My name is Fay Moody, and, although I can scarcely believe it, I am now a third year student of French and Arabic at the University of Edinburgh, about to embark on the much talked of Year Abroad.
My first semester will be spent in Liège, Belgium. I know, I hadn’t heard of it either. But maybe that’s a good thing. While many
students vie for places in the better known cities of Geneva, Paris, Grenoble etc, I find myself in a Belgian city with a population of less than 200,000.
Despite its more humble appearances than other universities offered by the French department, Liège offers a wide range of subjects, as well as being highly rated in its teaching of Arabic, and the fact that it is a smaller city may even be helpful in that less people will speak English, forcing me to try my French out on the unsuspecting Belgian public.
Am I nervous? Of course. Being thrown into a foreign culture for 4 months is as nerve-racking as it is thrilling. I will miss big milestones back home, like my 21st birthday, most of the Christmas holidays (my term ends on the 24thof December, and I have to fly back to Belgium in early January to start exams), as well as friends’ birthdays, yet I know it will be such a positive
experience; my French will undoubtedly improve, I will gain first hand knowledge of the Francophone culture I am studying, and the ever repeated ‘making new friends’ business.
The French department has already put me in touch with the other student going to Liège, a friend from my Politics and Institutions in Contemporary France class, which has helped enormously. Not only have we been able to talk about the semester abroad
together, chat about how nervous we are to be studying courses in French in a Francophone country (like actual native French speakers!), but we’ve also been able to do most of the application together, reminding each other of deadline dates and helping each other with accommodation forms and all sorts. While it has been quite stressful at times, it was always good to know that I had
someone else in the exact same position, as well as friends from French who were going through similar things on their own Erasmus exchange.
Despite all the stress, nerves, worries and pressure, I am unbelievably excited for next year. And that’s what I’m focusing on. Yes, it will be difficult at times, but then, when is university ever easy? Ultimately, I will have the time of my life; meeting Belgian students as well as other foreign exchange students, learning the history of the Belgium and the Liège area through the several courses I
have chosen to take next semester, and experiencing Belgian delicacies such as Jenever, a local gin, popular in Liège and, of course, real Belgian chocolate.
In the end, I would encourage anyone even slightly pondering the idea of a Year Abroad to go for it. The rewards are endless. So grab a Lonely Planet guide, and get browsing.