Going on Erasmus is not easy. It involves a big step into the unknown in your academic, personal and daily life. When I sat down and checked the options in front of me, I was unsure what country to go to let alone choosing a university. We all have our own different perspectives, interests and in life. For some, there are worries about missing out on things at home or university, while for others it may be giving up sport or a part time job that kept you going at weekends.
Opportunity to travel
For me, I always wanted the opportunity to travel so when the prospect of going on Erasmus came up I felt it was too good an opportunity to pass. Fast forward to the start of September 2018 and I was moving to study law at Leuven in Belgium with absolutely no idea what to expect. Leuven is a small student city, a bit smaller than Galway, and is full of vibrant energy, for both young people and older people. Arriving there and getting to know the city was quite an experience I have never had before.
Settling in and making new friends
The main worry I think everyone going on Erasmus has, whether they like to admit it or not, is how they will fit in. Not only from the perspective of forming new friends, but also adapting to things like the culture and academic system is a worry many students have. At the start, I had the same worries in moving to a country I had never been to before. However, studying at KU Leuven has definitely broadened my horizons and I can safely say it has had quite an impact on my development.
Europe on your doorstep
The academic life in Leuven is not easy and is quite challenging in comparison to the Irish system. There are definitely less challenging universities to study at, but from a lifestyle perspective, Leuven is a place I would highly recommend to anyone. In a city where nearly one third of the population are students, you don’t have to look too far for things to do that don’t break the bank. The cost of living in Leuven is definitely cheaper than Dublin and with the rest of Europe at your doorstep it is so easy to visit different cities and countries.
I ended up staying in Leuven for twelve months, an Erasmus a lot longer than expected. However, when looking back it is easy to see why. I became really close with a group of friends I met at the start and I enjoyed the academic experience despite how difficult it was at times.
For anyone thinking about Erasmus I would recommend biting the bullet and going. Everyone has different worries and stresses in life, but sometimes taking the decision to go and experience something different can be the most difficult but also worthwhile decision. It is only when you arrive home that you realise things never really change and that you pick it up and go again.