The Beginning of the End (Part 1)
It’s almost the end of May, which means my year abroad will sadly be over soon. As I am currently writing this, I have four working days left of my internship, and just two weeks left until I return back to England for good. It goes without saying that this has been the most exciting, adventurous and challenging year of my life – and I most certainly would do it all again. Since my time in Cologne is nearly up, I decided I would reflect on all the main highlights and challenges of my year abroad in a two-part blog. This one will focus specifically on all my favourite moments; then my following blog will concentrate on the various challenges/difficulties I had to face. So without further ado, let’s get on with the highlights!
1. Making life-long friends from other countries
A huge perk of doing an Erasmus semester is having the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. During my first few weeks in Cologne, I met a wealth of students from every corner of the globe, ranging from Canada to Denmark, Brazil to Japan, Spain to South Korea, Austral… you get the idea! Not only were they a huge part of my Erasmus semester, but have also become life-long friends of mine. Spending six months with people that aren’t from your home country seriously broadens your perspective of the world, and lets you embrace other cultures which you simply can’t experience in England. I’ve already been to visit two of my mates in Italy so far, with further plans for an Erasmus reunion at one of their beach-houses this summer. Naturally, all of this wouldn’t be possible without having done a semester abroad.
2. Going travelling
Germany… what is it good for? Beer, bratwursts, bike rides and being in central Europe! With an array of European countries surrounding Germany, I was spoilt for choice when it came to travelling. With iconic cities such as Amsterdam, Berlin and Brussels being only a train ride away, I couldn’t resist the temptation of a weekend excursion every now and then. In total, I managed to rack up four skirmishes to foreign cities (Amsterdam, Berlin, Munich and Kirn), one ski trip in the French Alps, and a swift tour of Italy during my year abroad. Not only was this my first time visiting a lot of these places, but they were brand new to a lot of my fellow-travellers as well. Nothing really beats going on an adventure with your mates, and living in central Europe made this incredibly easy to do so.
3. Interning abroad
During the second half of my year abroad, I have been interning at a marketing agency which is also here in Cologne. Whilst I have definitely learned that the student life gives you far more freedom than the working life, I have strongly appreciated all the benefits of interning in a foreign country. Firstly, my language skills have improved dramatically, with my competency in German being far better than it was 4 months ago. It was very important for me to experience ‘real-life German’ rather than ‘classroom German’ during my time abroad – which the internship has certainly helped me to achieve. Secondly, I have gained great experience in Marketing, business strategy and graphic design; all of which are aspects of business which I want to get involved in, post-university. Lastly, I have had a lot of fun working here and really enjoyed being in an international team.
4. Experiencing a city-university
Whilst I really enjoy the campus lifestyle which Warwick has to offer, it was interesting to switch things up and experience a university that’s spread across a city. Having everything at your doorstep has been highly conveniant, such as cinemas, clubs, kiosks, supermarkets and shopping centres. Furthermore, Cologne itself is a very special city, being host to crazy ‘Karneval’ events each year, attracting A-List celebrities with its ‘Lanxess Arena’ and being constantly buzzing with social events/activites. Despite the great times I’ve had travelling, most of my favourite year abroad memories all took place in Cologne, such as seeing Stormzy and Green Day live, partying through Karneval and chilling in its array of city-gardens. With everything only a tram stop away – I’m definitely going to miss living in a city next year, but I’ll be glad to embrace the campus-buzz of Warwick once more.
5. Trying out new sports
Throughout my time in Cologne, I got involved with a variety of sports – most of which I had never tried out before. During my first week upon arrival, I signed up to a water-skiing beginners class with ESN, which definitely made for a ‘splash landing’ into my year abroad. I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it similar to skateboarding – a sport I used to love during my secondary school years. Unfortunately they weren’t running further classes for it until the summer, but if I ever get the opportunity to do it again, at least I won’t be a complete beginner at it. Secondly I went to a few beginners classes for fitness boxing, which definitely made my monday evenings extremely exhausting. Although I only managed to attend a few, I am definitely eager to try it out again once I return to Warwick. Lastly, I got the rare opportunity to stay for free in a chalet in the French Alps, where I was able to learn how to properly ski for the first time in my life. Whilst I had undertaken a few ski classes before as a child, I was basically a complete beginner to the sport. This was without a doubt one of my favourite trips throughout my year abroad and I can now finally say that I’m no longer ‘Bambi on ice’ when it comes to Skiing!
So that’s it for all the top highlights of my time in Cologne. In the next blog I will reflect on all the challenges and difficulties I had to overcome, which will reinforce that a year abroad is not just ‘one long holiday’. Until next time.