time together, sharing the uniqueness of our cultures and our perception. Yes, and by the way, we got quarantined too, spending two long months at home and following all the regulations. Though it ruined all our plans, it was quite an experience, too, since we learned how to cope with unprecedented times and organize our day accordingly. We also had a chance to travel to two of the most beautiful European cities: Madrid and Barcelona. Though all our planned tours were canceled, even these two trips were enough to make us fall in love with traveling. Though we couldn’t explore all the depth of this mobility program, it was an unforgettable experience. Europe, wait for us, we will be back.
Naira Minasyan-SKEMA Business School, France
Looking back, I can certainly say that the study abroad has had a great impact on my life by giving invaluable knowledge and experience. I suddenly appeared in a country where people spoke a language that I didn’t know, lived in a culture that was so different from mine, had a lifestyle to which I wasn’t used to. This experience has made me get out of my comfort zone, challenge myself, and grow as a person.
Foremost, the exchange gave me the chance to fully discover the French culture and environment by participating in their traditional events and festivals, observing their lifestyle, practicing the language, and talking to natives. I have been surprised and really liked the hospitability, open-mindedness, positivity, and the constant smiles on people’s faces. Besides, I felt motivated and liked how most youngsters and particularly elders were taking care of their health and well-being by regularly practicing sport. It was very nice to be surrounded by people who were full of passion for life, who were enjoying and making the most of it.
Furthermore, the exchange has allowed me to travel to other European countries and to experience their lifestyle and way of living, to see how different, developed, and sufficient they are. I have explored and appreciated the societal differences and cultural diversity, have admired picturesque middle-age and cutting-edge European architecture. I have gotten to know many new and interesting places and was able to expand my perspective of the world.
Besides, I would like to highlight the university experience and life at SKEMA Business School, which made me observe the cross-cultural differences and similarities toward education and career that I have found interesting. Firstly, it’s important to mention that the educational system used by SKEMA was almost the same as what we have at AUA. The way of how classes were organized, the way of teaching, the way of conducting exams, assessing students’ works haven’t been new, which helped me adapt quickly and go with the flow. However, I have also noticed that in Armenia, especially at AUA, education, and knowledge are much more appreciated, efficient, and effective; the practice is much richer and more valuable. In contrast, most people at SKEMA are more focused on developing their hobbies and interests, enjoying their student life, spending their time with friends, and discovering the local culture from inside. Despite these differences, I have fully enjoyed studying in this versatile atmosphere and just being a part of this community. Moreover, the cultural diversity of the campus gave me a great opportunity to broaden my horizons, meet many new people from different parts of the world with different insights and perspectives, with various backgrounds and mindsets. And even though the coronavirus outbreak we haven’t been able to go to the campus and finish our classes properly, that was another situation that should be taken under control, and another challenge that should be overcome. Due to all these experiences, I was able to discover my strengths and abilities, acquire new personal and professional skills, become more independent and ready to take on new challenges.
I am very delighted that I had the chance to be a part of the Erasmus+ Mobility program and spend my spring semester in France. I highly recommend everybody to use the opportunity of student exchange during their university life, as it will give them not only unforgettable moments but lifetime memories.