By Léa Saltet
Deciding to study abroad, one of the best choices I’ve made in my life to spend a whole academic year abroad is an opportunity that everybody should seize, and in this article, I’ll tell you my own experience which, I hope, will make you want to study in another country as well.
I am a French student from the University of Nantes, and I am currently studying at the University of Birmingham to finish my degree, thanks to the Erasmus programme. People choose to study abroad for many different reasons, mine were that I love the English language and I always knew that I wanted to study for a year in the UK, to discover the British culture and to improve my English skills.
At first, my decision was not clear-cut, because being a rather easily stressed person, studying abroad also meant living on my own (I was still living with my parents) and completely stepping out of my comfort zone. But I also deeply wanted to study in the United-Kingdom and I saw the Erasmus programme as an opportunity to challenge myself, and I don’t regret it at all.
Indeed, my experience abroad has strengthened me in terms of confidence and autonomy. I have discovered a whole new system of teaching, very different from what I’m used to but which I also prefer. I have found that in Birmingham and I think in the United-Kingdom in general, the students are freer to do their own research and the teachers are always here if help is needed. This new way of thinking has made me more mature and open-minded.
I’ve also had the opportunity to befriend many students, either from France, England, but also from all around the world, like Japan, Singapore or New Zealand. I think it is fantastic to be able to meet people that you probably wouldn’t have met on other occasions, and to learn about their culture and their own experience in Birmingham.
I’ve also had the chance to travel a bit, to Stratford-upon-Avon, Coventry, Manchester and Edinburgh. I have to say, I was not driven by wanderlust before I came here, but discovering new places and speaking with international or British students made me want to travel to many cities and countries.
Now, if you are thinking about studying abroad but you are still hesitating, here are pieces of advice which I hope will help you make a decision. The first one would be that it is perfectly normal to be scared, because living abroad is a very special year in someone’s life, but once you have overcome your fears, you’ll see that it is totally worth it. Being abroad has benefited me a lot, both in terms of improving skills and in terms of personal development.
The next piece of advice would be to always tell someone if you are facing difficulties, regarding your life at the university or if you are a bit homesick, which can happen. And if homesickness comes, feel free to talk to a close friend who is on a year abroad as well, because if you are both experiencing the same situation, it is more than probable that you will have the same feelings sometimes.
Last but not least, the last piece of advice I want to give you is to ENJOY, enjoy every part of your experience, the classes you are taking, the people you are meeting, the events you are attending, because one year can seem long, but it is in fact quite short so you should really make the best out of it.