By Flora Roselier (2015)
Many of my friends are former Erasmus students, and I have always been jealous of their experiences abroad. When I was accepted at the University of Birmingham in the West Mid-Land, in England, I was eager to start my own experience as an Erasmus student. Needless to say, moving to a foreign country is a bit scary, but as soon as I arrived the fear went away as excitement set in. Still, I did not yet realize that I was starting one of the best years of my life.
If I have to summarize Erasmus in a single word, it would be “discovery.” At the beginning of an Erasmus exchange, everything is new: new country, new city, new university, new home and even new friends. This might sound overwhelming, but one step at the time and everyone is able to find their way.
Erasmus is, above all, a university exchange. This program gives students the opportunity to experience a totally different system. The University of Birmingham offers a great variety of courses to choose from. I took both English and American history and literature courses. In fact, the American history course made me discover feminism and the anti-feminist figure of Phyllis Schlafly who is currently the subject of my Master’s dissertation. A lot of specialized classes, help, tutorials, and so on are put in place to smooth international students’ adaptation to the English university system. In fact, assessments mainly require writing essays, which was totally new to me. I found it interesting to get the opportunity to experience another kind of university system from within.
Erasmus may be primarily about university, but it is also about discovering life from a new angle, shaking up habits, meeting people from all around the world, and experiencing a new culture. Birmingham is located in the centre of England, which made it very easy to travel to and explore many English cities.
At its best, Erasmus is an experience that forces us to overcome our own limits, challenge habits, and embrace other cultures. I went back home, but now as a former Erasmus student, and I will never forget this wonderful year.