Author: Daniel Illmeier
Overview – History
The Canary Islands are an archipelago that arises 200km off the coast of Morocco. It consists out of the seven islands Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, La Palma, La Gomera und El Hierro. The first three mentioned islands belong to the province Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the following four islands to the province Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Las Palmas is the Capital of the Canary Islands and the largest city (380.000 inhabitants) in the region. Santa Cruz de Tenerife follows with 205.000 inhabitants.
It is believed that Gran Canaria was already populated in around 500 B.C., although there are several theories regarding the origins of its early inhabitants. One widely accepted theory is that Gran Canaria’s natives, widely known as Guanches, originally came from North Africa and that they were descendants of the Berber people. This theory is believed to be tho most likely as in 1870’s a couple of cave paintings and storage caves for grain (the same method was used by the Berber people to store food) were found on Gran Canaria (e.g. cueva pintada in Galdar). After the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe forgot about the Canary Islands for almost 1,000 years and until the rediscovery of the Canaries by Mediterranean as the Italians, Portuguese and Catalans. At the beginning of the 15th century, the rapid process of the conquest of the islands began. In Gran Canaria, the Guanches fiercely resisted the Spanish invasion by Juan Rejón, but by 1483 Pedro de Vera, who led the Spanish forces, had completed the conquest. Many Guanches were killed or committed suicide. Those who survived were forced into slavery and to convert to Christianity, and soon started to die out. Contacts with the New World (because of the high emigration to Latin America due to collapses of local industries), where Cuba had won freedom from Spain in 1898, led to calls for Canarian independence. Most people simply wanted the division of the archipelago into two separate provinces (Las Palmas and Tenerife), which eventually came about in 1927. In 1912 the Island Council’s Law was brought into force, which led to a number of infrastructure projects such as the airport, reservoirs and the principal motorway network of the island, laying the foundation stone for the development of the tourism industry. Another key date in the history of the Canary Islands is 1982, when the Autonomous Government Statutes were passed.
Nowadays tourism is the most important economic branch on the islands. Beside tourism there is a more or less big agriculture branch (especially bananas - or platanos as they are called on the Canary Islands). This branch could not exist without subsidies by continental Spain and European Union. As the region is geographically disadvantaged there are lower taxes on products that are produced on the islands (every imported good has to be added a tax called IGIC that raises the price by 5%). Some goods have lower taxes, especially when tourism benefits of that (e.g. cigarettes, gasoline and alcohol).
The road system is well built: Highways are present in every region that is important for visitors; Mountain-roads are very scenic and winding and can also turn into narrow paths. The island has lots of beautiful spots, although tourism has destroyed a big part of the islands nature yet. The south is (due to the mostly sunny weather there) crowded with people, hotels and shopping malls and the shore is concreted except some artificial beaches. The north is more humid and cloudy. That is also why it is cooler and easier to work there during the day. That is why I guess Las Palmas as capital arose in the north. The western part of the island is charming, quiet and nice and it consists mainly out of sharp cliffs and mountains that bear some hidden beaches. Public transport can take you around the island – not very cheap but sometimes affordable. I you believe it or not: The cheapest way to come around is to hire a car with some friends or do hitch-hiking.
Las Palmas - View from Isleta to City Beach
The island is perfect for every kind of sports: Hiking, Biking (mountain and road), diving, surfing, wind-surfing, kite-surfing, sailing, paragliding and so on. Within short distances all these kinds of sports can be practiced, which is wonderful. I also tried out lots of the mentioned things.
Comparison of education systems
In Austria the educative system starts with the elementary school (Volksschule – 4 grades), which is obligatory for children who completed their 6th year of life (to avoid misunderstandings the German expressions are written in bracelets). After elementary school children enter the secondary school (Sekundarstufe I – 4 grades) ether in a Gymnasium (Allgemeine höhere Schule) or in secondary modern school (Hauptschule). In case children want to continue with a professional education, they have to attend one more year at school to complete compulsory school education first. If children want to continue with school education (Sekundarstufe II), there are different possibilities (Gymnasium or a set of vocational educative schools). These schools end with a graduation called Matura (similar to british A-Levels). With this graduation it is possible to continue with Studies at University. The school-marks reach from 1 to 5, whereas one is the best and five is the worst mark.
The Spanisch educative System begins for children from 6 years on in elementary school (Educación Primaria) which is divided in 6 grades). Subsequent follows secondary school (Educación Secundaria Obligatoria – ESO), which consist of four grades. After completing the compulsory school education is finished. From here on it can be decided to choose two more years of education in “Bachillerato” grades (which lead to graduation and permission for universitary studies - Educación Superior) or to go on with the “Ciclo Formativo”, which is a continuative professional education. School-marks reach from 1 to 10, whereas 10 is the best and 1 the worst.
I chose a set of courses in advance to my ERASMUS semester. Due to some timetable clashes I had to change my learning agreement and exchange some courses. In the following section I am going to describe my elected courses:
1.) Español Lengua Extranjera A1-A2 (Spanish as foreign language level A1-A2) - 6 ECTS
• Improve the linguistic skills form almost no skills or A1 level to the level A2.
• Work and practice in small groups to be able to have conversations.
• Grammar, verbs and times
• Get to know some aspects of Spanish culture, Canary Culture and the way of life in Spanish speaking countries.
• Learn about the local habits, singularities of Canary Islands and details of the daily life.
This course was totally necessary for me. I arrived with almost no Spanish skills and had to deal in my daily life with common situations (shopping, bureaucracy stuff at the University, simple conversations, etc.). Therefore I needed this lessons a lot. I had the chance to strengthen my skills that I gained in the Spanish course at my home University. To detect the individual level of all Erasmus students there was held a language test in the beginning. According to the result the students were spread up in groups of the levels A1/A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2. It is a pity that there is not a single A2 course available (I knew most of the content of A1 already – but in that case it was a good consolidation of the knowledge.
In the course we used the book „Gente 1" which costs 30 €. The related workbook costs 20 €. We did not use it in the lessons. It is only to prepare and practice alone (especially for the final examination).
Additionally we had to practice with the online-Application (available under duolingo.com for PC or smartphone). The progress in the software was also part of the final mark. With the application you can practice vocabulary and grammar very effectively on your own. It reminds you to redo lessons and is built up like a game (you can earn and lose points and buy stuff with those).
2.) Educación musical (music education) – 6 ECTS
• Acquire management skills for classes.
• Develop concerns about the process of learning and its effects on pupil’s future.
• Learn to apply processes of interaction and communication in class.
• Learn the basics of music theory (note values, nomenclature, kinds of rhythms)
• Read and write scores and learn to repeat rhythms of written scores.
• Learn the basics of the flute.
• Learn and discuss about music history and important composers.
• Make a presentation of a composer (present in the 1. person).
This course is held in the second semester. It is a basic course that deals with music theory, music history and leads to better understanding of evolvement of music. The content is held in a way, that teaching methods are practiced simultaneously (discussions, presentations, practical parts where playing instruments together is an essential element). Additionally we practiced singing, humming or clapping different rhythms that should help to attract the attention of children in class (also in other subjects, for example mathematics – for example: Fractions can be exemplified with note values which can lead to a better understanding for pupils). To pass the final examination it is necessary to be able to read and repeat patterns of different rhythms and also to play songs on the flute.
3.) Vela y Tablas Deslizadoras a Vela (Sailing and Windsurfing) – 6 ECTS
• Learn about the history of sailing and windsurfing.
• Get to know the related terminology and also Spanish language while the course.
• Study the technical and physical basics of sailboats.
• Reaching the theoretical and practical basics in windsurfing and sailing.
• Practical training of maneuvers. Training for a regatta.
• Strengthening of the capacity for teamwork.
• Strengthening of the capability of making decisions.
• Building up reciprocal confidence.
• Training the role as leader.
• Getting to know a different method of learning (trial and error) in this course.
The duration of the course was three weeks and the course is blocked. The course included a theoretical and a practical part. The first lesson treated of theoretical basics. The second lesson was already held in the water (after instructions how to build up the boats) which is quite early. Thus we had to experience sailing without an extensive knowledge about sailing – it was more or less an experience of trial and error. This method makes it possible to raise one’s interest in the following theoretical lessons because lots of questions appear while the practical part and it is easier to understand problems and questions which are treated in these lessons. The course is perfect to train social competences such as the capacity of teamwork, the capacity of making decisions in a group and thereby the training of the role as a leader and the reciprocal building of confidence in the team. All these competences are very important for teaching students. The training of the mentioned skills is important for everybody. Therefore I think the course is appropriate for everybody who wants to development his personality. In the training for a regatta the team spirit shapes the team to an operating society. The observation of this evolvement is really interesting. The course leads to a better physical and psychical understanding and I think it strengthens indirectly the ability of problem solving and conflict resolution. Additionally the course is very funny although is very time-consuming. The lessons last all the afternoon for three weeks and additionally you have to visit the other courses.
Windsurfing in Alcaranaveras Beach of Las Palmas
4.) Practicum I – 6 ECTS
• Gain safety in the roll as teacher
• widen the horizon of didactical possibility
• Gain an insight into the daily school operations
The school where I did my internship was the Colegio Heidelberg (www.heidelbergschule.com) which is a private school where the children can start in the Kindergarden and stay untill they finished school when they are approximately 18 years old. Thus it is a private school the parents have to pay a lot of money for the school. Parents send their kids to this school because in many cases they are not satisfied with the condition of public schools. In addition German as foreign language is important in tourism and it is advantageous to speak it. For more informations see also section "Comparison od education systems".
Entrance of Colegio Heidelberg in Las Palmas
During the time in Colegio Heidelberg I had to execute the elaborated schedule, which was prepared by my tutor at school, Mónica Betancor Bohn (email@example.com). My coordinator from Univerity for this practical was Mª Del Carmen Bosch Caballero (firstname.lastname@example.org). This schedule was many-sided and included a set of different subjects, which I attended to. Additionally I helped out at different Projects. The table below shows which tasks I had to deal with in my practical and subsequently I describe some of the tasks more detailed.
Table 1: A List of my different tasks in Colegio Heidelberg during my practical
My tasks in Colegio Heidelberg
Support, holding and attending classes in the different grades and types of school according to the schedule as well as attending and supporting school projects.
Primary school - Educación primaria
Nature Study (Naturkunde) – Garden project
Secondary school - Educación secundaria Obligatoria
Biology and Geology
Social Education (Sozialkunde)
Graduation Classes - Bachillerato
Preparation for oral exams with students
Administrative tasks together with teachers for the final examinations.
Other tasks – Otra tareas
Presentation of Austria in classes
PowerPoint, Introduction, Famous people, Geography, Language (Comparison Germany – Austria, Dialects, Professions)
Week project in 6th grades of secondary school
Presentation of the results of the semester projects in 4th grades of secondary school
To carry out the tasks at Colegio Heidelberg was really interesting. I liked the mix of the different school-types and I enjoyed working with children of different ages with different origins. The lessons were held in Spanish and some of them in German.
In German I could help a lot. When the pupils learned grammar and had to fill in worksheets, I could support them. Sometimes I could help writing dialogues or just talk to them to practice. I could also learn a lot of Spanish expressions while talking with the pupils. With the graduation classes I practiced presenting in German and listened to their presentations to discuss afterwards how to improve and to tell them, which things they really did well and which mistakes they did. One of my tasks was also to present Austria. This task was very funny and I liked it a lot. Therefore I held a presentation in different classes which always came up to a full lesson. In this process I also discussed current topics of their German lessons (e.g. professions in German). The children liked it a lot and also my tutor was always very pleased. For more Information follow the section “Documentos del centro” where I put the slides of the presentation.
Biology and Geology was one of my favourite subjects. Here we talked for example about the anatomy of plants, collected plants from outside of the school and discussed these later on in class. The geologic lessons focused on the evolvement of volcanoes and plate tectonics, which was very interesting for the children, because they live on a former volcano island.
In Nature Study we did a garden project where I and the teacher showed the class how to plant the seedlings (lettuce, tomato, carrot and potato) into the bed. Because there is less water on the island summer the plants have to be watered by an irrigation-system.
Small vegetable garden of Colegio Heidelberg - Pupils planting carrots
In Mathematics I mostly attended to lessons which treated calculations of areas of two dimensional plane figures. These lessons were interesting, because the spoken language was Spanish and so I learned some Spanish expressions in Mathematics.
Social Education and Civics was working on the History of Anne Frank. The lesson was held in German and the script they worked with was also written in German. As there were many exercises that focused on the translation from German to Spanish, I could also profit from it. Finally the pupils had to work in groups to create posters.
The week project in the 6th grades of secondary school was very interesting. The aim for groups of six pupils was to invent a type of fun-sport. The project had a focus on German language and therefore all the paperwork (description of the game, script of rules, presentation on the computer, video and poster for promotion and homepage) had to be done in German. During this week I helped to lead and organize the classes through the project. Although it was not easy, because it was the first project they ever did at school and therefore they were quite unprepared and aimless in the beginning. After all the aims were executed they had to explain the game to pupils of primary school, which had to play the game after it. This was the difficulty for the 6th grades, because they had to create a game, which will be understood by younger children. This week was really funny and it was nice to see how to organize a project and which problems appear in organization during such an event.
Week project in the 6th grades
The presentation of the results of the semester projects in 4th grades of secondary school was also a very nice event. Pupils were very creative in the selection of their topics, as well in the realization. I was there to speak and listen to the children’s presentation and to have a dialogue with them and thereby practice their German skills. Among the topics you could find almost everything that is imaginable. From a created cooling-suit for the dessert over Henna-Tattoo drawing to a Guidebook from Gran Canaria everything was there. The pupils also seemed to enjoy talking to me.
All in all I really liked to participate to all the described things. It was a good experience and helped me to develop my Spanish skills as well. Most of the teachers were really nice and we also met sometimes in my spare time to do something together.
The process of application begins already at home, when you have to contact your coordinator. In my case this was Elisa Ramón (email@example.com). She works with incoming students which study teaching. I also had to ask lots of stuff at the Oficina de Movilidad de Humanidades (firstname.lastname@example.org), which helps in bureaucratic cases such as your learning agreement, the arrival certificate, the letter of confirmation and the transcript of records. This office is located in the “Edificio de Humanidades” at the “Obelisco” which is the University for social sciences. When I arrived in Las Palmas I had to take part in an info meeting. It takes place in the first week of university and you get told all the important things and dates. Due to the fact that it is hold in Spanish, it is not so easy to understand what they are telling you. Together with other Erasmus students you can figure it out. The welcome week starts soon after that. You can join it (it is not obligatory) and you will be shown some nice things on the island. The matriculation is a piece of paper that contains your chosen courses of the learning agreement and your user name for the online portal. You will get it after you handed in the final version of your learning agreement (after all changes). Most of the students change some courses. I also did, because there appeared some timetable crashes. Without a signed matriculation you are not allowed to take the exams and you can’t log in the online portal (where also all the relevant documents for your lectures are uploaded).
Tough there is no need to stress because during the first month students are allowed to change their original courses if they want to. In that case speak with your coordinator. Remember: Almost every change is possible, they will help you, but it will take lots of effort and cost a lot of patience. Everything lasts longer than in Austria and the canary attitude is usually very “tranquillo”, which means relaxed. So never give up and try to take it easy because everything works, not today but tomorrow.
Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC)
Calle Juan de Quesada, nº 30 - Las Palmas de Gran Canaria - 35001 - España
Name of the Erasmus Corordinator for teaching: Elisa Ramón (email@example.com)
You can reach the University (Obelisco campus) with the following bus lines (they are called Guagua’s there): 2, 11, 25, 81 and L3.
I lived in a shared flat with other Erasmus students. To find it was not that easy. You can prebook it from your home country. Then you won’t have stress in the beginning there but you do not know how it looks like in reality or what the neighborhood is like. You also won’t know the people before. Therefore I decided to look for accommodation after I arrived. There are some homepages with insertions (www.milanuncios.es or www.pisocompartido.es). It is useful to speak a little Spanish but we managed to do it without as well. The Oficina de Movilidad will also send you a link for a Facebook group. There you can also find flats. Our flat was really nice and our combination of flat mates was grandiose. Unfortunately our neighbor was a terrible woman, which always tyrannized us. It happened to some other people also that the neighbors did not like them. Erasmus students don’t have a good reputation in Las Palmas. They are known to be loud and tiring. In general you can calculate with 200 to 250€ for a good flat. You can also find rooms starting from 150 € per month. Electricity and water are mostly not included.
One of the cooking evenings in my shared flat with my flatmates
Lots of students stay in a hostel for the first weeks to search for a flat there. This is a good idea and you get in touch with lots of other people.
La vida en Las Palmas
The life in Las Palmas is a little cheaper that in Austria. Some products are more expensive, others (especially alcohol, cigarettes and fuel) are cheaper. Vegetable is incredibly expensive in some supermarkets. The best way is to buy local vegetable from a market (there are three in town). It is much cheaper and seems to be fresher as well. But remind that they close at 1 pm already.
The city consists out of three parts: The old town “Vegueta”, the modern region “Las Canteras” and the “Barrios”, neighborhoods surrounding the two mentioned parts. The old town is nice in terms of architecture and culture. Every Thursday it is awaiting with a culinary highlight: Tapa night. Every Saturday the bars on placa de la musica are open and sometimes there are live concerts or small music events.
Concert on placa de la musica - the place is sourrounded by nice bars
During the Carneval all parts of the city are (especially on the weekends) in always in party mode. Carneval lasts for one month (and continues afterwards in other cities of the island - and then also on other islands). It is very funny and theparades are great. After some weeks it gets tough, because it seems like a never ending story. Enjoy and don't forget to dress up.
Dressed up for the Carneval in Las Palmas
My flat was located in Las Canteras. This part is very modern and busy. Lots of cars and people, the architecture is a mix of 80’s and 90’s laced with modern buildings. Lots of buildings are empty, because the unemployment is high and a high number of people cannot afford to live in the city. On the other side there is the nice city beach and the center of nightlife with bars and clubs. The beach is perfect for surfing and snorkeling. I would recommend to try snorkeling out the area in front of the beach. A former reef builds a natural barrier and it is great to snorkel there while low tide. Surfing is great there in the left corner of the beach. There are various surf schools located. I would advise California Surf school because for students you can rent the board and wetsuit for 30€ a month. There is no teacher included. You can figure it out alone (asking people, youtube). If you like scuba diving I would go to 7mares dive shop (www.7mares.es). I did two dives and it was great. Unfortunately it time passes fast and in the end you try to do everything you did not do earlier. So use your time there and don’t waste your time.
I would recommend making daytrips with rental cars. They are really cheap (around 25€ per day) and when you book online for some more days they get even cheaper. The bus network on the island is also not so bad. But the center and the western parts of the island are not that easy reachable by public transport. I liked these regions best. That’s why we rented a car quite often. To reach other islands use the service of Armas ferries (www.navieraarmas.com). You can also make use of planes between the islands, but I like to travel on boats. And they are cheaper. The island bears lots of treasures. Las Palmas is a great city to live. So enjoy your stay there. It is a great experience to live in another culture with a different language. The culture is not that difficult (still a western culture), but actually it is a mix of European and South American culture. Right now I already miss Las Palmas, the people, the sea. I am sure to travel back to the islands some time.
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