Tuesday, 21 August 2012

ERASMUS - the final conclusion

So since I've wrapped up my year abroad in May I've been back to Germany and am now settling into my new flat in Cardiff.  I'm meeting people from back home who were also in Montpellier for their French year abroad, we've talked a lot and had time to digest everything.  Getting photos together for this post was trippy because I was looking at photos from before September 2011 and I can't believe how quickly the time went in the end.  There were so many worries and my anxiety was at peak levels before I left for France.  But here I am, in August back in Cardiff a year later as if nothing ever even happened.  This post has been in the making pretty much from the first week back in Germany but after talking about it all with my mum I felt like I didn't have anything more to say and I felt that I would just end up trying to justify myself because my personal experience wasn't as glowing as the reports I had from other people.

So the final verdict on ERASMUS:

Well worth the 9 months but the effects of it really boil down to what you make out of it and a lot of hype.  

All the returning fourth year students last year swore up and down that it was the best year of their life.  For some people this may be the case.  For me it's not.  A lot of people who go to my university had never been abroad on their own, a few of them travel to university from home every day and so going abroad on their own was a lot more of a bid deal than it was for me.  I think I'm the wrong person to judge the effectiveness of a year abroad on.  My entire life I've lived abroad and dealt with being in a foreign country.  Even the UK was a foreign country to me when I came over here at 14.  I've been flying alone since the age of 14 and boarding school made me pretty independent.  So being on my own wasn't necessarily a huge challenge for me.  I didn't feel like France was my home, it all felt very temporary.  That's not to diminish the value of a year abroad for others.  For so many of my friends it was a fantastic opportunity, they're completely different people now and have come out of their ERASMUS year for the better.  The main appeal of the ERASMUS year for so many people was to travel and live in a new country and let their hair down.  All I really wanted to do was stay in the UK which has become the place I consider home.

The opportunities to travel in France and Europe was good and I feel like I did the best on my limited budget.  When you set out on your ERASMUS year you go in thinking you'll do loads of traveling and site seeing but what doesn't really register is how expensive it all is.  At least in France.  Also I was so let down by the university, I don't think people in the UK realise how good the education system is here (higher tuition fees aside for the moment), and take it for granted.  I just missed the UK and my friends so much.  Reading over my blog it will obviously look like I had an amazing time and saw so many amazing things, but obviously what I didn't blog about were about the days where I was cripplingly homesick or the days where I just stayed in my room all day watching television because I just didn't want to see anyone.  The ERASMUS year really does have very high highs, and very low lows.  

I will say this: I enjoyed my time in France.  I enjoy France.  It's not a country I could permanently live in but I love the French attitude to life: the good food and culture, the beautiful towns and the great weather.  I will be back obviously.  It was just so hard for me to leave the UK that I was constantly pining for it and my year abroad really was more of a holiday for me.  My parents have told me that in their eyes it was basically my gap year that I never took after school.

I do think for a language degree a year abroad is essential and maybe I went about it the wrong way.  I went to a town where there were too many ERASMUS students and it was easiest to just speak English.  If I'd gone to a town in the North then maybe it would have been different, and maybe I would have spoken even more French if I'd done a British Council assistantship.  But there were pros and cons for each of those options and in the end it is what it is.  I don't want it to come across as if I didn't enjoy my year abroad, I did but it just didn't really turn out how I wanted it.  But I'm glad I went and I'm thankful for all the people I have met and the places I have seen. 

For now I'm just glad to be back in my real home: the UK.  If there's one thing that I've learnt on ERASMUS it's that.


  1. I definitely get where you're coming from with your perspective on your year abroad. (I do wish I'd been following you while you were doing it though!) I think it would be a big thing for me, especially cause I'm one of those who still lives at home and commutes to uni! Even spending a couple of weeks overseas was enough to change me a little bit, so I can't imagine what a year would do.

  2. Lovely photos, sounds like you've been having a busy time!
    simplesophie.com ox

  3. Wow, I'm so jealous of you :)

  4. Il y a vraiment tres peu de gens qui avouent d'etre dépité de leur année en étranger, donc merci bien pour cette article!

  5. I've recently found your blog and have really enjoyed reading about your Erasmus experiences...I'm currently on Erasmus in Denmark and it definitely has it has its highs and lows!

    Capturing the Wanderlust


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