The response any Spaniard would expect from a university department to a rushed email about career concerns from a sweaty second-year student in her break from a sun-bathing session at the Costa del Sol in the middle of the summer is, I can assure you, quite close to inexistent. In contrast, doing so with a Scottish university has turned out to be a whole new experience. After less than 24 hours since I sent a query about career boosting opportunities that I was offered within the university, an email popped back in my inbox. The response was extensive and personal, and even then I was already satisfied. Getting an appointment with an adviser before the start of the academic year to talk through my doubts was far enough from the resigned answer from the Universidad de Málaga’s term secretary telling me to shut my mouth until the beginning of the course and double check the web page because “It’s all in there, nena, it’s all in there”.
But I certainly could not believe my eyes when later on my dad handed me a brown envelope with the Royal Mail stamp. I opened it unhurriedly while making a joke about me being expelled from the university, only to find a few seconds later a three pages leaflet from the Careers Services department in response to the email I had sent only two working days before. I could keep on raving about the counselling services, student advocacy or housing assistance, to name but a few.
This experience has reminded me of how unbelievably lucky I am to have such caring professionals at my disposal, being paid by others to work only and exclusively for me. It has made me think about the amount of money and passion that must be invested in Scottish education and universities for this to be feasible. It has made me think that maybe it is more necessary than we think: for a government to budget for the urgent posting of informative letters to undecided Spaniards in the middle of August, in order to build a country whose people’s main values are commitment, social justice and a common sense of wellbeing. Perhaps the value education is given in Scotland – having hundreds working hand in hand for the flawless personal and professional development of the young people of this country – is making the real difference. This way maybe, at the end of my degree I will feel I owe Scotland for what it has made for my experience to be as good as it could possibly be. As far away as I go physically, I will never be able to escape my adoptive country at heart, because at least in terms of education and personal growth, it has already done more for me than I could have ever asked for. It is not about tying people to places, of course, but provided a country is a collective project that aims for prosperity, there is no better way to get back the benefits of a billionaire investment in education than doing it in a disinterested, undemanding and caring way. Most of the times when you give the most of yourself, you get the most from others, and a country that bases its policies on that principle is bound to be a fair, strong country.
So instead, I guess the question this should lead us to ask ourselves is, what is so wrong with Spanish education that a 19-year-old receiving a prompt letter from her educational institution from the other side of the world in response to a clear call for information, causes her such awe and gratefulness that she feels the urge to share it with a news agency? Truth be told, many improvements are being made throughout the years. The UMA, as many other Spanish universities, has launched very recently (2015) a careers orientation service targeted to its students. Nonetheless, however groundbreaking this may be, there is still a long way ahead.