Last week I took part in a programme organised by ESN – Erasmus Students Network – called Erasmus in Schools. The idea was for us, as students who were doing or had done, an Erasmus to share our experiences with teenagers in lycée and get them interested in the idea of a year abroad. It gave the students the opportunity to ask questions and for some to hear about the Erasmus programme for the first time. Before I started in University I hadn’t considered doing a year abroad, I wasn’t going to do a language, I wasn’t very confident and the idea just never crossed my mind. Fast forward a few years and I’m back in France for the second time trying to convince others to consider doing an Erasmus.
While doing my Leaving Cert I had a lovely, well qualified teacher for French, unfortunately language wasn’t my thing at the time. I did well but it wasn’t my favourite subject so I never thought of continuing with it in University. I’ll be forever grateful to my older brother who, having just completed his law degree, convinced me to take a language. I told him I would try it out but honestly thought I would be dropping it. Although he hadn’t done an Erasmus he knew what a great programme it was and how much employers loved seeing it on a CV. So I went along to my first French class and haven’t looked back since.
I had French classes four times a week and as we had such a small class compared to our others modules I found a close knit group of friends. The classes made the transition into University life easier, the teacher couldn’t have been more helpful or kind and it was nice to get a break from the overload of law information. I completed first year, took French again in second year and started (finally!) to consider an Erasmus. Having lived at home for University studying abroad seemed like a great way to get a new college experience. I started getting excited about the idea of living away from home, living in a warmer country and getting a break from Galway.
I researched all the options of cities I could choose from, I mean really researched them all. In the end there was only one option for me Aix en Provence in the South of France. Having read reports from students in other years I just knew Aix was perfect. The city wasn’t too big, student accommodation was good, the college was small, I could take some subjects in English and my exams would be before Christmas. I had googled mapped the town, the accommodation, before I arrived I knew the city already.
Before I knew it second year of college was over and all the preparations for my year abroad began. I was so lucky in that my college in Aix organised our accommodation and all I had to search for was flights. Altogether 6 of us from NUIG went over together, I even ended up living on the same corridor as 3 others, which as you can imagine made settling in a lot easier.
The international society in our University had organised a week of activities to help us get settled in. During that first week we visited vineyards, the calanques, went on hikes, had picnics and pub crawls. We fit so much into a few short days and by the time we started our classes we had made friends and were excited for the year ahead.
During that year I took new classes, travelled (a lot!) made new friends, met my current boyfriend, learned french and honestly grew so much. The experience was life changing, whereas before I was determined to finish college and qualify, now I wasn’t so sure. I wanted to travel, explore and do more before I settled down.
When I returned to Galway I dedicated my year to study, I was so determined to get a first I didn’t really live. I knew then I couldn’t go straight into a masters I needed some head space.
So thats where Im at now, back living in France to learn even more and continue my experience. I am studying here, I’m doing a post grad in political studies. Honestly I thought it would be an easier option but I’ve ended taking mostly masters level classes (in French) so things are harder! What has changed is my attitude my goal isn’t a first but to enjoy France and learn the language.
If you’re going on erasmus, considering taking a year out or graduating with no clue what to do next get in contact with me, talking to others in the same position is honestly the best thing to do!