student at the cafeteria of the colegio mayor larraona

Learning about Armenia – We talk with the student Suren Babadzhahyan

Suren Babadzhahyan is seventeen years old. He comes from Armenia, studies first year of Business Administration and General Management and Strategy at the University of Navarre and is staying with us at the Colegio Mayor Larraona.

He was born in Russia and has lived there, in Moscow, until two years ago, when he moved to Armenia to his grandparents’ house to study high school there. Suren speaks Armenian at home and has always lived surrounded by the Armenian culture. Last week we had the chance to learn about his country with a special activity and a thematic dinner. We interviewed him to know more about him and his background.


students in the cafeteria


Why did you choose Pamplona for your studies?

Although I’ve already been in Europe (Italy, Greece and Cyprus), it’s my first time in Spain. I decided to study here because the University of Navarre is the highest rated university among the ones that I was considering.


And how has been adapting to Spain? 

I was pretty prepared before coming here. The only thing that I found shocking was the working timetable. For example, in Armenia and in Russia the supermarkets and the malls are open on Sundays, when many people go shopping, but here they are closed, also during the “siesta” time.


Did you encounter any problem during your first days?

The first weeks were hard for me because of language issues –my biggest problem. My classmates speak English but when they are in groups, they speak Spanish. But I’ve found people who prefer to speak in English, like me, and we are together almost all the time. Now I’ve been studying Spanish for a month, and I hope that in a year I’ll be able to speak properly.


friends at colegio mayor larraona with the flag of armenia


What has helped you during this time?

Thanks to the Colegio Mayor it has been easier to make friends. Here, our rooms are next to the rooms of people from the same faculty, so it’s really convenient. We help each other with the studies. I think it’s a very good option for first year students.


Did you enjoy the activity about Armenia that we organized at the Colegio Mayor?

I liked the Armenian dinner and the activity, I had fun. I was happy to share Armenian culture and history with my friends.


students eating armenian food


What did you have for dinner?

The main dish was Khashlama, a traditional dish of vegetable, potatoes, and lamb stew. It tasted similar to the one we eat in Armenia, but I think the students liked the other dish more. It was a salad with vegetables, nuts and dried fruit. I gave our cook a list of dishes, but many of them were hard to prepared for two hundred people!


Do you like our way of cooking?

European food doesn’t taste that different. It’s not spicy like Asian food, for example. It’s not similar than Armenian food, but for me is tasty and good.


And what did the students learn, apart from your gastronomy?

We talked about Armenian history and other interesting facts. For them, it was surprising to discover that we have our own alphabet, that isn’t Cyrillic or Latin, we have our own letters. Also, they didn’t know that Armenia is a pretty ancient country; in fact, they didn’t know a thing about Armenia. Now it’s a very small country but in ancient times it was a big empire.


armenian writing workshop


You have lived in Moscow and in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. How do you find Pamplona?

I think it’s really pretty, although the city centre is small, you can go walking through it without maps. On the one side is good but it can also have a boring side.


What do you like to do in your spare time? 

I like to walk, and to go out with my friends on Friday and Saturday. I go to Larraona’s gym and I read some books during my free time.


And what do you think about your choice of study?

My studies are okay. Most of the things that we are learning now are a repetition of the things that we learned in high school, but I think that the second semester will be harder. I want to work here during my studies, I hope to find a job connected to my profession as soon as possible. But when I finish, I’m sure I’ll return to work to Armenia, I already have a few business ideas. There is no better place than Armenia. There I feel like home, it’s easier for me, compared to what it is to live in Russia. That’s why I decided to move to Armenia when I was 15 years old, I didn’t really like the life in Moscow.


landscape in the capital of armenia


And you are going to return to Armenia for Christmastime.

Yes, I’m going to spend the Christmas holidays in Armenia. I will meet my sister, who also moved to Armenia to study, and my parents and my little brother, who’ll come from Russia, a country that they are planning to leave definitely.


We hope you’ll enjoy your holidays and all the time that you stay here in Pamplona. Thank you very much for sharing your story with us!


armenian student writes his name in armenian


student watching a photo in his camera

Better together. The experience of the brothers Vivar

Aiden and Quinlan Vivar (19 and 21 years old) come from Tulsa, Oklahoma. They are two of the dozens of international students that we have this year at Colegio Mayor Larraona. You have probably seen them in our facilities or around the university’s campus, separately or together, as they have a very strong sibling bond. Although they speak English between them, they have a fairly good level of Spanish, since they came to our country three years ago, in 2019.

Aiden likes photography, “messing around” with his midi keyboard (making music and funny clips), playing chess, solving the Rubik cubes very fast, and going to the gym. Quin enjoys watching films, listening and playing Irish folk music with his octave mandolin. Keep reading to know more about this friendly pair of brothers.


student taking a picture with a camera


Figuring out what to study


The brothers Vivar went to the School of Arts and Sciences in Tulsa until the moment they moved to Sevilla with their parents. “I went to the British School of Sevilla”, explains Aiden. “A-levels were very different from the American ones. Then, it was the confinement; the pandemic was a difficult time”. After finishing high school, the youngest brother took a gap year. “It was definitely helpful. I got a job as a baker and saved up some money, and while I worked, I figured out what I wanted to study. I originally wanted to be an engineer, then an architect, and finally, I found Design a lot more interesting”.

Quin arrived in Andalucía already knowing what to study, but he hadn’t made the right university choice yet. “I found out I was interested in History as a kid”, relates Quin. “When I came to Spain for the first time, in 2016, I remember being in a castle in Oviedo, Asturias, and thinking: I’m in a real place that’s actually ancient, and I can see the work that people did in the building. That’s how I got interested in material history”.

He started to study Archeology in the University of Sevilla, but he felt he didn’t have the adequate level of Spanish. He attended the university for a semester and then started studying in a British online university. “This time it was in English, but we didn’t have lectures. They just sent us the reading material, so it wasn’t very motivating. I didn’t continue there, either”.


a student with a mandoline sitting in the porch of colegio mayor larraona


The life in Pamplona’s American-style campus


Now Aiden studies the Design’s degree of the University of Navarre, and Quin does History with Archeology diploma. Both degrees combine subjects in English and in Spanish.

“A couple of years ago, we came to Pamplona and took a tour. We really liked it. It has an American-style feeling, the whole campus is in one place. And teachers seemed very devoted, that’s refreshing”, states Aiden. “This is the best university experience I’ve had”, agrees Quin. “One of the things that drew me here is the campus, it’s like a small community. On top of that, when we were having the visit, I had an introductory conversation with two third-year students from Archeology, and they were very welcoming. I thought: ‘Here they have a supportive academic community’.” 

Although they are happy with their choice, the academic life is challenging. “I don’t have a lot of spare time here. In Design the workload is very high, we have a lot of homework and projects to do. But I do like the topics of the subjects. If I had to put myself into a dream job, probably it would be furniture design, which could lead to interior design”.

“I suppose we are going to study specially the Pre-history period, since in the north of the country there’s a lot of interesting stuff in that regard. Personally, most of my interests go from Pre-history to Middle Ages, from about any part of the world. In Sevilla, walking past the cathedral every day, I started to get an appreciation of the cathedral, of gothic architecture and of churches in general. In the States, all of them are white wooden buildings. Here you can see craftsmanship, stonework…


an american student from colegio mayor larraona


Adaptation to Spain


There are obvious differences between our country and theirs, but they seem to really like our culture and our lifestyle. “It seems calmer. There is no rush. In America you have constantly to be doing something: eating, driving… Spain is very walkable”, points out Aiden. “I don’t think I’ve ever been happier than I’m here in Spain. Wherever you go you’ll have problems, and it’s always difficult to adapt to a different culture, but I think that here the way of life makes more sense. If you go to the States, there’s a lot of people that focus their entire life on just getting into a better place, a better job. Here I see people just enjoying their life where they are”.

The adaption was fairly quick for them, they made friends right away and they enjoy the food we eat in Spain, and in the Colegio Mayor.

“It’s really nice”, says Aiden. “I cannot emphasize how different it’s to have real bread and actual olive oil”, adds Quin. “Before coming to Spain, I didn’t know why people put olive oil in salads. Here I discovered that it has flavor, a nice texture… and that is not just yellow liquid, as it tends to be in the States. The basics are good, that’s the important thing, to have real cheese, vegetables… That’s what I really like about being here”.

It has been a smooth transition”, confirms Aiden.


an american young student in colegio mayor larraona


First weeks in Larraona


Mr. and Mrs. Vivar were looking for a Colegio Mayor for their children, and they found Colegio Mayor Larraona, which they liked because of our closeness to campus and our way of doing things. “I’ve made lots of friends, Spanish, and English, and it feels like a nice community”, acknowledges Aiden. Quin has also made English friends easily, and claims that he is starting to make more Spanish-speaking friends. “I think me and my brother, whenever we go to a new place, we subconsciously try to chatter in English a bit loud, so if there’s someone else who speaks English, he’ll join us”.

Although each of them has their own personal life, they like to spend time together. “We thought after school we’d had to go separate ways, but as soon as we found that the University of Navarre had degrees that suited both of us, we decided to come, as we wanted to be together”, confesses Quin. “The relationship with my brother is very strong. I’d say, in general, I got very lucky with my family. I really like my parents, I like to spend time with them, and I think they did a decent job raising us up. If my brother and I weren’t related, I think we would still be best friends”. “Me and my brother are very close”, coincides Aiden. “We always get along. He is a good guy, always has been”.



From India to London to Pamplona – The experience of Karthick

Ezhil Vijay Karthick is one of our international students. Originally from India, he moved with his family to the United Kingdom, where he has lived for fourteen years. His next adventure? Studying Medicine (the International Programme) in the University of Navarra. That’s why he has come to Pamplona, and to Colegio Mayor Larraona. We speak with him two weeks after the beginning of the classes about his first days here, his career choice, his plans…

We are very glad to welcome international students in our Colegio Mayor. Why did you choose to study abroad?

I wanted a new experience. I know it’s going to be difficult, since I don’t speak Spanish, but it’s very interesting too. I wanted to explore more. I’m a little introverted, but once I get to know people and places, I’m more confident. And I have this desire for adventure.

You study abroad. Do you imagine yourself working abroad too? Would you like to return to India?

I travel to India every one or two years, to visit my family. I definitely want to come back and to learn my language, tamil, although I don’t really know where I’d like to work. I plan to stay here (in Spain) only for some time. I’m thinking several options… going back to UK would be a safe one.

How have been your first days in our city?

I’m slightly overwhelmed. Everyone speaks very quickly for me, so even if they are conversing normally, I have to make an effort to listen. At first, it was a bit scary to be alone, but I have found some people, people like me who don’t know Spanish. And I like a lot Pamplona, it’s a very interesting place in contrast to the UK.

And how do you feel at Larraona? What do you think of our Colegio Mayor?

The accommodation is pretty good and the food is really good too. It’s my first time in Spain, so I had never tried Spanish food before. Hopefully, when we have time, I’ll travel around Spain with my international friends, so we can see more cities, go to the beach, to the mountains…

Why did you choose to study Medicine?

 It sounds cliché, but I want to make an impact on society. And I think that Medicine it’s the biggest way to do it. I’ve always been very hard-working, since high school, so all my family and friends kept saying: “You can do something big”. I know Medicine is tough, but I just got to be positive and real.

Apart from Medicine, which are your other passions? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I like listening to music and doing sport: basketball, running, going to the gym, cricket, hockey… Keeping fit is important.

 What do you miss the most from UK?

My friend groups and the language, for the moment is hard for me to talk in Spanish. I’ve been studying it for the past two months. I’ll have to keep talking and trying. Adriana Pajares is helping me here, in Larraona.