The (other) Truth about the Year Abroad
Tom Houghton attempts to explain how getting free money to go abroad for a year is still a really good idea.
With complete and total respect for our fantastic Features Editor Marc Ridley, who last week wrote a piece documenting some exceptional, unfortunate aspects of the year abroad, I’d like to now balance the forces of the Tab galaxy by explaining just how great a time I, and what I believe the majority happened to have. Three months into my Erasmus experience I stated my views in the Tab of how students should be queuing to the end of the street for this opportunity, and having finished my time in Hamburg, I can still only make like Tab favourite Katy B did in 2011 and sound like a broken record.
Having flown back to London for good on the last day of July, I can honestly say my time in Germany’s second city was the best year of my life. It’s difficult to put into words the amazing amount you gain from such an experience, and you can only really find that out by enduring it yourself. I’ve certainly had my fair share of ‘oh he’s gonna go on about how bloody great Germany was again’ from friends since my return, but I really wouldn’t keep banging on about it if it wasn’t true.
Aside from a few administrative glitches involving UCL, it really was a year of plain sailing. In my case, (a university placement) a typical day would consist of socialising, going to the odd lecture, then more socialising, with no shortage of German spoken.
And with a monthly rent as low as 270 Euros and 8 instalments of 370 Euros of Erasmus grant, cash is spare to go and be more cultured than you ever thought humanely possible. Think weekend trips to Amsterdam, museum tours in Berlin and skiing expeditions to the Alps.
Three months in I said that Erasmus was to be the ‘most social experience of your life’, and after seven more months that theory did not change. With a minimal amount of assignments, time is aplenty to go off and make friends with all sorts of folk. Many of these folk are from that there Mainland Europe, places I would formally have viewed as far off holiday destinations, now the home towns and cities of close friends. And the Erasmus Legacy (a term I literally just coined) of the friendship group I was a part of is already manifesting itself in plans for jaunts to Dublin, Warsaw and London, all before Christmas.
Having spoken to other returning Year Abroad students, it seems the sizes of the selected destinations were also no hindrance. 4th Year German and History of Art student Rugilė Girdzijauskaitė attended university in the ‘small’ city of Innsbruck, Austria, and said she “would choose it again”, adding “it’s perfect for language students, I never got a response in English, as I heard was often the case in bigger cities, and with the comfort of other international students at hand, you can also slowly and carefully attempt to befriend the sometimes hesitant locals”.
An anonymous 4th Year SSEES Politics student recently returned from their year abroad in Russia also told me “the year abroad is completely what you make of it. I was exiled to eastern Siberia for half of my year but still had an awesome time”.
It is obvious that different people will have different experiences and I am by no means guaranteeing that your Year Abroad will turn out as dandy as mine did. As in all aspects of life, things go wrong sometimes. To stay home and turn down the opportunity to live in another country for a year in fear of this, however, seems to me just as absurd as not wearing spray on deodorant for fear that some nasty intruder may, one morning, put a lighter in front of your deodorant when you’re not looking and you’ll spray flames right into your armpit. Ouch.