Daniel Lee, currently on his erasmus year in Sardegna, Italy.
For me, studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it needs to be made the most of. An erasmus year may be for studying, but so many experiences can be created during your time.
To make the most out of a year abroad, I strongly advise you make as many international friends as you can. These are the people you’ll study, party and travel together with. Having such an international group of friends has not only improved my time here, but the enhanced cultural awareness it has given me is really important.
Sharing stories, customs and traditions with one another gives you this valuable insight into how others live, while understanding your own culture more too. I’ve also been lucky to make friends with those living in the city - being a huge help when it comes to practising my language skills. Plus it’s always a bonus having friends who know your new city well to help you get settled in and know your way around. Having friends from the local area is so helpful when it comes to seeking out the cheapest shops, best bars and general information about the local area that isn’t so dominated by tourists.
Getting the most out of a year abroad undoubtedly means getting stuck into the culture of your new home. Travel as much as you can, whether it’s a long few days or just a day excursion. In Spain I went on a few trips organised by ESN (Erasmus Student Network) but also independently. I visited Lisbon for its great food and a chance to experience Portugal. I also went to the university town of Salamanca for the annual Nochevieja, an event that sees over 80,000 students flock to celebrate the end of the year. Had it not been for my erasmus year I wouldn't have experienced such amazing trips.
Since arriving in Sardegna, I have already hiked up to the Sella Del Diavolo (Devil’s Saddle) and the Sette Fratelli (Seven Brothers) - showing me amazing new parts to the island. My friends and I have also booked a trip to Naples just after my 21st birthday, where we plan to climb Mount Vesuvius and explore Pompeii.
A lot of people take an erasmus year as part of their language degree, visiting a country speaking the language being studied, as I am. If this is applicable to you, my strongest piece of advice would be to use you language skills whenever you can. Be it ordering in a restaurant, paying in a shop, asking for directions, or just socialising; do it through the local language. Although it may seem pointless at times, it’s not. You gain confidence and it enhances your proficiency. If your host institution offers a language course, I recommend paying for it. It may cost around €60, but you’re taught by someone that speaks the language natively and it’s again another great form of socialising.
Ultimately, I would say to follow the advice of Jim Carrey - say ‘YES’ to everything on offer. Say yes to trips, night out, new foods and so on. It's the quickest and easiest way to make friends, the perfect excuse to travel and the best way to submerse yourself in the culture.
Daniel is a British student, currently on his erasmus year in Italy.