Rachel Bermingham, Erasmus student in Germany
Some things happen to you on your year abroad - some things you have to make happen for yourself. No matter what, it all contributes to one of the best and strangest years of your life.
Try the local foods
When in Rome do as the Romans do, so when living abroad it’s only right that you should try all of the interesting local foods. Maybe you decide to go to Italy and you can spend your year trying a thousand different types of delicious pastas and pizzas. Maybe you decide to go to Germany and you can spend your year being freaked out by just how many things are sold in jars in supermarkets and confused by the all the salami sausages. Saying that, there are some classic German foods you need to try such as Pork Knuckle in Munich and Curry Wurst in Berlin.
Try as much of the local foods as possible as they usually have a good story behind them. When in doubt just find a good Döner shop. Germany has claimed the Turkish kebab as an integral part of the land. You may even end up fooling the locals you’re a connoisseur of local beers and delicacies even if that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Food parcels from home should be embraced
We’ve all done it. The moment I’d find out someone has a friend from Ireland visiting, they would promptly receive a shopping list. My boyfriend came through airport security on a quest to deliver six bars of Dairy Milk chocolate here to friends. My personal euphoria came in the form of my mother visiting me and bringing a pot of Knorr Gravy powder with her. An American student here managed to fill her food cupboard with six boxes of mac and cheese. Amid all this exciting new cuisine, sometimes you just need your home comforts. I’ve never met anyone that thinks any other type of butter comes close to Irish butter, but luckily they stock that in supermarkets here.
Don't stress too hard about the work
If all you have to do is pass your courses it can be very difficult to find any motivation to study hard for them. If like me, you’re set to return home to your final year of university where every module will count to your final degree, maybe you deserve a year of less academic stress.
Make the most of the good weather
This is more for the summer term students. It can be very difficult to make people jealous of your snow filled commute to university in -9 degrees winter weather. But the summer more than makes up for this. If you’ve never worn a pair of shorts to a lecture before – study abroad in the sun and it’ll become a way of life. Beware though, with great heat comes the urgent need to wash your clothes on an annoyingly regular basis. Keep well stocked on the sun cream as nothing gives away your international status like burnt, peeling skin.
Some days you will feel as though you’re starting to forget what friends and family back home look like without being pixelated. When your ability to see your parents is dependent on their knowledge of how to correctly hold an IPad on Skype, it can feel like a long time since you’ve got to see people properly.
Do the big Tourist events
Do not disregard these events as too tacky or busy for your liking as they are unquestionably enjoyable. If you end up studying in Germany you absolutely have to visit Oktoberfest. If you’re too late for Oktoberfest try Frühlingsfest in Stuttgart in the spring.
Finding yourself in weird situations is pretty much a given
Surprisingly, I’d never spent almost an hour hiking through a forest surrounded by German nudists before my Erasmus year. Something tells me I never will again either. People may complain that Erasmus students come home with a never ending pile of stories about 'this one time on Erasmus' but that’s because some of the best and weirdest stuff happens when you live abroad!
Essentially, embrace and enjoy it while you can - the year passes in the blink of an eye.