Cultural experiences and funny musings by two twenty-somethings living abroad
One of the most vibrant, interesting and certainly most beautiful cities in Europe – we had an absolutely amazing time here and have made friends and memories for life.
Although this post is titled “Erasmus” – it will most certainly be useful to anyone who is planning to work or live abroad. There are currently a few websites offering advice for the year abroad; a very good one is: http://www.thirdyearabroad.com/ which offers lots of interesting information and is definitely worth a visit.
But here in our blog, you will instead get a very honest opinion from 2 former Erasmus students:
What we wish we knew before we got on that plane..
Before you go:
I am not saying that you should not brush up on your language skills before you jet off but be warned that when you arrive to your chosen country, your first few days will involve a very pigeon-style German/French/Polish. Yes, even after 8 years of study.
I was quietly confident in my German skills, and a month before leaving, I was studying it every day: learning new phrases/vocab/listening to the radio etc. All in all, I put quite a lot of effort in and hoped that it would do me well when I arrived in Germany.
However, when I went through the airport and ordered myself a coffee and a pretzel, a waiter then asked me if I would like a receipt.. I almost thought I landed in Malaysia rather than Munich. Seeing my confusion, he promptly switched to English and I felt extremely deflated and horrified at my “supposedly good” language abilities.
Don’t worry. No matter how good you are, you really won’t be in the first week or two of arriving. Not only are there various accents and dialects, but also there are nerves to contend with. You have just moved abroad. Language and confidence will come to you in a little while. I wish I had known that before but instead I just questioned what was wrong with my study methods. Pretty time wasting, I can assure you. Just go with it!;)
2. They say # Find accommodation with the university or look online for flat-sharing options
Argg, the topic of accommodation is so hugely annoying to many, that I don’t even want to include it. Some of you will be lucky enough to get student accommodation in halls and live happily ever after there for your Erasmus year.
Some, however, will not have it so easy. My first call from Munich University was in August, saying they had something for me. I was over the moon and didn’t even listen to them properly. My place of residence was actually in a nunnery.
Jasper, who got a place at halls straight away was told he could not move in or get his keys before opening a German bank account. However, he couldn’t open a German bank account if he didn’t have a German address.
Another friend got lucky to get a flat in the city centre only to realise that she was stuck living with a (literally) crazy old lady who would pick up hairs off the floor and ask her why they had fallen from her head, and why was there so much dust on her freshly washed clothes, and why did she leave the soap in the bathroom, and why did she even move in…?! Hmmm. Many of us had interesting experiences with this one, but again, you will get through this hurdle too. Sometimes you really do have to grin and bear it though!
3. They say # Organise yourself, have the paperwork documents prepared and ready. You will need to register as a citizen, open up a bank account etc.
To be very, very honest, no matter how organised you are: it will prove no use when you get there and you’re faced with this, uhm… process. Now I don’t want to scare anyone; in fact if it happens to you, trust me, you will be laughing about it for months to come. But here is a real example of what just happened to Jasper:
– One of my first things to do was to get the residence certificate from a very awkward building with an equally awkwardly named “Kreisverwaltungsreferat”. When turning up at the place however, the whole of the building was divided up into the first letter of your surname. So, as my last name is “Roskilly”, I had to go to the “R” department. Unfortunately, the “R” department was closed for the day for reasons uncertain, and I was told that I had to join the “Sch” department along with people who should have been in the “T” through to “W” departments. So I get up in line, take a ticket and wait for my turn. With 30 people in front of me and 6 people working, I didn’t think it was going to take too long. Unfortunately, the wait lasted a staggering 2-3 hours and, annoyingly, some of my friends were seen pretty quickly: my friend, whose last name is “Glenister” was seen in little over 15 minutes. It turns out that not many people with a “G” surname needed to be seen that day, compared with a lot of R’s, S’s, T’s, U’s, V’s and W’s. All to get a stamped form that says “Jasper lives at blahdiblah address”. Fortunately I won’t have to do this again, unless I decide to move to another address in Germany…-
4. They say # Now that you have the lingo under your belt, and you have been registered a citizen of the host country, time to get to uni and start learning…
Hmm….what did Jasper think..?
– My next worry was to enrol for modules at the University. In the UK (or at Leeds University anyway), it’s quite a simple task really; you just logon with your username on the university portal, click on a few buttons and you’re pretty much done. Sure, it might be a little slow because everyone is trying to do it at the same time, but you can get it done in 30 or so minutes. At Munich University, it’s a very different story. Each lecture or seminar you do is worth a different amount of credits, which you need to find out from your professor (who may or may not know how many credits their class is worth) by sending them an email (which they probably won’t reply to), and if you want to attend a particular seminar or lecture, you may have to actually ask the professor face-to-face at the first session itself, where he or she would either say “ja” or “nein”. It didn’t help that most of the classes were well-oversubscribed because of changes in the Bavarian school system (two year groups finished at the same time), so the chances of you being told you couldn’t attend was pretty likely. Unless you said, “Pretty please, I’m simply an Erasmus student and just need to make up some credits”, they may take you on. Amazingly, I was accepted to a seminar where they could only really take on a maximum of 30 people, but the professor ended up taking on 50. Of everyone who attended at that first session, 50% had somehow managed to enrol for the seminar before arriving, 48% had managed to enrol at the seminar itself, and the 2% was a dog, crammed into a classroom that was already far too crowded. I’m not entirely sure how happy the professor was when the dog yawned every time he spoke about syntax in linguistics.-
5. They say # The hard bit is over, now enjoy it!
Well, that actually Is true!:D
It is going to be the best year of your life so far! You will learn so much, meet such amazing people, and have generally an awesome time!
Difficulties will come up all over the place but don’t worry; you will get through it all and come out happier and stronger!
(and maybe a little rounder if you’ve spent the year on a diet of beer and sausages!)
If anyone out there has any funny experiences to share, feel free to drop a comment, or if there are any further questions, then we’d be happy to answer those as well.