ERASMUS = Party?

After almost two weeks, I feel it is high time to share my first impressions. Again and again I meant to jot down my thoughts – with titles for my posts like “Same but different”, “Vale”, “El agua tan rica”, “Not another carné/tarjeta por fa…” or “Metro for beginners” coming to my mind…The reason why these posts still don’t exist has an awful lot to do with the answer to the question above…

Before coming to Madrid, I heard many things about ERASMUS, but the two most common were:

  1. The exchange programme is a wonderful idea and an excellent opportunity for ambitious students to improve their language skills, learn about other cultures and to benefit from going to a University abroad where different courses are offered and the beloved subject can be seen from a different perspective…
  2. ERASMUS is an awesome idea and basically means party 24/7 with unlimited opportunities to get drunk, travel and meet lots of “friendly” people from all over the world…they say you have to have 30 ECTS each semester, but in reality the classes are easy (even if you don’t speak the language) and the professors help you pass…

So what is the truth? At the ERASMUS “Welcome Meeting” we were offered a lot of information on some cultural activities, travel possibilities and upcoming parties. Lots of parties. The Grand Finale being a 5-day trip to Ibiza…let’s just say I felt a little out of place and wondered if I’d been misinformed and actually studying during ERASMUS is a no-go…I bought the esn-student card and was close to resigning myself to a year of discos and lack of sleep…but then, talking with a few fellow ERASMUS students I found that they at least partly shared my feelings and so, going back to the question, according to my *cough* expert opinion after 2 weeks experience, the truth is: BOTH – yes AND no! Because whether ERASMUS = Party or not mostly depends on two things a) the student and b) the time table

Let us start with the student. If a student that is fond of going out at home goes abroad with ERASMUS, chances are high that student will make the most of the opportunities offered and just have a good time as much as studies allow it. If a student goes out once in a while at home…there are two possibilities – the jolly atmosphere might be contagious and cause the habit to increase, or not. I am sure there are also those that get caught in the flow and maybe only heard definition #2 and believe it is their duty to live up to all that they were told, regardless of their previous habits.

Then there is the time table to consider. Depending on what one studies, one has a few classes and lots of free time…or lots of classes and little free time. In my case, being so fortunate as to study biology and in need of certain credits for my home university, the latter is the case. I surprise myself by actually being at University a lot more than in Freiburg… It is as though something I have not been able to get into my head the last six semesters has finally sunk in: weekdays = study time = go to Uni and study! And no – spending time with friends, doing sports, baking a cake or cleaning your room is NOT as important as studying.

An ERASMUS student at the University train station on her way home after class – smiling as she ponders all the lovely things she was able to learn that day.

Here I spend my days on the University Campus – at least Monday to Thursday from 9 or 10am til 6:30pm and since it takes me about 50 minutes to reach class, one must leave the house accordingly. Fridays are sometimes free and other days there’s classes for 3 or 6 hours. Every week is a slightly different schedule for biology.

So for me, the answer is no – ERASMUS probably wont mean a year of partying. Of course I will go out with friends sometimes, on the weekends. We might go have a beer and some tapas…but I will also have a lot to do. The upside is – the campus is beautiful, has great sports facilities, my courses are mostly quite interesting, the students I’ve met are real nice and the professors too. The classes are so small compared to Freiburg (15-40 students) and its way more personal. We can ask questions in class when we don’t understand something or visit the profs in their office or even ask for a tutorial. I also have lots of long breaks – like a 2 hour break for lunch and siesta in the afternoon – so I really can’t complain and would not say I am afraid to miss out on anything . I just hope I manage to find time now and again, amidst all my studiousness, to write down at least some of the many things I’m experiencing, learning, discovering every day… =)

Feel free to comment, add ERASMUS myths/truths or other personal insights =)

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