Six common Erasmus fears and how to deal with them
Are you afraid you'll lose all your friends back home and not understand a word anyone's saying? Take it from us: you'll make it.
Erasmus is quite the exciting experience. However, it is also a huge leap into the unknown. You are going to leave everything you know behind and have lots of new things to deal with. Things that might at first even seem scary. So we decided to put together a list of the most common fears that Erasmus students might have and reassure you that in the end, it will be alright and worth it. Here goes.
1. Packing - Devil's favourite pastime
It does not matter if you are going for a three day trip or a two week vacation, packing is never easy. Going on Erasmus means packing your entire life in one suitcase. You begin to realise how much stuff you actually possess and use on a daily basis, also how much stuff you want to take with you simply because you will miss seeing it on the shelf. There are two ways this can go―you can start packing a week earlier, separating your suitcase into categories, slowly analysing what you want to bring, and what you actually need to bring with you. Or, two days before your trip, you can start throwing random things into your suitcase with your eyes closed and hope for the best. I know that the first option seems like a more responsible and grown up thing to do, but all that extra time leaves more room for unnecessary thinking―like making a plan on how to bring your dog with you without anyone noticing. On the other hand, if you choose the second option, you can forget some pretty essential things. But you can also end up actually bringing your dog with you, so who is the real winner here?
Do not worry, you will manage to pack. Eventually, you will open that box of horror and pack like a real extreme grown up, with only just a little help from your mommy. You will then reach your destination only to find out that there are no hangers in your closet.
2. Out of sight, out of mind?
If applying for Erasmus was a tough decision for you (so much so that you made a pro and con list before turning your application in...) then missing out on everything and everyone back home was probably pretty high on the con side of the list. Which is why once you spend some time in your new city you will not miss everything and everyone as much as you thought you would. You will surprise yourself! You will embark on this adventure fully aware of how limited your time is, and won’t have any time to really miss your family and friends (except maybe in those few rare minutes in a day when you are completely alone). Everytime you talk to them you will get that gnawing feeling of missing out on something you used to be a part of. You won’t be afraid of losing them because you are not in elementary school anymore and you know that out of sight, out of mind is a bit more complicated of a concept than it sounds, but you will be afraid of drifting away from them. You will be able to feel how much this experience is changing you, and the only thing left for you to do will be to wonder how much of what your friends are experiencing back home is changing them.
Being away from those with whom you used to share everything with is quite a challenge, but once you come back home and discover who passed the "distance only makes the heart grow fonder" test, you will realise who your true friends are.
3. Financial (ir)responsibility
It is very likely that instead of receiving monthly payments, you will receive a big part of your Erasmus grant at the beginning of your journey which will have to last you for a long period of time. Have you ever had so much money in your hands? What do you do with it? Escape to Hawaii? Buy a giraffe? Decisions, decisions. If you have never managed large amounts of money before, you will most likely be afraid of doing it, especially in a foreign country, and if you have done it before you will probably be afraid as well because there’s a chance you are still not good at it. At first, you will spend crazy amounts of money because of the unforeseeable expenses, but as time goes by, and you get more acquainted with the prices and the currency you are paying in, you will get a better hold of your money. The key thing is to figure out what you want to do with your money―do you want to travel? Do you want to indulge in food? Do you want to go on weekly shopping sprees? Spoiler: you will want to do it all. As a result, you will come out of this experience as a more responsible half adult.
4. The language barrier
Lack of confidence in foreign language skills is one of the main reasons why students refuse to take part in this experience. To participate in the Erasmus programme, you usually need to have a basic understanding of a foreign language. But if you are not a pro at it, do not worry, most people you will meet over there are not really pros at it either―yet, you will understand each other perfectly (well maybe not always...) and create beautiful and lasting bonds.
If you know the language of your host country, that is a great start, but do not stress yourself out if you have never heard a word of it―it is a great opportunity to start learning a new language!
5. Academic life
There are people who think that Erasmus is just a party on top of a party on top of a party―can you believe that? The academic aspect of Erasmus puts a lot of pressure on students, especially on those who have never had classes or reading material in a foreign language before. No matter how well you communicate in a foreign language in an informal environment, learning about your future profession in another language might seem a bit tricky. You have to choose courses you know very little about, taught by professors you have never met―sometimes it turns out well and you are fascinated by what you hear; sometimes it is the other way around... No matter how (un)satisfied you are with your courses, experiencing another way of teaching, and being part of another educational system is an invaluable experience you can take back with you to your home university.
6. What now?
You will not experience this last thing on the list until you go on your Erasmus and truly start living it. After around two weeks or so of your adjustment time in your new city, you will not be able to imagine yourself going back to your old life. Your city, the people you know and the way you used to live will seem so distant, like some other life, or a story you have heard from a stranger on the street. Falling back into your old routine will scare you so much that you will start making plans on where to go and what to do next even before you come back home.
Erasmus is nothing to be afraid of ― it is a wonderful experience you will remember for the rest of your life. Every problem you stumble upon on your journey will only make you stronger and more independent. Staying in one place for a long period of time will become a strange concept for you because you cannot stop moving. Once Erasmus, alway Erasmus.
Just take the first step and the rest is magic.
Starting my path as a volunteer in the network, I was more than thrilled to discover that ESN does not only stand for parties and drinks. In fact, it is so much more.