I can pretty much guarantee that if you don’t have the ‘travel bug’ before your ERASMUS year, you will definitely have a heck of a lot of wanderlust by the end. During yesterday’s 9 hour bus journey (made tolerable by the snowy scenery and good company) a friend and I discussed how much our opinions and perspectives have changed since we arrived in Munich – we’ve both found that living abroad is terrifying at first, spent our first few weeks in Germany wishing we’d stayed at home and sworn never to leave our home countries again, but now love life here and want to see so much more of Bavaria.
Although I’ve visited a lot of the towns around Munich, this was my first weekend away – the exchange organisation attached to the university organised a trip to Vienna. The weekend passed in a blur of sightseeing, Sachertorte and singing ‘Fairytale of New York’ on the U-Bahn (because it was snowing and I was with some Irish people) and apart from getting headbutted by a rather cranky Viennese horse, it was awesome.
One of the highlights of the weekend was an Edinburgh reunion – I met up with my Tandem partner (he helped me with my German, I helped him learn English),who was on ERASMUS in Scotland last year and is now back in Vienna finishing his degree. It was strange seeing someone who reminds me of Edinburgh so much, and of course it’s always tough to say goodbye to a friend, but I made it to his birthday party and having a local tour guide was amazing (the tutors allocated a lot more free time than we expected, with the result that we were left in the middle of Vienna with just an U-Bahn map and enthusiastic but bemused grins).
Another side-effect of being an exchange student: your nationality becomes a far more significant aspect of your identity. This weekend I got far too excited about the ‘Scottenviertel’ (Scottish quarter) – despite not having much to do with Scotland at all (the closest you’ll get in the area to Scottish culture is pint of Guinness in an Irish pub). I theorise that it’s just a manifestation of homesickness, but sometimes I’m a bit of a caricature of Scotland – I use the words ‘wee’ and ‘aye’ (with an occasional ‘shite’ as well) far more than I remember doing so in Scotland and I get the feeling my accent is getting stronger. I even have a black and red checked skirt – I’ve had to explain to several people that it’s not a kilt for girls, it’s just a skirt, but yes, I do like that it looks Scottish. A particular low point was restraining myself from running up to and hugging a group of beer-bellied Scottish football fans when I heard their Glaswegian accents. I’m not the only exchange student like this – the Irish are speaking Gaelic and saying ‘gobshite’, the Turkish are lucky enough to have an entire ‘Turkish quarter’ and the French continue to exercise bad taste and bad judgement by going to special French-music club nights. ERASMUS has definitely changed my relationship with Scotland and I can only be thankful, because it’s made me love my home country and its people even more.
St Augustine once wrote that “the world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a single page.” I disagree – through different experiences and relationships with people (for example ERASMUS has been an exciting time in my life because of new friends as well as seeing Bavaria), but I do see his point. This morning I was in the mood for some procrastination, and struggling to write this blog, and I skim-read some of my previous blogs. I couldn’t believe how homesick and unenthusiastic I seemed. All I can say is do not pay attention to my former opinions – get past the first month or so of homesickness and then ERASMUS will be the time of your life.