It feels like it was just yesterday that I was leaving home to go on my Erasmus. Running around trying to make sure I had all the necessary documents, repacking my suitcase over and over, savouring my final cup of Barry’s tea – at the time it felt like packing for any other holiday. It wasn’t until I was at the gate waiting to board my flight that it hit me. I was really doing this, I was really about to go leave everyone and everything I knew to spend the next nine months studying in a part of France that I had never even heard of before.
Heading into the unknown can be the scariest part of Erasmus – new people, new cities, new experiences. As exciting as that all is, it can also be incredibly daunting and there are for sure a few things I wish could have known before coming over here. So, for my final Erasmus diary I’ve decided to answer a few of your questions to see if I can impart some wisdom on anyone hoping to take the plunge and head out on their year abroad.
Is it hard to meet people and make friends when you don’t have great French?
Meeting people and making friends was definitely one of the things that I was most worried about before heading on Erasmus. Thankfully, it was all so much easier than I could have imagined. From my experience, the Erasmus students pretty much stick together. Everyone on Erasmus is in the same boat and everyone wants to make friends so don’t be nervous – you won’t be alone. Making French friends can be daunting but the reality is that most French people have a bit of English, and many are eager to get the practice speaking it. Take a leaf out of their book and make an effort to speak the language even if you do feel a bit awkward – you’ll improve before you know it.
Is it hard to leave home?
As someone who had never left home before coming on Erasmus, I can say that it definitely wasn’t the easiest transition. Leaving friends and family behind can be incredibly daunting and the homesickness definitely hits harder some days more than others. In my opinion keeping busy is key. Throw yourself into your new life, make plans with friends, take as many excursions as you can. There are so many amazing things to do on your Erasmus that you’ll never get the chance to do at home so make the most of it and soon enough the homesickness will fade away.
What would you do differently if you were to go again?
As much as I love to focus on the adventure and fun times that go along with the Erasmus experience, college is a reality that eventually, you do have to face. I for one found the French system of teaching very daunting and hard to adapt to. If I could go back, I’d communicate with my lecturers more and try and see if I could adapt the course to make it easier. Don’t forget that the college in your host country and your college back at home are both there to help you so don’t worry about trying to figure everything out on your own.
What did you enjoy most about your Erasmus?
The thing I most enjoyed about my Erasmus was finally getting to have a proper student experience. As I said before, I had never left home before heading on Erasmus and had spent an entire year sat in my house doing online college before coming to France. Being truly independent for the first time is something that I am extremely grateful I got to experience. Getting to spend your days in a different country, surrounded by people your own age opens up a whole host of new opportunities that I never would have gotten back in Ireland. My Erasmus helped me move past certain fears and anxieties that I had held for years and view the world around me with a fresh set of eyes – it truly has been life changing.