A semester in Spain during the coronavirus crisis? Tomáš Hercig on unusual and valuable experiences

  • David Jančar
  • 03.07.2020
Many of us are still dealing with the coronavirus situation. But what was the semester like for someone who stayed in one of the coronavirus-affected countries in Europe? Student of the follow-up master's degree program in Economics and Management at the School of Business Administration of the Silesian University Bc. Tomáš Hercig described his experience from the Erasmus + program in Cartagena, Spain.

Author: Eva Gladkovová - student editorial staff of the Silesian University, see original Czech interview here.

Before the very beginning of your stay in Spain, did something worry or discourage you?

I was a little scared, but not about the situation in the world. I have already had experience with internships abroad for students. And yet it was a little scary for me to leave for a long time. But I felt I needed to slow down. That's why I chose Spain. It tempted me to get to know a more relaxed lifestyle and a different environment. And so, with two other friends from the Faculty, we set off by car in the direction of Cartagena in mid-February.

Relatively soon after your departure, the coronavirus spread throughout Europe. How did you experience it abroad?

At first, we didn't deal with it at all. Actually, no one in the country. We had news from families and acquaintances who cared what was wrong with us and if we were okay. We went to university for about five weeks, we had our program and no one even thought about what was coming. It all happened from day to day.

How did the measures differ in the Czech Republic and Spain?

The biggest difference was in the time lag. Just like in this country,  everything closed very quickly, just a little later. We had a big problem getting face masks and disinfectants, we had to go around all the pharmacies in town and in the last we were lucky. The wave of solidarity with sewing face masks did not manifest itself in Spain as much as in the Czech Republic. Personally, I was very surprised by the empty shelves and the greed of people from the beginning. And we were slightly surprised by the presence of the police in the streets.

This is how Tomáš Hercig experienced quarantine in the Spanish way, author: Tomáš Hercig
Before coronavirus, it was fun in Spain, author: Tomáš Hercig
On the beach in La Manga, author: Tomáš Hercig

How did Cartagena and Spain affect you in general?

The place is beautiful. The university building is basically a historic fortress and in front of it lies a breathtaking port. People are more spirited than I expected, but it met my expectations in a different worldview. I would like to transfer the way they can enjoy and relish everything there to this country.

Would you highlight some of the most interesting or powerful moments of this semester?

The experience with the Spanish police is definitely unforgettable. We got permission from our property owner to go to the house for a while, where no one was, to get some fresh air a little. Before I could reach my roommates, they both lay on the ground under pressure from the police, who demanded our documents. Perhaps ignorance of Spanish and the police's lack of English helped us out of this particular situation. It was probably a denunciation, but we didn't learn more. The second such moment was when I realized that I had quite possibly suffered from coronavirus. That was before the quarantine began at a party where there were a lot of people. And a little later, when a friend read me all the possible symptoms of coronavirus, I realized that I had probably unknowingly experienced it. I wasn't feeling well for about a week, but I didn't have a cough, so it didn't occur to me right away. However, after returning to the Czech Republic, the tests did not confirm the presence of antibodies in me or my friends.

What does this great experience of 2020 mean to you?

I'm still a little sorry I haven’t experience the classic Erasmus. We wanted to travel every weekend. But what I am happy about was an incredible opportunity to work on my personal soft skills. Learn to be able to get along with people around you in every situation, find effective solutions and make quick decisions. I am most pleased with the idea for a new project for Business Gate, which I have brought from Spain. We are preparing BG Stories in the form of podcasts and we are looking forward to other interesting projects. And if anyone hesitates to go to Erasmus, let them stop thinking whether to go or not and just go. Such a chance may no longer exist in life.

Carnival with a reference to the popular Spanish series Paper House, author: Tomáš Hercig
From the last day before the Spanish quarantine, author: Tomáš Hercig

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