1. Please tell us about you !
Hi, my name is Habibu Mukhandi, I am a Masters student in Electrical and Computer Engineering. I am one of a few Tanzanian students at the Abdullah Gül University (AGU) and I took advantage of the partnership that AGU has with the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC), in Barcelona to go on an exchange program.
2. How did you discover this international opportunity?
It was like a jest; as a Masters student at AGU, I spend most of my time in the University library or lecture rooms for self-studying (it is the secret ingredient for success in life at AGU). There came two undergraduate students who were talking about their experience in Europe and about the fact that they visit the continent every holiday, including during the winter and spring breaks. So, I wondered if these two ladies were from very wealthy families. I hesitated to ask at first but then I had to ask them and they immediately started telling me that at AGU no student needs to be rich to enjoy visiting the European countries! They told me there are two offices in AGU dealing with exchange of students; namely: the Exchange/Erasmus Office and the Youth Factory and that they actually go to Europe in winter holidays as volunteers, hence they collaborate with the Youth Factory and that for the summer holidays they go for internships, which the Erasmus Office deals with. They went on to advise me that if I wanted more information, I should visit the University website or go directly to the Erasmus Office for further information. Then one thing led to another and I ended up taking the English exam in order to go on an Erasmus exchange. I was successful and I ultimately found myself on a plane to Europe!
3. Why did you want to go on exchange?
I did it because I wanted to experience Europe. Like most Africans, since the early years of my life, I have been hearing how great Europe is in terms of culture, rich history, advancement in technology, freedom and liberal democracies. I have been wanting to experience it all first-hand since I was a young boy. Now I can say for certain that whatever stories people tell about the continent do not even come close to describing how great it actually is. It is simply beyond its reputation.
4. Can you describe your arrival and first impressions?
My 1st impression was how nice and helpful people were. Even when I could not speak the local languages, I found it easy to move from the airport to the place I planned to stay. Also, most people are multilingual, even the janitors, which makes it easy to ask for help from anyone at any time.
The cities were so clean and very well arranged, relatively safe and not too crowded unless I was in a tourist attraction.
Apart from its transcendent infrastructure, its education system is inclusive and extensive. Unlike most parts of the world I have attended school, European professors strive to make a student learn what is crucial about the courses content in a variety of ways and they assign to their students projects which are similar to the real world problems so that when each student graduates, he/she is able to go directly to chosen industry and start working without the need for further learning/training.
5. Can you describe your courses and learning process over there?
During my time at UPC, I have learned much more about the field I am specializing in and more importantly I got to learn about cutting edge technologies in the field.
Moreover, while I was there, I was able to meet with other researchers who I hope to collaborate with in the future, in order to make the world a better place.
One of the challenges I faced as Master’s degree student at AGU is that not all of my research related courses were available during my studies there. However, my host university has a full department based on my research area. This was a great opportunity for me to add to my belt the knowledge I needed for my future research life.
As most European universities, AGU also follows the ECTS credit system. Therefore, the credits I took while I was abroad were added to my transcript and counted for my graduation.
I was inspired to work smarter rather than harder. As an AGU student I used to spend a lot of my time thinking about projects and being under pressure of exams or completing homework assignments. While I was there, I learned how to take one step at a time while learning and whatever is possible and can be done, will be done; otherwise it is not compulsory to have it all done.
Professors encouraged us to work as individuals, as well as in groups. It varies from one course assignment to another. This helped me a lot with learning time management.
While there, I enjoyed the Machine Learning and Object Recognition courses. Also, I liked the Multi-Agent System Design course which emerged from software engineering and AI.
6. What were some other interesting facts about student life at UPC?
For visiting students, there was a committee in charge of organizing on-campus activities, such as free workouts at the university gym, free museums entries, games, sports, competitions against fellow international students; as well as a Spanish student buddy to take each of us on a city tour.
Among the off-campus activities offered to us, there were trips to the Science and technology museums, the Picasso Museum, Rock climbing, and the museum of art.
7. Anything you would like to share about the local culture and traditions?
In Spain food is a big part of life. Furthermore, the place to have lunch is as important as lunch itself. This is because after lunch is a good time for people to bond.
I also enjoyed the work culture and beliefs about life and the future. As they say, “El future no es lo que va a pasar, sino lo que vamos a hacer” which roughly translates as “The future is not what is going to happen, but what we do about it.”
8. One thing you absolutely recommend to visit/see/eat…etc.?
Visit the Picasso museum in Barcelona, as well as Madrid and Andalusia!
9. And in conclusion?
I felt like I was awakened and that I was in a parallel universe. Everything is done differently from what I am accustomed to, but the most surprising thing is that it works!
I want to thank the AGU Erasmus Office, as well as my supervisor Asst. Prof. Dr. Zafer Aydin, my department coordinator Asst. Prof. Dr. Gülay Yalcin and the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) for making my journey possible and smooth.
Finally, if you have any questions, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org