I spent a few months in Lille, France on Erasmus studying Architecture. It was truly an experience, which I feel everyone should embark on. My experience, however, was not without its ups and downs. So here is a lighted hearted review of the things I disliked about my Erasmus experience.
- Language – Not being able to speak or fully understand French. I tried to learn French before I left for France, however, it is a completely different thing to practice at home than to put it into practice. Communicating and getting around was initially difficult. Honestly, I could have put more effort into learning French. I do hope to keep improving my French and maybe sometime in the future, I will try again.
- Making new friends – I think I am a sociable person but making new friends who speak mainly French was very difficult. Some people were very approachable, but many were not. However, I was able to make some good friends who helped me survive my experience. Having to leave the new friends I had made after Erasmus was also hard because making new friends was initially a challenge. Saying goodbye to the friends I had grown close to was also very hard especially because I was unsure of when I would see them again. I learnt that people are very accepting and open if you are ready to do the same in return.
- Homesickness– Although meeting new people is fun and exciting, homesickness hits you when you least expect it. I missed my bed, simple things like a kettle to make tea on demand. Just the comfort of knowing where everything is and feeling at home. Sometimes being out of your comfort zone forces you to be aware of your surroundings and notice little things you took for granted like not sharing a bathroom with many people or toilets seats (yes toilet seats).
- A new learning environment – The language barrier was a big issue and I was never quite sure if my work was up to par or how to fully improve. I can now handle myself in tough situations, I am sure of myself and confident in the work I produce.
- Everything was loooong– When I got to France I had found out I had been applying for the next year’s accommodation. I was given the only accommodation left with no choice and it was a box. Simple things like getting a metro card involved so much paperwork. The school administration was also tricky. Despite this, I am grateful for how things are done back home.
- Struggle meals – Prior to Erasmus, I had never lived away from home. I had to learn how to budget, there was really no home cooking by mum to fall back on. I learnt that 10 euro can last a very long time.
- Travel– I could not travel as much as I would have liked too because I had coursework and lack of funds. I wanted to experience the best of France and Belgium had to offer, I travelled to Paris, Dunkirk, Bruges and Gant. This has given me a tiny glimpse of the world outside of UK and I am looking forward to seeing much more of it.
- Organisation– I was told most of my classes would be in English but this was untrue. I only had one course in English. The lack of communication between both universities and students was poor and lead to unexpected situations that could have been avoided. However administrative staff did try their very best to correct errors, which I really appreciated.
- Gratitude – I have learnt a lot from my Erasmus experience and do not regret applying. However, there were so many things I wish I had known beforehand and this may have improved my experience. I do not believe I was able to fully enjoy my Erasmus experience in Lille, but I am grateful for the opportunity to study in a foreign country and new learning environment. The things I used to complain about seem ridiculous after my Erasmus experience. I have witnessed first-hand the time, effort and money French students put into studying architecture and as a result, it has motivated me to do more and be more passionate about Architecture.
Written By: Temi Bola-Okerinde