Júlia Anguera - Swansea, Regne Unit
FROM: ESDAP LLOTJA
2017 – 1ST SEMESTER
Without a doubt, going on an Erasmus exchange is one of the best experiences that your university can provide you with. Despite some disadvantages or tough moments, the Erasmus programme definitely gives you the chance to learn, mainly about life, as well as to discover new cultures and overcome new challenges.
This time last year, I had already been living abroad for one month. In September 2016, I caught a plane to Swansea, Wales, where I was going to spend one year of my life. This destination was not my first option when I first applied. Because of several administrative problems, I could not go to my first and second desired destinations. Even though I was really disappointed at the beginning, with some perspective, I can now say that the destination is not the most important thing when you want to study abroad, but the experiences you live, the people you meet and the university you go to.
The first few days that I spent in Swansea were tough, but exciting and challenging at the same time. I felt very welcome by the ‘University of Wales Trinity Saint David’ that organised a couple of orientation days for all the international students. This gives you the chance to meet a bunch of people from different places around the world, who are in the same situation as you are, so you quickly establish a bond with each other. They also organised a trip for all of us the day after, so we got the chance to explore some of the Welsh sceneries, as well as to break the ice with all the international students. Also, I think it’s relevant to emphasize that most universities in the UK organise a ‘freshers week’ which consists in a week full of activities, trips and parties that also helps you to settle in.
A week after I arrived in Swansea, classes started, and this was the real challenge. One of the reasons why I decided to apply for an Erasmus mobility in first place, was the chance to study Graphic Design in another university in order to see how things were done in other places and improve my skills as a designer. I also felt very welcome by those who were going to be my lecturers for the year. Nevertheless, I have to admit that although we were just a couple of international students in the class, we got treated just like regular students, which, from my point of view, is the only way to learn a lot, achieve your objectives and improve your English.
Regarding the academic aspects, both the learning agreement and the way the classes were developed, were quite different compared to how they are at my home institution, not worse or better, but different. I learnt and saw new ways of facing a project and got advice and suggestions completely different to the ususal ones. Also, I must highlight that the facilities in my institution were very good and got the chance to attend several workshops during the year. By the end of the year, I felt really integrated in the class and the academic activites. Also, I can say that I learnt a lot from my classmates who might have also learnt from me, giving way to the cultural exchange I mentioned earlier.
Besides, I would strongly recommend attending as many activities and trips as possible. In my case, I joined the university basketball team, which gave me the chance to meet even more people, specially from the UK, and to discover new places around Wales. Furthermore, the international office at my university organised several trips during the first and second semester, so we could easily travel to places around Wales and the rest of the country, such as Bath, London or Birmingham. In fact, travelling is, in my opinion, one of the greatest advantages of studying abroad. I found out that travelling can be very cheap, so almost every weekend we caught a bus or a train all through the country. That is exactly what I meant when I said that the destination is not the most important thing. In my case, you might not have been in my favourite city but that has given me the chance to travel to other places.
Moreover, apart from travelling, going on an Erasmus mobility has so many more advantages. For most of us, studying abroad is the first time we live away from home so we can enjoy the freedom of living on our own. Another advantage is the amount of friends that you make. However, from my point of view, the most relevant advantage is the security of knowing that you have sucessfully achieved all the challenges that come with living and studying abroad. Also, although the main reason you might have applied for an Erasmus was not to improve a language, you will improve it eventually. In my case, I spoke English 24/7, as I did not mix with people from my own country.
Nevertheless, studying abroad can also have several cons. First of all, depending on your degree, and how lucky you are, you might end up doing subjects that have nothing to do with what you are studying at home. For this reason, I would recommend checking the learning agreement and the academic program before deciding where to go to. Finally, when you live on your own and specially in a foreign country, you might have to face some problems such as not having enough money or feeling nostalgic sometimes. However, both the bad and the good experinces make you grow up. In addition, I would say that the biggest drawback is the fact of knowing that at some point you have to go back to your normal life at home.
Swansea is a quiet city, but full of students and surrounded by extraordinary scenery. Therefore, I would specially recommend the institution I went to, for people who are looking for a good university, where they can improve their skills as well as for those who are looking forward to living the student life. In conclusion, I would strongly recommend an Erasmus mobility to anyone, not only for studying somewhere else or improving a language, but for all the experiences you will live and the chance to get immersed in new cultures, which will make you open your mind and discover new ways to see the world.