Ana Tavares – ERASMUS in Germany
A story by Ana Taveras
Country of origin: Portugal; Destination country: Germany
I had always wanted to participate in the Erasmus programme. Even long before I started my university studies!
In fact, when I started to learn German and heard about my teachers’ experiences as Erasmus students in Germany, I knew I wanted to do it.
However, it was not until about 6 years later that I was actually able to be an exchange student. In the meantime, I finished my secondary studies and went to university. I continued to study German and was determined to improve my language skills, so it was no surprise that I successfully applied for a year abroad in Germany.
My goal was to improve my language skills, get to know more about the culture (I had already been there for a month on holidays) and travel. Still, I was able to learn much more than that!
Obviously, improving my German level and learning more about the culture are almost mandatory for someone spending about 10 months in another country. I was also able to travel frequently and know the country quite well. As ridiculous as it might be, one should put it like this: I had a dream and I was able to fulfil it!
Was it easy? It certainly was not! But it was definitely worth it…
I encountered all sorts of difficulties when moving abroad. Language misunderstandings, housing problems, bad weather and difficult room-mates. Adapting to a new and foreign culture, however, was less problematic than I had originally anticipated.
Apart from learning the language and the culture and have the housing situation set there, I had no previous preparation and little local support. Even though there was an office that handled all the exchange students, it was up to me to solve whichever situations I came across, like being ill. During the first few days and until I managed to get approved my curricula for the year, my colleagues and I were supported by a German student that helped us to understand how things worked.
During the rest of the year, however, my biggest support were my classmates, especially foreign ones. Upon arriving, we all participated in some activities and we soon formed groups. We would have lunch together during the week, travel on Saturdays to visit nearby cities and meet socially. Not all of us had classes together but we still managed to get together and enjoy our free time. We ended up being each others’ support as we were all away from home and by ourselves. What surprised most of my classmates was the fact that I was in Germany to study for a year because I wanted to; most of them had to spend a year abroad since they were studying the language and it was mandatory.
Interestingly enough, our group was composed of European students only: Portuguese, British, Italian and Finish. Still, we had plenty of contact with other European and non-European exchange students. In fact, there was quite a large American and Chinese community. While we were all there for the same fundamental reason (learning and/or improving the language), Europeans tended to group. We realized that we (Europeans) were all different; but we could understand the similarities of our cultures and what makes us European by comparison with non-Europeans.
It was quite a challenge for a 21-year old: I missed home, cried a lot, struggled and learned about myself. But I also travelled, met people from all over the world and made the most from this year abroad.
I look back and can do nothing else but remember the good times and the good things; how much I have learned and how much I have gained from the experience. Even though I also learned what “growing pains” means…
This goes to show that fulfilling a dream is not easy, even it you want it badly!