Tuesday, 21 February 2012

ERASMUS, a review so far

I only have four months left of my ERASMUS life.  No I'm not sure how that happened so quickly either.  When I arrived here in the last week of August in 2011 under a scorching sun, the last thing I expected was time to fly past so quickly.  But here we are in February and in my mind I'm already organizing my move back to the UK.  

I've come to realise that every ERASMUS year and it's results varies from person to person.  

When we were still in our first year at Cardiff the year abroad felt centuries away; and then suddenly we were in 2nd year having meetings about choosing the best destination for you, meetings about how to deal with paperwork (they couldn't have prepared us for that side of things even if they'd tried) and even a health and safety meeting (which basically was aimed at girls and the advice given was to not dress like we do back in the UK and never accept drinks from men).  We had also meeting with returning 4th year students and most of them proclaimed loudly that it had been the best year of their lives.

Back in December a close friend came to visit me from Bordeaux where she was spending her first ERASMUS semester.  We were both sat in a café drinking Earl Grey tea when I admitted to her something that I hadn't told anyone else yet: that I wasn't having the best year of my life.  She looked beyond relived and agreed with me.  That is to say that I have had a good year, I still am.  I have met so many interesting people and see so many interesting things.  But I am not having the best year of my life.  I'm in danger of sounding ungrateful and of course I'm far from that.  This is a priceless opportunity that's opened my eyes to a whole new culture I was only vaguely aware of, and it's pushed me to embrace a change that I had no option but to partake in.  At my university the year abroad is mandatory.  For me personally it was very hard to leave Cardiff.  I've been traveling and on the move all my life and I felt like I had finally settled down in Cardiff, and then was told to pack up again and move somewhere else.  I spend a lot of time thinking about what I'd be doing back home and all the things I am missing because I am in France.

An ERASMUS year means you give up on a lot of things to be in a foreign country.  Seeing friends from home, relationships etc.  But it also gives you so many opportunities, and hopefully it will be helpful in securing me a good and steady job once I graduate.

At the moment however I have very mixed feelings on how my year has gone on so far.  Given the option I would have still gone to France, but even at this point I can't really say what I would have done differently.  I just think that for me it was hard to do a year abroad after I had only just recently discovered that Cardiff was my home.  For many people the ERASMUS year is their first experience of life abroad and being immersed in a totally different culture.  So for them it was something entirely new and far more novel than for me.  At the moment it feels like I'm just going through the motions.

February is a cruel month in most respects, especially with the horrible lingering winter weather so these feelings are probably fueled by that.  Once the sun comes out and it is beach weather again I'm sure things will look far less grim than they do now.  It's going to be interesting to write an 'end of ERASMUS year' post and see what my feelings are then.

For all my negative things about the year abroad, I'd still recommend it to anyone thinking about doing a language degree, or even those of you who take a year out to work in industry.  It's so important to see a different part of the world and how other people think and live.  It's good to get out the bubble that we live in, even if it's to realise that life back home isn't as bad as we paint it out to be.


  1. i really like your blog!
    your photos are so beautiful ;-)

    wanna follow back?

    xx Paula♥


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