8 reasons DMU students should do ERASMUS

So it’s this time of year again, the temperature in dropping, the leaves are turning and the deadline for your ERASMUS (European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students) application is just around the corner, so it’s time for the big decision!

I deliberately chose De Montfort University because of the international experiences they offered and presented at the open days. I always knew I wanted to study or work abroad, so when I saw ERASMUS advertised on the DMU Global website I did not hesitate to apply. At first, I wanted to study abroad for just one semester, but since this was not possible for my course, I quickly made up my mind that I would be more than happy (if absolutely terrified) that I would extend my stay to the whole academic year.

And I must say, I am very pleased I did! I am now home and studying back at De Montfort University again after the best 10 months of my life in Madrid where I met the most incredible people, experienced the wonderful Spanish culture, started my journey in learning another language and ended up being able to travel all around Europe with new friends from around the world!

I must say, I was very disheartened to see just a handful of people in the final meeting leading up to the departure of ERASMUS students, as I cannot stress enough how important this experience has been to me. So, I have compiled a list of 9 reasons why DMU students should go on an ERASMUS year, or even semester!

  1. You will meet people like yourself

If are interested in ERASMUS, it’s likely you also love travel. It’s also quite likely that your peers aren’t too interested in travel. That is what I certainly found in my first year of university, nobody in my halls, my course or people that I met when I was living in Leicester were interested in stepping outside of the city, never mind England! But on your ERASMUS year, you will meet and make so many friends from your host country and from other ERASMUS students from all around Europe, and they will want to explore this new country and go out just as much as you!

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 2. You have the opportunity to learn another language

Living in another country is the best and ‘easiest’ way to learn another language. This is one of the main reasons I chose Spain as my country to study in, because I desperately wanted to learn Spanish, and there are so many people willing to help you learn their language, even if you’re awful at picking up new languages like me! Although, you will also be surprised how many people speak English, everyone from Europe speaks English, which certainly puts things into perspective for me…

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3. It will look good on your CV

Of course, there is no doubt with more and more people going to university every year, each one of us has to stand out. So what better way is there to get that edge over others than to study abroad for a year? It not only is a blast but it shows that you’re adaptable, brave and certainly helps your intercultural communication skills (we don’t have to tell them about all the partying!)

4. It’s only £650 for the whole year, not £9000

If you go for the year, there is the negative side that it will make your stay at university one year longer so you may worry it will be financial suicide, BUT you do not have to pay the same amount as you do in England! In fact, it’s a whole £8350 less! It does not matter if your host university is private, or what the countries own students have to pay (for example, at CEU San Pablo the students pay around £1000 a month, but I get it for £650 for the year) and you will often get more class hours at your host university so in a way the money goes further.

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5. There is a whole new world to explore

In my 10 months of being in Madrid I visited Malaga, Coin, Valencia, Toledo, Lisbon, Granada, Sierra Nevada, Porto, Marrakech, The Sahara Desert and Fez as well as visiting many, many places within Madrid! You will be amazed how cheap a weekend trip can be thanks to low-cost European flights and hostels, and how inexpensive travelling to nearby cities it is too. But more than going to new places, you will learn about the country’s culture and quirks! You will experience the different cuisine, agenda, weather and conversation topics, even going for the weekly shop can be an interesting venture.

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6. You will amazed how different education can be

Okay, so I must admit this point has its good and bad sides. My earliest class at DMU last year was 10:00, and my earliest class here is 8:00. However, a year abroad that does not count towards your final grade means you can try subjects you never would be able to if you stay at home. I read English Literature and Media and Communication studies at DMU which is all essay and exam based, but here I have decided to try out more practical subjects to improve my skills in different areas, such as Journalistic Design (making magazines), Opinion Journalism (writing articles) and Web Design (programming and coding). You can even chose subjects that don’t relate to your degree simply because you find them interesting or want to improve in that area, exciting! You will also learn so much about the different education systems from all around Europe from friend’s stories.

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7. It may not be around much longer, thanks to Brexit

Unfortunately we must grab this opportunity while we still can, as there is no guarantee how much longer the UK will be able to participate in ERASMUS. Maybe it will still be around for decades to come or maybe it will be over next year so there’s no better time to go than now! I can guarantee that you will not regret it.

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8. You will come back a different person

There is no denying that living and thriving in another country will change you in some way. It is likely to make you more confident, happier and more independent. You may have even learnt a new language, and certainly will have made new friends! I know I haven’t come back to England the same way I left it, even though coming home was the hard part, I would even go to say my perspective on life has changed in the best way possible. I finally am getting to know who I am and where I want to go!

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So please, if you are even thinking of ERASMUS just apply and see where it can take you.

 

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Building Castles in the Air

I am writing this sat in my lovely house in England that overlooks fields that stretch as far as the eye can see, but I began writing this just over a week ago when I was still in the hustle and bustle of sunny Madrid. A place that over time has taught me that there are so many good and open people in this world and such beautiful places beyond the imagination. It has also taught me that life isn’t just about living to work, but working enough to live and thrive. And I have certainly learnt how to thrive!

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Taking my Erasmus year in Spain has undoubtedly been the best decision I have ever made. Travel has always been in my blood and I have ever wished to have the confidence to get myself out of England by myself and set my life up abroad. I choose De Montfort University largely because of DMUGlobal and the opportunities they offer around the world, including Erasmus and as soon as I stepped into their first presentation about Erasmus, I knew it was for me. The only issue was is that I wanted to go for a year and I wasn’t able to transfer my credits from the year abroad to DMU, thus I would have to do an extra year. But as I felt I had been let down a lot by my English university experience, I decided to take the leap and go for it anyway!

The next dilemma that came was choosing the place out of a huge list of universities around Europe. I was torn between Dusseldorf, Bordeaux, Oulu and Madrid, but since I always had a soft spot for Spain and desperately wanted to learn Spanish, I chose CEU San Pablo in Madrid and there my journey began.

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I visited Madrid beforehand to choose a flat to live in and visit the city and university, both which impressed me but I still didn’t have huge expectations. When I arrived it was hot. Really hot. Madrid seemed hugely intimidating and rather lonely, it was hard opening a bank, finding everything for the flat, getting the transport card, finding the uni and not being able to speak any Spanish.

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But just a couple of weeks in, I was falling in love with Madrid and the people there were wonderful. My time in Madrid went from strength to strength and without me even realising it for a long time, I was living my dream. I had my own little flat, a foster cat, I was learning Spanish slowly but surely, Madrid at my doorstep and at the weekends I took day-trips to neighbouring cities, or if the girls were up for it I went on bigger trips to other countries or the coast. At the start of this year, I did have a wobble after a break-up, moving flats and all my friends leaving from the first semester. But after an amazing trip to Porto with great friends and an eye-opening adventure in Morocco where I had the most amazing time ever with more wonderful company, things just carried on the uprise until the day I left.

Now, it is time to awaken from this wonderful dream and whirl of emotions, experiences and evolution that has been my life for the past 10 months. It’s time now to work hard and study hard so I can accomplish this as a real lifestyle when I finish university. I know that Madrid is a once in a lifetime experience, but this is not the end for me, it’s just the beginning of an international lifestyle.

I have never been so inspired to travel and meet more people as now, and I have no doubt that there are more adventures to come. The only thing I am questioning is not when, but where?

Although not everyone will have the same positive experience of living abroad as this, some of you may not even be interested in travelling and will find your happiness elsewhere in careers or studies or families. But I hope everyone has the chance to find their own Madrid.

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Powers of Porto

As I was coming back from Porto to Madrid yesterday, I wondered if the excitement that wells up inside me whenever I hear the plane’s engine thunder into life and shudder as it speeds up ready to take off into the air will ever leave me. It certainly hasn’t yet.

I visited Porto this week for a few days as a last minute plan, which actually seems to be becoming a bit of a habit. On the Friday night my friends drunkenly invited me to stay with one of their grandparents in Porto, at first I was a curious but doubtful I would actually make it. Nevertheless, the day after (albeit a little hung-over and heartbroken) my curiosity and love for Portugal drove me to book the flights and join my friends.

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We had planned to all meet up on the way to the airport at a metro stop, as despite flying with different companies, our planes were leaving at the same time; however, with my Portuguese friend’s alarm failing to go off, we were plunged into a mad rush to the airport as she arrived an hour later than planned, but thankfully all of us made it to the boarding gates with time to spare, even with leaving just thirty minutes from the airport doors to the gates.

Even as low as I felt earlier in the morning, that roar of the engine made my heart beat faster and some kind of serenity washed over me. I flew out with TAPPortugal, which turned out to be a lovely choice as it was a small plane, a row to myself, and a free Pastel de Nata with coffee. The landing wasn’t as spectacular as I expected, with a thick overcast sky covering the small city, but I had a spark of hope in me that it was to be a good trip, and I wasn’t wrong.

After we landed, the three of us met with some of my friend’s Portuguese family members for brunch who all greeted me and my other British friend with such kindness, I felt right at home and joined in the parts of the conversation I could understand in Portuguese or shared conversation in broken English. I tried a delicious dish Balcalhau com Nata that had a similar consistency to fish pie, but more creamy and certainly very tasty! We then had a nap and crawled out of our beds and onto the tram to Porto under breaking clouds that slowly revealed the beautiful evening sun. After getting of the tram, we took a slow walk along the river and then chose a café on the waterside, O Muro, that offered a jar of sangria to share (which was slightly watery so a bit disappointing as I’ve known Portugal to usually do tasty fruity sangria), some smoked sausage (linguiça) for my friend and mini fishcakes (bolihnos de bacalhau) for me, both of which were delicious.

When we woke the next day, it felt like a cold morning, but as we opened the shutters, warm light gushed into the room and we cheerfully prepared for our day in Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. First of all, we wanted to catch the view from the bridge so we climbed above the city walking upon the 146ft high Ponte Dom Luís I, we then took the cable car down to the shore on the other side which is known for it’s famous wine “caves”, one of which we took the time to explore in a vinho do porto tasting session, a new and chic experience for all three of us. It certainly was interesting to find out from Taylor’s the bond that the British and Portuguese have over their port wine.

After, we went and had lunch at what Erasmus+ students of my uni have adopted to call “spanish time” (15:00) as they’re known for their late mealtimes. We chose a lovely restaurant overlooking the river and Porto itself to try some fresh fish and then continued on our way, stumbling across some stalls from where we bought some cork jewellery before walking back across the bridge to the have a look at the shops that were still open. For our supper, my friends lovely grandmother prepared us a snack for tea, as she had been preparing us a big breakfast of coffee, bread and different cheeses each morning, consisting of Portuguese sponge cake and chamomile tea.

On the morning of our last day, waiting for my friends to get ready, I had a lovely simple conversation with the Portuguese grandmother where she talked to me about her pets, her family but she also told me something that touched my heart when I thanked for her hospitality, “I do everything with pleasure and I do it with love”, which is something I feel I should use in my own life. Not being afraid to offer kindnesses to people you don’t yet know, there is no need for coldness or aversion, each acquaintance is a potential friendship or good conversation.

Later that day, we went to the beach for the afternoon, arming ourselves with snacks and sun cream, we soaked up the last rays of sun and enjoyed a refreshing wade in the ocean water. We took in the beautiful pastel sunset from a beach bar overlooking the industrial port of Porto and we were cooked a delicious meal of rice, fried chicken, tuna omelette and olives at home before we took an early retirement to bed for our 6:30am flight!

Now, I am never sad to be coming home to Madrid, I love this city and it has done so much for me, but I could have happily stayed in Portugal as now I am feeling holiday blues for the first time in a long time. But that can only mean one thing, right? Portugal could be my next home after my studies finish in England.