18/03/2021 Interview

Margot Finet, exchange student in Business Administration

“It never occurred to me not to go on Erasmus because of COVID”

Exchange student Margot Finet sitting on the beach in Tarragona.

How are international students experiencing their mobility programme in URV in the midst of a pandemic? We find out with Margot Finet, a French Bachelors student in Business Administration, who has been on an Erasmus exchange at the URV since September 2020.

How has your Erasmus experience been so far, in the middle of a pandemic?

My experience in the midst of the pandemic was different from how I imagined it would be. I expected to be a little isolated in my flat in front of my computer, but the restrictions in Spain have been less strict than in France, which meant that I have never been too lonely. I have still managed to make friends on my Erasmus experience and with my Catalan classmates but it is still difficult to get to know people well when you are distance-learning.

How was your experience doing a mobility programme via online classes?

The online classes were complicated at the beginning because the courses are not in my native language, the activities and exercises in the classes are difficult to do without hands-on help, and I had to learn how to use Moodle and Teams. But over time you learn to master the computer tools and you can participate better with your teachers and the activities they propose. However, this will never replace face-to-face teaching.

Did you consider not going on exchange due to COVID?

No, it never occurred to me not to go on Erasmus because of COVID. I am no safer in France than in Spain and the health measures in place meant that I was (and still am) safe. Personally, I was not worried about that.

Did you choose Tarragona for any particular reason?

Originally, my Erasmus was supposed to be in New Zealand, but that was cancelled due to COVID. When I contacted my university, they informed me that certain countries had places available, including Spain. This meant I could choose between two universities, one in Catalonia and one in Andalusia, and I chose the URV because of its proximity to France, just in case of problems due to COVID.

Now that you mention it, this year we have noticed an increase in the number of French students doing their exchange programme in URV. Do you think that proximity is the reason why?

I have spoken to many French students who have found themselves in the same situation as me, namely that their original preference was cancelled, which left them looking for an alternative because they still wanted to go abroad. Some of them were supposed to go to Colombia or Mexico, but had to change their plans because of last-minute cancellations.

Have you had the chance to visit other regions besides Tarragona city despite the inter-county lockdown?

It has been very complicated to organise outings outside Tarragonès county. However, I have been able to visit Barcelona and many small villages around Tarragona. There is a lot to do and visit in this region and right now, we have more relaxed restrictions compared to France, so it’s nice.

What positive aspects about your mobility would you like to highlight to other students?

I would tell them that even if many former Erasmus students tell you that it is easy and that you have a lot of free time, I would remind them that it is still a year of study. You still have to work often, hand in homework, attend all the classes, do group projects and presentations. In the end, I was able to effectively combine student life and Erasmus life, you just have to find the right balance, although I did find this difficult at the beginning.

What do you like most about Tarragona? Would you recommend it?

What I like most about Tarragona is that it is a big city without the disadvantages of big cities. It’s a good place to live and the rents are cheap compared to France. It’s a clean and historic city with monuments and a beautiful coastline perfect for walking and beach parties (with masks of course). I highly recommend this town and have found that people have always been patient and tried to understand me despite my accent. Finally, I like the fact that Tarragona isn’t full of French people, unlike in Barcelona. Instead, we have the chance  to develop our Spanish whilst discovering a beautiful city.

Any plans for the Easter holidays? Do you have something in mind for when the restrictions are lifted?

Right now I am not giving this too much thought because with the start of the new school year I have a lot of work to do. When the restrictions are lifted, I would like to be able to travel and discover more of the region but also to be able to return to my festive student life and to get to know my university classmates better as well as more people on an international level.