“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss
As most of you probably know, I studied abroad in Bilbao. Today, I thought I’d do the Sunday lifestyle post all about studying abroad; the lessons that I learnt from studying abroad and how doing an Erasmus changed me. Basically, if you’re thinking of going on Erasmus, I want to try to convince you that it is definitely a good idea and as daunting as it seems – go for it! Be prepared for Rachael’s cringey meaningful corner!
You’re not missing out
So I want to start off with the lead up to leaving. I was in such denial that I was actually leaving Galway and moving to a place I had barely heard of. I had just spent the best year of my life in second year college, making friends, going out with old friends and generally just being a college student without a care in the world. The thought of shipping myself off to Spain for a year to live in a foreign country with a foreign language with people I didn’t know and only one college friend with me sounded like the most horrendous idea I could possibly think of. I was going to miss out on all the parties that the girls would go to while in 3rd year and I was even upset that I was going to miss the days wasted away in the canteen drinking coffee and eating Subway! It wasn’t until I got to Bilbao and spent a few weeks there that I realised my friends at home were in final year doing the same thing we had always done and I was having the time of my life, discovering the world and experiencing new things. As much as it might seem like you have it all going for you at home – you don’t have it as good as you will while studying abroad!
Even though you’ll go to university less, you’ll learn so much more
Erasmus students are known for never going to university. We actually did go to university because our classes were only on from 9AM until 2PM and some days we finished even earlier. So we really had no excuse not to go. So even though we had way fewer hours in university classes and I didn’t go to the library once while I was in Bilbao, I learnt so much more than you could possibly teach in a classroom or a lecture hall.
To name just a handful of the lessons learnt:
- First and foremost, I learnt how to be an adult that lives independently from my family
- I learnt basic things like cooking for myself and keeping a clean apartment with 3 housemates
- I learnt how to sort out a residency in a foreign country
- I learnt that the quickest and funnest way to learn a language is to move in with a Spanish girl who will make fun of you every time you make a mistake !
- I learnt that there is so much freedom to doing things on a whim
- I learnt that learning another language gives you a looking-glass into another culture
- I learnt that meeting like-minded people is one of the most satisfying experiences
- I learnt that living in a new country isn’t as scary as it seems
- I learnt that saying “Yes” to (almost) everything is a good idea
- I learnt that being independent and doing things on your own is liberating
The list goes on… but they’re just a few examples. As you can see, what I learnt can’t be taught in university!
You’ll learn to travel
Speaking of learning lessons that can’t be taught… Although I had travelled previously, it was in Bilbao while studying abroad that I realised just how happy travelling made me. I travelled with my friends all over the Basque Country and Spain. For instance, we went to La Rioja, Madrid, Salamanca, San Sebastian, Valencia and we also went across to Biarritz. By seeing so many places in just one country and in just one region of one country, I realised just how much of the world I had yet to see and I’ve had the travel bug ever since.
You’ll meet the coolest people you know
This is probably the most important thing you need to know before taking off on your year abroad. Something about studying abroad allows you to meet people you would have never met and that’s probably the best thing that will ever happen to you. I met so many wonderful people while I was in Bilbao. Some of those friends were circumstantial friends and that’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with being circumstantial friends. Any situation that benefits everyone is good. However, most of them were friends that I have stayed in contact with and still meet up with (when we can) and I am still obsessed with. We were lucky enough to have the coolest, most bad-ass group of friends on Erasmus. We are all like-minded, all hilarious and all obsessed with each other! You may have seen in my post about Cambridge, I’m sure it was serendipity that brought us together. (OK, I realise my cringe levels are off the charts today… moving along!)
You’ll change (for the better)
I’ll never forget when my Dad told me I had changed after my Erasmus. I was taken aback by it…and I thought it was an insult until I re-evaluated. Then, I realised that it was actually a compliment, he meant that I had truly changed and it was all for the better. My Erasmus year shaped my personality! I became more mature, more open-minded, more independent and most importantly (in my opinion) I became a grown-up. I went on Erasmus at the ripe old age of 19 and before I left I was still very much a teenager. I still lived at home with my Dad and my mentality was very young. After I lived abroad and on my own for a year, I became the person I am today. Don’t get me wrong, a lot had shaped me before and a lot has shaped me since! However, studying abroad definitely caused me to change much more and in the shortest amount of time. Before my Erasmus year, I was barely able to hold an adult conversation without double-guessing myself and getting nervous or (God-forbid) getting a quivering lip. Once I came home from studying abroad I was well able to go. I could debate any topic I felt like and I loved it. I suppose you could say my Erasmus year made me more sure of myself. Even though I hadn’t realised that I hadn’t been very sure of myself previously.
You’re not the only one who doesn’t know what on earth is going on
This is a lesson that I learn over and over again. No matter how old you are or how behind you think you are in life for your age, I can guarantee you – most of your friends are feeling just as behind. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life at 19 and I was freaking out, then I went on Erasmus and I realised I didn’t need to know – there are loads of bad-ass people out there who don’t know what they’re doing with their lives either and they’re killing it!
There you have it, definitely my most honest post yet but also my most cringe. However, it may not be the last of the cringe! I love a bit of sentimentality, I do! If you’re thinking of studying abroad and you’re in two minds – GO! It’s genuinely one of the best things I’ve ever done and it made moving to Spain after my Masters one hundred times easier and a million times less daunting. Once you’ve moved abroad once, you won’t have any qualms about doing it again.
If you enjoyed this post or it helped you in making a decision to study abroad, please tell me! I’d love to hear all about it. Or if you have any questions on how to study abroad or get involved in the Erasmus programme then don’t hesitate to contact me!