The Beginning of the End (Part 2)
The end of my year abroad is drawing ever closer, as I have now completely finished my internship in Cologne and I’ve moved in to my mate’s house for the concluding week of my international journey. As much as I’m eager for my summer break to start, as well as to see all my friends and family again, it’s safe to say I’m going to really miss this place. Cologne has been my home for the past 9/10 months, and what a home it has been. I chose this city for a wealth of reasons, for example: its location in Germany, the reputation of its business school, its crazy ‘Karneval’ events etc. but above all, I simply had a good gut feeling about it. Like anywhere there has of course been drawbacks to living here, but never once have I imagined myself in any other city. From the cathedral to the Rhein, Karneval to Kölsch, the city-gardens to the city-lakes, this place has so much to offer and was definitely the right choice for my erasmus.
Alas, enough about my romance with Cologne! As promised, I will use this blog to follow on from my last, and reflect on all the challenges/difficulties I have had to face on my year abroad. Despite what Facebook/Instagram portrays, a year abroad is not ‘one long holiday’ and carries with it a horde of challenges. While it depends on where you go/what you do which strongly determines the challenges you’ll face, it goes without saying that everyone on a year abroad has at least something to overcome. So without further ado, here is my list of the 3 major challenges I faced during my international adventure.
1. Finding accommodation
Finding a place to live was way harder than I expected. With roughly 80,000 students in Cologne and only 4,000-5,000 rooms on offer by the accommodation office, I hope this gives you a sufficient idea of the ‘rat race’ I had to go through just to secure a flat. While my personal experience of finding a room never reached a critical level (i.e. homeless/getting scammed), it was an incredibly stressful ordeal and required an intense amount of persistence, patience and luck. Fortunately for me, I was able to stay with a host family for the first month I arrived in Cologne – I sorted this out through a contact of mine which took a lot of initial weight off my shoulders. Once I had arrived, I had just over 30 days to find a place to stay before my time there was up. This meant sending countless emails to online adverts, and making frequent visits to the accommodation office, all with the hope of finding somewhere to stay. After a couple of unsuccessful viewings, I saw an advert online which was completely in English and had an English telephone number attached. I immediately bashed in the number on my phone and rang up the landlord to arrange a viewing, which I managed to secure for the following morning. After inspecting the flat and discussing details with him, I was able to put a deposit down and move in from November onwards. Success! Whilst the entire process was extremely challenging, it certainly was a crash course into adulthood and like the old saying goes, it all worked out in the end!
2. Finding an internship
In contrast to finding a flat, I knew already that this was going to be a very difficult task. It’s hard enough finding an internship in England, but trying to find one in a completely different language makes the whole process twice as hard. After initially applying to a couple of big companies through the traditional application processes, it gradually struck me that I needed to set my sights elsewhere. Not only did their positions require complete fluency in German, but also lasted a lot longer than the timeframe I was looking for. I thus decided to go to a careers workshop ran by the uni to get a clearer idea of internships available for Erasmus students. During this class, I mentioned to the course leader that I was looking for a marketing/business strategy internship and funnily enough… she knew the CEO of a marketing agency! After putting me in contact and having a few interviews with her friend, I was finally able to secure my work placement. Similar to my search for housing, I hated the process of finding this internship, but it definitely taught me the value of networking and got me more familiar with companies’ application processes.
3. Living my daily life in a foreign language
A key purpose of the year abroad is to immerse yourself in the country you’re living in and practice your proficiency within the language as much as possible. While this is definitely an exciting prospect of a year abroad, it also acts as one of the hardest challenges you’ll have to face. Everyday tasks are given that extra degree of difficulty, just because they’re all in German, for example: going shopping, getting a haircut, playing sport, ordering food/drink, going out etc. Particularly in my last three months, I was speaking predominantly in German every single day, as everyone at my internship was – yep, you guessed it – German! Whilst this was great for my language skills, I was mentally drained by the end of each day. I’m sure I will certainly miss living my life completely auf Deutsch, but being able to live my life in my native language again will be a lot less exhausting.
So those are my three major challenges of my year abroad. Naturally there were a lot more than three difficult aspects, such as: adapting to a new culture, having to make a brand new group of friends, taking exams in German etc. but I feared this blog would transform into a dissertation if I explained absolutely everything. The year abroad will always offer an array of good times and bad times – if you only experience one or the other then you’re doing it wrong. Whilst its purpose is to be one of the best years of your life, it’s also supposed to challenge you and test you outside of your comfort zone. I’m going to seriously miss my life here in Cologne, but I’m equally as excited to begin the summer holidays and enter my final year at Warwick. For anyone that’s considering a year abroad, my only advice is to make that leap of faith and do it – you won’t end up regretting it.
Until next time guys