Isabella takes a realistic approach in reflecting on her Erasmus experience, through considering both the positives and the challenges.
Before I came to Canterbury I didn’t really know what to expect of the year ahead as an Erasmus student. From what I heard other people say about it, it seemed that it would be the most extraordinary experience that you can’t describe to others. When I look back now I have to admit I don’t think so. I don’t mean this negatively in any way. I am so happy I had the chance to come to Canterbury. I’m happy I met the people I met, selected the modules I selected and had the experiences I had. I am happy because I thought halfway through that my English would not change at all but now I realise how positively this year influenced my capacity to speak English. Not only did I pick up some new idioms and words, I was also able to let go of my perfectionism a bit and just enjoy talking English, now, without worrying if everything is correct. This will be very valuable for other languages, too. In a way I think a year abroad is just normal life but concentrated, in its essence. I think it helps growing up more quickly. It definitely helped me. It taught me to take life easier, to enjoy it, to go for walks more often and it helped me to understand more deeply who I am. It was a time of solitude which I enjoyed very much but which made me realise that I love being busy. All in all the year in Canterbury was just another “normal” year where I lived in another country, and I would not have been able to do this without Erasmus funds. I am very grateful and feel really privileged.
Going into more detail, the benefits of being an Erasmus student are difficult to describe. Many of the experiences I had were similar to when I moved to another town in Germany and didn’t know anyone there. But speaking a different language all day is definitely a considerable part of the “Erasmus experience”. And it was one of my favourites and a point where I learned a lot. Seven months after moving to the UK it was still difficult sometimes to express myself properly and without thinking about how to formulate something. I didn’t expect that and it made me appreciate speaking my own language “perfectly”, knowing many idioms and most words, being able to joke spontaneously and in every situation I want. To be nearly at the same level in another language seems to be a much more admirable achievement than before.
Living in England also helped me to become more secure in my identity as a German. Wherever you look every nationality seems proud of their country, for Germans this is still a delicate topic though. In England I learned that other nations don’t seem to define us through our history as much as we often do. To them we build good machines and houses and have a beautiful country with lots of nice people. It is refreshing to see my country from a new perspective and become more relaxed and at peace with Germany’s history. Day to day uni life in England and Germany is organised differently. I had to learn to be more analytical and become more organised to finish all the assignments on time during the terms opposed to having all exams/essays at the end of a term. The feedback for essays at Christ Church is more thorough and better accessible than what I am used to which improves the learning process dramatically.
Apart from these tangible points there are many things I can’t even describe. I met so many people in this amazingly international university and town whom I will definitely stay in touch with. Nevertheless, the time in Canterbury was also a time of solitude for me but in a good way. I discovered my love for long walks through parks and forests and enjoyed bus rides in the English countryside which I find so beautiful with it’s architecture so different from Germany, with is wild woods and many castles and gardens. I have become more self-confident and emotionally self-sufficient thanks to the whole experience. Generally, I can say that this year in England made me more appreciative of what I have and realise how blessed I am with so many things.
Isabella worked with fellow Erasmus student Juliette Coutand on a project with Partners in Learning through which she developed a helpful welcome presentation for new Erasmus students coming to CCCU which you can view here, alternatively you can view their short presentation on the Erasmus experience in general (for English students studying abroad) here.