“ Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.  ”
– Truer words could not be spoken, and for that Mark Twain, thank you very much.

When beginning my Law and German degree at Cardiff University my Erasmus year seemed ages away.  However, it came round sooner than I had anticipated or was prepared for. 

The Fear

Before embarking on my year abroad I had only ever lived in Wales. Cardiff University is about half an hour away from my hometown and therefore I was still basically at home. What can I say? I’m a home bird. Unfortunately for my parents, who would love nothing more than for me to stay living with them forever, this all changed after my year abroad.

Of course I was nervous, scared and didn’t want to go. You’re going to be scared because you’ve never done this before. Whether you are going alone or with friends from uni, you are embarking on a journey into the unknown. You haven’t done this before and no matter how many tips you are given, no one’s experience is the same. However, even though you might not be feeling it yet, it’s this uncertainty that makes the year so great. Anything can happen and anything goes (within reason). There wouldn’t be any fun if you knew exactly what was going to happen, would there? Also, can you really grow in your comfort zone?

Party in Europahaus

As we were studying in Germany, it made sense for us to live in student accommodation – economic sense that is.  Arriving in Konstanz on the edge of Lake Constance, which also bordered Switzerland and Austria, this picturesque town was inhabited by OAPs and uni students.

So, when pulling up to my new “digs” I was shocked to see a run-down, Eastern-Europeanesque ghetto that was to be my new home.  Europahaus or “party in Europahaus”, a common phrase for the place to be on many a Friday evening. You could never be lonely or feel homesick in this place. It wasn’t the cleanest or the safest, but there was a vibe here.  My little flat, which I shared with two Germans and a Finn, was perfect. Things improved, too, when I befriended a cheerful Irish fella and eventual bffl, Darragh. 

The English, the Irish and the Welsh

Although the aim of the year abroad was to improve my German language skills (which I did do – I think), I also managed to make the best life-long friends. 

Having a supportive group of friends on your year abroad is such a beneficial factor. Being already close to my Cardiff uni friends, our group was further extended by the addition of the Irish.  My Europahaus neighbour and bestie, Darragh (shout out), would make me thousands of pancakes and cups of tea, educate me on Irish history,carry me home when I’d had one too many tequilas and who would make me laugh until I cried. 

Going through all these new experiences together and having all the same feels at the same time creates one hell of a bond. You may think you are different from everyone else there but, in fact, you have so much in common. 

If you aren’t going with friends from uni then take solace in what I am saying. Yes, I was lucky to have gone with friends, but it’s the people you meet there who can make it so special.

The YOLO Moments

A number of these were had throughout the year, in fact too many to remember, so I will share just a few of my highlights:

Skiing – Being so close to the Alps, we definitely made the most of
this opportunity.  Blues, Reds and Blacks: we conquered them
all.  Although, we did once get lost in the mountains and missed the
entire après ski session – but that’s another story.

Football – My year abroad was the year that Germany was victorious
in the 2014 World Cup.  It is fair to say that the final match
between Germany and Argentina was not one to be missed – fireworks,
dancing in streets and chanting in German – what a night to be doing a
year abroad in Germany!   

3.   Nightlife – Two words: Vodka and blackout.  The first being the cause of the latter. This happened one too many times but your year abroad would not be truly complete without a bit of boozing.

4.   The Lake – When the summer finally came we spent the majority of our days and evenings at the Lake, which was once again a home away from home for me after growing up by the sea.  Swimming, tanning and studying occasionally – we were the perfect students.

5.   Surprises – one of my best memories from my year abroad was when five home friends flew to Konstanz to surprise me. They were amazed that I had no idea, but it was all kept secret from me thanks to my Erasmus and Cardiff uni friends. Also, you know you have great mates when your home friends then become friends with your home away friends. 

I haven’t spoken about the boring stuff a.k.a studying/transport/what to pack/safety tips because, to be honest, I can’t give you advice on these.  I don’t know where you are going, what you are studying or working as… if you have got this far you can definitely figure that out or, if not, there are loads of blogs/vlogs to advise you and, last case scenario, ask a previous student at your uni. 

My advice is that fear is inevitable and being afraid of the unknown is what scares all of us. What I learned the most about my year abroad is that things may look scary - for example, Europahaus, missing my home friends, not making any new friends and even doing a black run when skiing, but they turn out to be the best places, memories, people and experiences that you’ll ever have.  Embrace the fear, take it head on, and you’ll have a year to remember. 

Lastly, it is my German skills that impress on my CV, “You speak German?”, “You studied in Germany?”, “You did a vacation scheme in Germany?” – You’re hired!”  Well, not all the time, but I am now working in the legal department of a construction company in London and enjoying this new experience too #CITYLYF.

Have you got a story that will inspire or entertain students? We want to hear from you! Email joinus@myunibasics.co.uk 

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Written by B H, 10 months ago