Today, I realise with terror that I have less than a week left in Scotland. I’ve started to refer to my ERASMUS year as ‘doing a Michael Palin’, because of the lovely BBC/homely connotations of my favourite travel writer, mainly because I can‘t face that a more accurate description of an ERASMUS year is ‘temporarily moving to a foreign country’.
Last week I visited Edinburgh and had lunch with a girl who studied in Munich last year. If possible, I would strongly recommend that anyone going on an exchange tries to meet with older students who’ve been to the same city. Rosie was full of enthusiasm about the LMU and living in Bavaria, and offered a lot of advice, ranging from avoiding the student cafeteria to buying wellies as soon as I get to Munich because they sell out when the snow comes. Thanks to Rosie’s advice and insights into student life in Munich, I feel like arriving in Germany will be less of a culture shock – I’ve read my city guidebook pretty thoroughly, but Dorling Kindersley don’t seem to concern themselves with, for example, which supermarket is cheapest and the opening hours of clubs, and so the perspective of a former ERASMUS student is invaluable.
She also assured me that my German doesn’t need to be perfect when I arrive. I was feeling particularly insecure about my language skills, as the night before I had confused my tandem partner Frank by misunderstanding his story about forgetting his passport at an airport with a humorous anecdote concerning the local culture in Iceland. My German is usually better than this, and at any rate one of the reasons I’m going abroad is to work on my German – there wouldn’t be much point if I was already fluent! (I’m aware this now reads a little like a needy self-reassuring diary entry).
Mostly, I’ve managed not to dwell to much on my nerves. If you’re planning an ERASMUS year, you’ll have a lot to organise and lately I’ve been kept busy arranging travel insurance, online banking, packing and shopping, not to mention the headache that was reading through the course catalogue (German for ‘investment trusts’ is ‘Kapitalanlegengesellschaften’…I’ll admit it was hard not to dismiss all the courses I struggled to pronounce).
I have, strangely perhaps, enjoyed getting ready for Munich – too many people have commented that I’ll quickly become accustomed to German life because I’m ‘efficient’ and enjoy organising things. However, I have hated the seemingly endless goodbyes. Over the last few weeks I’ve seen family members and friends from Edinburgh (I visited them in freshers’ week) for the last time in a few months, possibly a year. I’m probably being overdramatic – although German universities appear to be a little stingy with winter breaks, Christmas isn’t too far away and I’ll be able to see everyone then. However, I can only hope that Germany has an adequate substitute for Ben and Jerry’s (Fisch Food?) or Cadbury’s chocolate – Friday will be the last time I see my boyfriend (there would be an unhappy smiley if I thought I could get away with it on a university blog). Goodbyes suck – but, as my grandmother tells me, they’re part of life’s rich tapestry.