Since we’re starting to draw close to the next semester, I’d ideally be thinking about beginning to open my next reading list. But instead I’m filling out university applications, mobility forms and Google translating contracts, in preparation for my semester abroad in Cologne, Germany.
The main question I get is: ‘why?’
And whilst in my head I’m thinking ‘why not?’, the answer I end up giving is usually something along the lines of a new opportunity, a unique experience, and improving my (basic) German.
The most common responses are either ‘wow!’ (which I’m guessing mostly translates to ‘you’re brave’) or just sustained confusion. The latter are usually seeking quantitative comfort, maybe figures showing the host university can offer a distinct advantage in my course.
One of my friends instantly asked why I wouldn’t just take a holiday to Germany. And I know others have thought this too. But a holiday is not the same. When you go on holiday, you travel abroad for probably up to two weeks, with a group of people, or at least one person you know pretty well (since they’re usually friends and family). You will also ordinarily visit one place, and while you may explore the surrounding towns, these will mostly be day trips.
Whilst I’m not here to argue against holidays, I am arguing that if your goal is not just to experience a sample of the culture, relax and enjoy yourself as anyone would on holiday, you should consider Erasmus+.
Erasmus+ is an international programme which allows you to study or work in another European country, from just one semester to an entire year. The University of Sheffield has just celebrated its 30-year anniversary offering the Erasmus+ programme, and remarks on how it has benefited students and staff:
‘They’ve gained skills and attributes that have helped them in their careers, personal development, and they’ve made life-long friendships.’
Before I started at Sheffield, as I was researching and attending university open days, I already knew I wanted to take a year or part of a year abroad. It seemed like an experience not to pass up; one that you could only say ‘yes’ to.
Unlike taking a holiday, the length of the period abroad will allow you to fully immerse yourself in the culture. You’ll also be going it alone, and while this seems daunting to many people who chose not to take the opportunity, it will allow you to meet new people from all over the world, whom otherwise you wouldn’t get the chance to become friends with. After all, if you’re at university now, you’ve already made it through the difficult part of starting life out in a new city where you know nobody. So my philosophy was ‘why not push myself and do it again, just in another country?’
I’ll be writing more posts on my experiences to come!