I’ve been back from an Erasmus semester in Sheffield for a little while now. I created a blog during my stay there to write about my experiences and I enjoyed doing that a lot, it made me want to continue that at home. In England I mostly wrote about specific topics: The uni, the cities I visited, the language, the parties, the accommodation and so on. Now I want to be a bit more ‘theoretical’, write about the overall thing, what I took from it, if it changed me, that kind of ‘reflective’ stuff. I have thought about that often since I am back, I will try to put it into words now. This post is in English because the Erasmus-Semester-Blog was in English and I think that some non-German-speaking-friends would be happy to be able to read this. But I won’t make this blog completely in English I think, I like writing in German as well.
Here is what I’ve learned, with neat little headings:
I am afraid of the unexpected.
I think a lot, I worry a lot, and I like to use “what if?” a lot. The semester abroad was an excellent candidate for me to worry about. It was scary to know that I would just go on a plane, fly somewhere I’ve never been before, and life there for half a year. A perfect “what if”- situation. What if I don’t like it there? What if I don’t find nice people? What if I don’t get around at uni? What if a meteoroid strikes in the town I am living in? But I think the fact that I knew so little about how it was going to be was good. It gave less concrete things to worry about, and more opportunity to ban everything from my mind and tell myself to deal with it when I am there, which turned out to be a very good technique. The days I arrived and saw my room, met nice people, got into the orientation programme everything was fine. I was not worried at all and a good kind of excited. So, I guess I like being prepared and knowing how things are going to be, and I should work on staying calm when I don’t. Because they will turn out fine.
I like being new peoples‘ someone.
I am always someone’s someone. I think everyone is. I am the friend from kinder garden that you have a lot of funny childhood memories with, the friend from uni that you met in that one seminar with this horrible teacher or the one that you always watch this embarrassing fantasy series with. I love my roles at home – well, most of them. But living somewhere else, with so many people that are new as well and don’t know anyone gives opportunity to make a completely new impression. I am not ‘the girlfriend’ that joins for dinner or your friend’s friend that you always see at birthday parties. The impression I can make on people is entirely my own. Being so many new peoples someone pulled me out of the familiar structures at home and made me find out new things about myself.
The right people can create a home (anywhere).
Sheffield is a rather ugly city, very industrial, construction work everywhere. The food was pretty bad, especially the sandwiches at the library cafeterias which gave me oily skin and hair and made a lot of us gain weight. The radiators on our floor were constantly broken and no one really bothered to fix them. None of this made me enjoy my stay less. It didn’t matter because I had people that shared it with me. Who made me feel happy and at home. In the end it was nice to talk about the food you’re looking forward to eating during Christmas and laugh about the amount of blankets and towels and jackets some people had lying on their bed not to freeze at night.
The ‚Time flies!‘-talk is true.
Everyone says that, it’s the cliché-comment. ‘Oh five month seem long but time will fly and then you’re back, believe me!’ I didn’t. I didn’t expect not to enjoy it and I didn’t expect time to creep (can you say that? my research was ambiguous), but still, half a year is a lot of time. On the one hand I have a lot of memories of things that I did, the time feels active and busy and full when I look back. I guess the reason time did fly was that at the beginning I was so busy taking in all the new things and adapting to the situation. The first weeks are so full of beginnings and first times to think about, that there is no space for the fact that it is going to be over at one point. The part where I actually got used to it and developed some routines was extremely short and followed by the part where you realize that you only have a few weeks left. And then it’s over -poof- time flies, and the cliché comment was true!
Those fashionable elephants where part of a charity project by the children’s hospital. They were all around the city centre when I arrived, all in different patterns (the six here are by far not all of them, I don’t think I even saw all of them). They made me happy, they still do. It was nice to be welcomed by those strong, colourful animals!