Be prepared. Erasmus is hard work. I mean (to all those Edinburgh tutors reading) of course I work hard back in Edinburgh, but this is something completely different. The most startling, and obvious, difference is that everything is in French. I can’t believe I hadn’t prepared myself for this immediate shock. Readings, essays, éxposés, all have to be in French. Mon Dieu. However the good news is that, in my experience, adjusting to this new hectic social/academic/francophone life is incredibly easy. People are very helpful towards Erasmus students who increasingly ressemble startled rabbits, and, amongst everything else, I know my French is improving being submerged in the Liègeois lifestyle.
But please don’t fret, it isn’t all work here. In late October, all francophone universities I’m guessing, will celebrate Toussaints, which gave us a 5 day congé at the end of October to early November. Many people, like myself, took to going home to see friends and family (as well as have a proper Sunday dinner), while others chose to travel around in the holidays; Italy, England, Germany and Luxembourg were all popular destinations. The congé gave everyone time to do their own thing, to relax and recharge the batteries before some heavy duty homework which is due in in late November. And seriously, take advantage of it. I was surprised at how little time off we get here, but then again, if you talk to any European, they would say we’re barely at university with our 4 month long summer and 1 month long Christmas vacation! It does require adjustment, especially around Christmas (term finishes the 24th of December… seriously), but that just means that I get to spend more time francophoning myself and experiencing several hundred Christmas markets; all my family and friends should expect Belgian gifts for Christmas!
At the moment, there is work being done at the Sart Tilman campus where I am staying as one of many Erasmus students. No hot water for 3 days wasn’t a great thing to come back to, I admit. I will be honest and say it has its positives and negatives. On the one hand, you will never meet a kinder, more bizarre and more entertaining bunch of people. They are all going through the same motions as you with uni work, social life and everything else, so co-ordinating nights out, study groups, exercise regimes and everything else under the sun, is very easy to do. The rent is also pretty cheap, at around 250 euros a month, although it is quite far from the city centre. However, despite the positivity, some aspects of the accommodation has shocked me. Insect infestations, pretty regular loss of hot water, and lack of basic utilities like a fridge, oven and kettle (unless you buy them yourself) makes life here pretty frustrating at times.
Saying that, if someone told me to move out today, I wouldn’t be happy, as this is now ‘home’;I have friends here and I love the area. I am just giving an unbiased view to any future prospective students who could possibly search for a kot to share before their arrival in Liège. I wouldn’t suggest leaving it til you get here, as some of the stories I’ve heard have been so full of stress and it can turn out very costly. But with any accommodation, there will be upsides and downsides. I know someone from the UK who is paying 500 euros a month for a place in the city centre, and she hates her flatmates. I am relatively happy with my choice of Sart Tilman, and like I have previously said, I wouldn’t change it for the world now.