The summer is finally over, the holidays and the freedom from academia and exams has been truly enjoyed and the reality has now really hit me – Heidelberg and Salamanca here I come! My name is Caroline, I am 20 years old, a MEL student at the University of Edinburgh and about to embark on my biggest adventure yet: Germany in Semester 1 and Spain in Semester 2 as an Erasmus student.
As a daughter of an army officer this will not be my first time living abroad but it is the first time I will be completely alone and more importantly studying wholly in a foreign language! So the question that many have asked me (including myself!) is why am I uprooting myself from the beautiful city which is Edinburgh and the many great friends I have made here over the last two years? Well the real reason is that, for me, this was always part of the deal. When I applied to the University of Edinburgh in October 2007 to study languages I always knew that a fundamental, mandatory requirement for my degree is to spend my third year abroad as an honours student. “Somewhere, doing something…” used to be my vague answer to inquisitive relatives. But the road to real independence has now been embarked upon with my first big decisions: that “something” would be studying as an Erasmus student and more specifically that “somewhere” in Heidelberg and Salamanca, something that I would never have predicted!
So why Erasmus, and why these two cities? At 17 the concept of having the opportunity to take a break half way through my degree to work as an intern or a language assistant was so much more appealing. But after two years of studying German and Spanish I have realised that what I love about studying them both so much is just that – studying them: their histories, their literature and their cultures. So nowhere could be better to continue my studies in two of the oldest and most prestigious university cities of Europe whilst being supported by the well established Erasmus system.
Writing this all down now I realise that my (honestly quite vague) “Great Expectations” of next year remain the same as always – to improve my language skills, deepen my academic awareness of these two languages whilst meeting the real people from the modern countries. But the reality has so far been much scarier, sometimes boring and always filled with anticipation. In short my summer has been filled with much worry and honestly a fear of the unknown. But my status as an Erasmus student has finally been confirmed by both universities after many a form, I have found a beautiful flat in Heidelberg, I have renewed my EHIC, I have even booked my first flights… the list goes on. I know many more forms are yet to be completed. More admin, more stamps, more signatures and more decisions – probably more worry because honestly, I am a worrier! But I have been warned, I have done my research I think I know what to expect. Now the very first hurdle of anticipation is over and the reality is soon to be lived!