(I wrote this before christmas but have only been able to upload it now. Sorry for the delay)
So, I’m sitting in the hospitable and luxurious environment which is Praha airport. I have had around 3 hours sleep and a long day of emotional goodbyes and now I am waiting for the infamous voice over the tanoy to put me out of my misery. However, it does give me time to reflect on the semester past….
Without a doubt I have had the time of my life in my first Erasmus exchange. Erasmus changes your life. I’m sitting just now, thinking over my experience and trying to pick out the highlights and the lessons learned I find I already have a lump in my throat.
Leaving behind the Praha Erasmus group fall 2009 is one of the hardest things I have had to do. Spending all of your time, every day with this group of people inevitable enables bonds like you don’t usually make in everyday life. Without a doubt, the friends I have made from this exchange is what will shine through in my memory. I am sure that being back in Glasgow for over a month will soon have me missing the company of having so many of my peers around ma and things going on, like a holiday camp.
This is not to say that my exchange afforded me only social benefits. I learned, firstly, a different learning experience. Czech and international professors as well as international colleagues in my groups for presentations and projects presented me a wide variety of opinions and varying cultural perspectives. In its self I feel the number of presentations and the level of public speaking was a learning experience for me. At Edinburgh I have done a limited amount of presentations or public speaking (with the exception of my language course) and this was something which worried me at the beginning, but that I now feel has benefited me the most academically. I have grown in confidence in my public speaking and have gained confidence in my opinions which I feel more willing and secure to put forward.
Moreover, I have learned a great deal form my fellow exchange students. I have picked up a surprising amount about each of my friends language and culture. I have learned a unexpected amount about European politics history as well as American and Canadian politics. Each of the exchange students I encountered were driven, passionate and focused on getting the best from their education. This determination undoubtedly rubbed off on me, and I now feel more focused on how to achieve my goals and to travel and experience as much as I can while I have the chance. I have seen the completion out there for the jobs that I might be applying for in the future. Competition from well travelled students with a wealth of volunteer and internship experience and I don’t intend on lagging behind.
After the first semester I feel I have gained a friend in every country and an experience of a lifetime. Of course, although it is for many, the experience isn’t over for me. (The reason that this entry has an air of finality about is because around 80% of the exchange students at my university in Prague were only studying for one semester and will not be returning after Christmas break.) I will return in February. It will feel like I am starting from scratch and I am pretty apprehensive. I have a few good friends of course who will also still be there. At the moment however, I am dreading the thought of starting again making new friends. Of course it was good fun the first time round, but once you have made your friends and have established your position within a group it is difficult to start again. I am also going to be continually comparing it to the first semester and this is where I am worried it will suffer in comparison. The second semester I imagine to be quieter. Fewer exchange students (only half the number of last semester)
In the end, I am going into the second semester with an open mind (hah, sounds like it, eh?) and will be happy to report is the next three month live up to the experience of the first. I have had a practise run so I should be able to get even more out of this semester… here goes!