Erasmus Freedom: “College should be about challenging yourself, like making new friends and exploring a new city or culture”

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Features writer Chloe McCumiskey gives her experience and advice. Claiming that college is about change and challenging yourself, and the Erasmus is the opportunity to do both. Offering the freedom away from home, the chance to fully experience a different city or culture, and the responsibility of living independently an Erasmus will prepare you for life after university.

Thinking about and planning for Erasmus may seem like a terrifying and daunting task when you are deciding about whether or not to go. Or you may have your mind set on going away, but are undecided on committing to going for a year long venture over a shorter semester away from home. There are some obvious worries most people mull over are not to be ignored; where will I live? Will I make any new friends? What if I can’t speak the language? But I’m here to assure you that Erasmus could be one of the best choices you will ever make during your time in college.

The first and foremost reason I would be inclined to do an Erasmus during my undergraduate degree would be for the sheer amount of freedom you attain during a stay away from home. At home it’s great to have everyone looking out for you, but if you’re like me and feel like you just want to break free from everything a year abroad is liberating.

I understand that there’s a tremendous amount of organising to go through to make sure you’re doing the right subjects for your course and checking you will attain the right amount of credits. Oh, and don’t forget to ensure all your subjects are taught in your mother tongue, or things might become slightly problematic. This is all of course before you start the arduous task of trying to sort accommodation from a whole country, or even a continent away.  

But if you do take the leap, another benefit about being away from home is learning how to become more independent as an individual. This could be as simple as planning your meals each evening, or if you live with housemates you could all chip in and have your very own ‘Come Dine With Me’, every Thursday night. It could be managing your spending, which means knowing that your mum won’t be able to hand out a twenty every time you need a quick fix. Particularly after that messy night out which leaves you with just €1.20 to last you the week.

Getting out of your comfort zone isn’t very appealing to a lot of people, but it is in fact very good for you. College should be about challenging yourself, like making new friends and exploring a new city or culture.  You also get to the chance to share languages and cultures with people from different ethnicities that you probably would never have done while at home. Compared to UCD most colleges in Europe have classes with around thirty or so people in them, so you’ll get to know everyone really well. You’ll love sharing your experiences with them too and sharing stories about your Irish upbringing. Believe me when I say this, if you find an Irish pub and you tell people you’re from the Green Isle, you will be everyone’s best friend for the entire evening. (And yes, you will be called a leprechaun more than once – accept it and embrace it). I would normally be the very culprit to stay in my group of friends and not reach out to others, but Erasmus has changed my perspective on this, for which I am definitely glad of.

“You will be called a leprechaun more than once – accept it and embrace it.”

Attending college in Europe is so exciting. The same can be said for attending UCD and being in the city. For people like me from the country even the first year in UCD was amazing, as I found myself suddenly in the middle of a city waiting to be explored.

But the big cities of Europe are simply the next scale up. Now Erasmus isn’t the only way to experience other cultures and travel to different and bigger cities. Many students opt to head interrailing for a summer or two during their undergrad. The interrailing programme is also heavily funded by the EU like the Erasmus programme, to held foster and build a European identity between countries. It gives you another unique chance to see a whirlwind of cities and different places while meeting a host of characters while travelling. But it doesn’t let you really experience real life in a different city, moreso you get a snapshot of each city. Erasmus therefore lets you really bed in, get to know what life is really like in Berlin or Amsterdam and possibly make lasting friendships with people in those countries.   

All the fun stuff aside, Erasmus can also be a great way to make new contacts in your desired field of study. Of course you’ll be coming back to your own country to finish out your degree and final exams for graduation after the year abroad is over, but I’m sure over half of you have thought at some stage whether or not you are going to be completing a Masters to top off your education before heading into the scary world of work. The people you have met and interacted with during your time away could help tremendously in the years to follow if you decide to go back to study further or even go for an internship.

“If nothing else there’s always the added benefit of having a network of couches the world over to sleep on”

If nothing else there’s always the added benefit of having a network of couches the world over to sleep on! Erasmus gives you the chance to really understand other cultures and ways of life first hand, meaning you will be much more comfortable returning or travelling to another country in the future.

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 Chloe McCumiskey | Features Writer

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