An interview with 4th year Erasmus exchange student Paula AlóLluesma, by Euan Paterson.  

Not even the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit, nor the infamous wet Scottish weather could prevent Spanish student Paula Alós Lluesma from achieving her dream of studying the oceans. 

The 21 year old from Valencia knew she wanted to be a marine scientist from the age of three and ever since has worked towards a career as a researcher. Her career path has brought her to the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) UHI on the Erasmus student exchange programme for the first semester of the 2021-22 academic year. 

A fourth year student of marine science at the Catholic University of Valencia, Paula applied to come to SAMS UHI after a friend spoke enthusiastically of their own experience in Oban. Keen to learn more about the entire ocean system, Paula was also delighted that the SAMS UHI course offered modules in oceanography, which were not available to her in Valencia. 

Paula from Valencia studies BSc Marine Science in Scotland at SAMS UHI.

However, her ambition to study in Scotland was almost cut short by Brexit and the Covid-19 lockdown. 

“I loved the sound of SAMS UHI,” said Paula. “But I was originally told I could not go because of Brexit. I began to look at other options, but on the deadline day for Erasmus applications I found out I could go to Scotland, as the UK and the EU agreed to honour the Erasmus exchange until 2023. When I heard that, I had no hesitation in applying to SAMS UHI. 

“There was then the issue of the Covid-19 pandemic, but after filling out some extra paperwork, I was able to travel.” 

Paula said the teaching at SAMS UHI has surpassed expectation, as she has met inspiring lecturers who have helped her to look at her career in different ways. 

“For the marine pollution module, for example, I get different lecturers, who are all active researchers,” she said. “This gives me different perspectives on one topic and helps me in developing my own career as a research scientist. 

“I really enjoy my biology modules but I am surprised at how much I have enjoyed the topics that relate more to physics. It is important to understand the ocean as a whole, not just the biology, because it is all interlinked. In the terrestrial world, people see how the wind blows and how air moves things, but you can’t see below the surface of the ocean to know how currents move.”   

Studying and lectures are, of course, only part of the Erasmus experience and Paula said she has welcomed a slower pace of life in the Scottish west Highlands. 

She said: “Before I came to Scotland, people joked that there was no sunshine! I am certainly used to more sunshine in Valencia, but I have bought myself some waterproof trousers, some hats and gloves – and I got used to the rain! 

“There is a more relaxed rhythm of life in Oban, compared with Valencia. In the city, I always seem to be running everywhere all the time but walking through Oban is peaceful and people are very friendly. I really enjoy it. 

“I have taken time to join student clubs and I go diving and sailing with them. That has helped me to settle in and has improved my English too.  

“The way that SAMS UHI looks after students is so nice. They always ask me if I need help with anything. I feel really supported here.” 

Find out more about studying Marine Science at SAMS UHI as an international student. 

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