This weeks blog comes from Haniyyah, who wants to share some of the fantastic experiences she had whilst on her study abroad year in France!
On the final day of my Erasmus year I waded through a corn field surrounded by mountains of forests in the torrential rain. I had a half dismantled tent in one hand, a bin bag of clothes in the other, my best friend running in front of me cursing in French, and a thunderstorm chasing us from behind. Soaked to the bone we drove to the nearest town and ate cheese and chips. No ordinary cheese, by the way. This cheese:
I don’t know which part of that adventure I loved the most. We set up camp by the river, cooked corn on the bonfire and were chased away by the rain the next morning. But it was incredible, just one of the many incredible adventures that I had this year.
Erasmus is a wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself in a new country, in a new culture and language and learn all about yourself each day. The scheme came about in 1987 and is a student exchange programme across Europe, and has been popular ever since.
Erasmus usually takes place in your second or third year of university, and it is a perfect time for you to explore yourself and university before a more stressful final year. You can either work or study abroad, I chose to study, as I wanted to try and integrate into French student culture. French university is completely different, and the student culture took a while to get used to, but I think it was different in a good way. In my school, you were free to take subjects across many disciplines from Economics to German to Photography.
I also chose to live with to French housemates and every weekend we would go fishing, to the beach or to the mountains. It was really a way of living I had never experienced before. Coming from London, my weekend were usually spent inner city in the hustle and bustle of it all. For the first time in my life exploring nature was part of my lifestyle, and it was fantastic – I didn’t realise how much I love trees and forests and green things! One weekend we drove through the Alps to Italy, got stuck in a blizzard, so stayed in the mountains over night until it was safe to drive back in the morning.
After having such an awesome time abroad, I have achieved many things. I now have so much confidence in myself. I have been able to move abroad, find a house, sign a phone contract, go to school and even make friends in a language other than my mother tongue – and right now that makes me feel invincible!
I was growing each day, mentally through learning at the University, but also spiritually because, I suppose, Erasmus gave me a space to grow as myself, without expectations from my familiar surrounding back in London and Bristol.
I’m not going to hide that it was scary at first. I had kittens running around in my stomach just thinking about Erasmus before I even started packing my bags. The mere act of buying a large suitcase gave me a near panic attack. And the couple of nights before when I slowly started filling it, thinking of what I could fit it in, but more importantly, what I was leaving behind – it was a frighting and sad moment. But after the butterflies, it’s just an enormous adventure, it’s a year where you can decide what happens.
So my advice to you, if you are about to start uni or if you are an undergrad, is to look at what your university has to offer and make sure your name is on the list. There is a lot of paperwork and deadlines involved in Erasmus, so make sure you don’t miss out because you didn’t hand in a form. Ask around, get your name on the list and get ready to have an amazing time!