If you are a prospective Erasmus student I can guarantee that you will hear one, or both, of these phrases; ‘you are going to have the best year of your life’, ‘you will enjoy every minute’. Now I don’t want to disappoint anyone, but you are not going to enjoy every minute of your year abroad. That’s not to say it’s a bad year; there will be plenty of minutes that you will enjoy very much, some may even be the best minutes of your life. However it’s a year and it is therefore impossible to enjoy every minute for an entire year without the aid of illegal substances, which would ultimately be damaging to your health.
I also take issue with being told that this will be the best year of my life. I personally find that an incredibly depressing thought. My life is destined to peak at the tender age of twenty-one? Does this mean that every other year after this will pale in comparison? If I am average that means the following fifty-nine years are almost pointless, as I will have nothing to look forward to. Of course this year is an incredibly important part of my life and I would imagine is to be an incredibly formative year. It may even turn out to be one of the better ones. Nevertheless I’d like to reserve judgement on this until when I have a bigger sample size (maybe at least fifty years).
The above statements put enormous amounts of pressure on this year. Every minute that isn’t being spent doing something new and life-changing seems like a waste. Unfortunately though, I have work to do. Erasmus isn’t just about having an adventure, it is the third of a four-year degree and as such, unfortunately the University of Edinburgh expects me to actually learn something (contrary to the media’s view, students do work for their degrees). Furthermore, living in a foreign country is just as much about working out the banalities of daily life as it is discovering something new and amazing. Finally, doing amazing things takes a fair bit of energy. To have the time of your life, you sometimes need a good eight hours sleep behind you!
Maybe I’m old and cynical (one of my earliest memories is being described as the latter); I don’t want to inadvertently put anyone off anything. As this blog has detailed, some truly fantastic things will happen to you whilst you’re away. Unless you are some kind of hermit, you will make memories which will last a lifetime. I look forward to telling my grandchildren about clubbing in Germany (the edited version, without the tequila and Jaegermeister). I just think that those memories are more likely to be made if you don’t feel like you should be making them. I think it’s important to relax, the most amazing things to happen come by surprise and not through enforced memory-making. You will have everyone else’s expectations ringing in your ears, as well as your own, but ignore them and you’ll have a great year!