Settling into Erasmus From A Student at Warwick University
I have mentioned on one of my previous blogs: ‘Year Abroad Applications!’ (link here: https://our.warwick.ac.uk/year-abroad-applications/) that there are a number of things that you should consider before applying for your Year Abroad. Namely, documentation, language barriers, living circumstances, funding, medical issues, admin, well-being, and insurance. The list may sound overwhelming and exhaustive (in fact I know it does), but by attending Year Abroad lectures, keeping in touch with your Year Abroad department consultant, and by reading through some of the information surrounding these topics that I have pieced together in my last post, you will be more than fully equipped to handle whatever a Year Abroad may throw at you. Certainly, if I had the good sense to research these topics thoroughly before I packed my bags and booked my flight, my Year Abroad could have been smoother. Still, I learned some valuable lessons along the way that I have shared now with you.
The first few weeks of my Year Abroad at Trinity College, Dublin was spent negotiating the list above. I was busy trying to find my feet in a new home. For the most part I was scrambling around college trying to locate rooms, taking pictures of the gorgeous architecture on campus (I will attach some photographs below), getting module forms signed and stamped, attempting to log onto the campus Wi-Fi, understanding a new marking and reference system, attending society fairs, and calling friends and family in the evening. Time moved quickly as I was driven by excitement at the sheer novelty of having such a wonderful new opportunity to test a new life. I will be honest and say I was lucky in that the first transitional period of my Year Abroad seemed seamless to me, partly because I realise now that I was running on pure adrenaline.
Also, something that I mustn’t forget to add, which I hope can encourage you to take on the challenge of a Year Abroad, is that the beauty of this opportunity with Warwick University is that by the time your first term abroad commences, you will have already experienced freshers, halls of residence, a lecture hall, a seminar setting, and a general University experience. This is of course because you will have, at the very least, have completed your first year at Warwick before opting in for this scheme. You will already be well-versed in University and student culture which, for me at least, seemed to translate internationally too. Therefore, somewhat expectantly, finding rhythm in Trinity was easier than my first year at Warwick, as I had already lived University life, albeit in a different location. There were some elements of the international experience that were comfortingly familiar and I had the opportunity to relive those moments, and even realise that I was more capable, doing this the second time around, than I may have previously given myself credit for. So yes, there is a big tick list to complete before, during, and after your placement, but, you’ve already got at least one year of University under your belt- which means that, even if you may not realise it, you know the ropes.
However, in this blog post I wanted to focus more on what happens after the first few weeks of lectures come and go? What happens once reading lists and assignments start to build up? And what happens once the idealist touristic haze starts to dissipate and suddenly topping up your LEAP card becomes the norm? Of course, romanticising a new place, a new adventure, and a fresh start is perfectly natural, and can be even helpful in setting new goals and boosting ambition, but how do you cope when a routine starts to settle, and you may even begin to miss home? In answering these questions, I want to talk a little bit about settling into not only a new home, but a new country, and a new lifestyle.
I knew that now I was away from friends, family, and the happy life I had built at Warwick, it was likely that at some point I would feel overwhelmed. I want to stress that this is a totally normal emotion and is not something that should be suppressed. Instead, I focused on ways I could potentially manage it. In this way, I transferred home comforts to my new place of living. I had to reconnect with what really made me happy in my past life at Warwick and look for similar experiences in Trinity. This by no means mitigated any acquisition of new, unexpected experiences, but instead helped to provide familiar anchors in a new and strange place. For instance, in Warwick I used to really enjoy going to local boxing classes held in Leamington Spa. So, I joined the Trinity Boxing Gym and met most of my closest friends there. (Below are some pictures from our charity spar event in February)
It was a fantastic place for creating friendships, and it also provided a strong sense of discipline and structure in my life at Trinity. Not only this, but the club allowed me to push myself in ways that I did not think I previously could. I really relished my memories from the gym: the warm community that resided there and the sense of accomplishment after every session. If you are someone that has a sporty background or enjoys any forms of exercise, I would recommend accessing a society that sparks your interest, or indeed a continued one, because one of the main positives of sports societies are their interdisciplinary nature. It is important to socialise with people outside of your course, to try to broaden your social circle, and seek out more unexpected friendships.
In addition to this, I would say that it is important to invest in these friendships made abroad. Sometimes financing can be stressful, especially if you chose to relocate to a city that is expensive. However, sometimes it is really important to organise that night out, get lunch with a new friend, plan shopping trips, visit other areas of the country on weekend breaks or daytrips, buy gifts for Christmas and birthdays, and go and see theatre shows or films with friends. At first, I was incredibly preoccupied by the stress of spending money and budgeting, because admittedly, Dublin is an extremely expensive city and I was shocked by my sudden surge in outgoings. Still, as time went on, I managed to rationalise my fear of spending money and thankfully concluded that a few trips out and about were definitely worth the cost in exchange for making memories of my short stay in Dublin. Indeed, cheaper options were out there, including perks such as student discounts, and I eventually managed to seek them out. Also, on campus cafes were considerably cheaper than in city centre, something which I regrettably discovered much later into my time in Ireland. If I could, I would urge my former self to relax and enjoy my time in Dublin from the offset, and if it meant spending a little more than I would in Warwick, so be it, I could always earn more on returning home.
Finally, I would recommend bringing home comforts with you to your new home. This meant for me, creating a bedroom that felt cosy and my own. It also enabled my down/alone time to be particularly relaxing as I indulged in Netflix programmes that my friends back home were watching, or listened to music that I loved, or read books. I want to touch on alone time during study/ work placements because it is a prime time for feelings of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out, completely irrational, in my case) to creep in. Some of my main concerns about uprooting and starting again somewhere new was that it would be a terrible mistake, that my friends would move on and forget me, that better things would happen at home, and I would ultimately fail. Again, these are normal concerns, but should not go unchallenged. I would firmly say now that, my dearest friends from Warwick have not forgotten me, both myself and my friends made fantastic memories in different places, which we have the joy of sharing with each other, and I did not fail at Trinity. In fact, I made friends, I studied new things, threw myself into societies, and I learned about Irish culture. Still, being alone with your thoughts in a strange new place is a recipe for overthinking and worrying. This is why I so strongly suggest making your new space your own, a place where you can unwind and reflect on how far you’ve come and the exciting things ahead.
I hope this gave you some things to think about if you are thinking of going a year abroad with Warwick. If you have any questions about my experience in Dublin, don’t hesitate to contact me.
All the best for now,
P.s. As promised, here are some remarkable pictures of Trinity Campus, a place that I will always feel extremely fortunate to have studied at.