Spending a year studying in a foreign country can be seen by students either as a nightmare or as a dream. Plenty of attractive destinations await bold students, from small towns in the middle of nowhere to the largest metropolis in Europe. The students that are willing to leave their hometown have to be fully ready to face problems unknown in their comfort zone. On the one hand it is highly likely that most of this difficulties are related to adult life problems such as sharing a flat with people that they simply don’t get along with. But on the other hand there is the added challenges of living in a different country where other language is spoken and being exposed to a culture shock. Through this article, we will identify the main reasons why many students do not go on Erasmus placements but also how their lives will be enriched by the experience if they do go.
The first days for an Erasmus are the most difficult, we meet a hostile environment and we don’t know how to face it. We have to adapt to a new culture that sometimes clashes with ours. One of those cases is when an Erasmus student comes to Spain, since it takes time to fully understand how things work here, especially thanks to the Spanish Kafkaesque distortion of time and work. Culturally, and although it probably sounds like a stereotype, both Spanish students and those from other countries agree that the Spanish are procrastinators by nature. And the highly driven European Erasmus students seem very different from the relaxed Spanish students, as they are ordered, hardworking and sometimes too critical of their work.
So, when an Erasmus student arrives in Spain and starts flat-hunting, the cultural differences become apparent from the start because the Spanish real estate environment and its behaviour is so different. To a student from Finland, the process seems too casual, people are very lax with the laws and they rent their houses using trust and excessive optimism instead of contracts.
When we arrive at the University, we discover that many of our colleagues have never left their home town and instead of being our Virgilio in this Divine Comedy that Erasmus life is, they directly ignore us in a deliberate way, breaking the only link to sanity in an environment of madness and change. It´s an environment where we don’t yet know the city, their neighbourhoods and their rules. Making Spanish friends for all the reasons previously presented is very difficult. Also, we have to bear in mind that they are night animals, they are constantly going to parties and with a rhythm that we are not used to. Every aspect of life is permeated by the Mediterranean lifestyle, since they seem, at times, to be direct descendants of the god Bacchus, the god of wine in ancient Roman culture.
Surprisingly, approximately 250.000 students decide every year to go away for an Erasmus experience, in spite all these difficulties. As we said before, we are faced with most of the problems at the beginning, but we should also take other issues into consideration, like the cost. Indeed, despite the fact that the original universities that the Erasmus students come from give grants to the exchange students, it is really unlikely that this pocket money will be enough to cover all the additional costs that an Erasmus student will have to pay. Imagine how many they could include: rent, medical insurance, sport subscription, etc… In many cases, if you stayed at home, with your parents, you would not have to spend that amount of money. Nevertheless, the main idea is that doing such an experience is, to all intents and purposes, an investment for your future life and career.
So, despite having shown the negative aspects of studying abroad, in this next part we would like point out the bright side of this adventure. Many Erasmus would agree with me with the fact that studying abroad boosts your CV values in many different aspects. Why? This is due to the fact that Erasmus students have already got the experience of studying abroad therefore if they decided to work in a multinational company it wouldn’t be difficult for them to adapt to a new culture and to new challenges.
We also have the chance as well to discover non-mainstream places thanks to the locals that otherwise we would never otherwise have visited. In addition to what we mentioned above, an experience like this would also improve your language and communicative skills, because you force yourself not be shy and to interact with new people. An employer would also realise that the person they have in front wouldn’t be afraid of leaving their comfort zone and adapting to a new scenario. Above all, you will able to meet thousands of new people and have lots of friends all around the world. Moreover, these new friends could be like a new family and you will be grateful to have a couch to sleep on in almost every corner of the planet.
In the end all students should think studying abroad as an investment in their future. Nowadays there are so many candidates for every single proper job so you just can´t be like everyone else. Studying or working abroad may also be a chance that you are not able to face later. There is nothing to lose and if you don´t go and you may regret it afterwards. Obviously there will be many problems during your stay but you should not be too afraid of them. One thing that we learned from talking to many Erasmus students was that when facing real problems, they never felt alone because someone was always willing to help them overcome their difficulties. With right kind of attitude you will have the experience of a lifetime that you will never forget. You will also probably make lifelong friends who you can visit abroad and with whom you share unforgettable experiences and perspectives.
Los autores del artículo son alumnos grado de ESIC Business & Marketing School:
– Javier Fontoba Díaz
– Alejandro Egea Mollá
– Germán Giménez Pérez
– Marco Cucco
– Juuso Hyvarinen