The Erasmus programme aims to further career goals and independence by improving language skills and fluency, but is a year abroad a daunting experience best avoided? I spoke with Aisling Donnelly who is currently studying at Lebniz University of Hannover in Germany through the Language and Cultural Studies pathway in UCC.
The first thing that needs to be done when thinking of Erasmus is making an application which Aisling found ‘handy enough’. The hardest part was ‘the whole process of choosing preferences… I got Hannover and it was my third choice’. There is plenty of help available during the application process, as it may seem a little overwhelming at times. Aisling explains that ‘both the German department and the International department were a good help to us in getting all the necessary documents together and having everything sent off in time’. It is natural to be anxious about moving abroad for a year but it seems there are plenty of outlets to relieve such anxiety. Lebniz University were also a great help to Aisling as they ‘always responded to emails when I was stressing about things’.
A worry of many students applying for the Erasmus programme is financing the year abroad. Aisling may put many at ease as she explains ‘Germany is extremely cheap… it wasn’t as financially stressful as my parents and I were expecting’. Importantly, Aisling didn’t need to pay full university fees because of the Erasmus programme; ‘we just pay a fee at the start of every semester… it’s about €250’. This fee also includes free travel on the trams in the host city and the public transport throughout the state of the host university according to Aisling. When it comes to the nightlife, Aisling explains ‘student life abroad is so much cheaper… I live next to a brewery so local beer is incredibly cheap’.
Moving abroad is quite an experience and will most definitely increase a student’s independence, but there is bound to be things that you will miss from home. Aisling is no exception to this. ‘I knew long before I moved that I would miss my mam’s dinners the most… I missed seeing the Irish translation under road signs, it is a bit weird but I never realised how comforting it was’. It is not unusual to find it difficult moving away from home at first – Aisling ‘rang home at least once a day for the first few days just to hear them’. Dwelling on missing home is natural but not very productive and in a matter of time a student could have a whole new network of friends. To aid this integration Aisling was involved in ‘a special Erasmus group for Hannover on Facebook… I’ve made some really good friends and I’ve already been to Scotland to visit one of the girls I met in Germany’. Another difficulty Aisling needed to overcome was the difference in food. ‘German food is completely different to Irish food and it took a long time getting used to it’.
There have been a number of influences Aisling will be bringing home with her after her year abroad. ‘I will definitely try to be more punctual from now on. The Germans aren’t as completely efficient as everyone seems to think they are, but they certainly run things more smoothly’. She has also developed a new love for ice hockey and hopes to ‘keep supporting and watching the German teams’ when she gets home.
The Erasmus programme is not simply about moving abroad and living there – it concerns itself with adding to a student’s language skills and fluency. It can be quite a daunting experience going to lectures in a German University and Aisling describes how ‘it took a while to find the confidence to speak it a lot, but I have definitely noticed that my understanding of the language has improved’. Most importantly, Aisling highly recommends that if anybody is offered the opportunity to study abroad to take it. ‘Nothing can compare to being out on your own and seeing the world… even though it adds an extra year to my degree, I am so glad I chose to do it’.
For more information regarding the Erasmus programme see: http://www.ucc.ie/en/international/erasmus-out/