‘’What is the one thing you learned during your Erasmus that you are most grateful for?’’. Mag, one of my closest friends I met in Nottingham, looked at me expectantly. We were standing in Broadmarsh Station, surrounded by her luggage, and waiting for the coach taking her to London. There are so many things I’ve learned, and choosing something I’m most grateful for seemed impossible. In Nottingham, I learned what it’s like to live on my own for the first time. I learned that sangria is not (I repeat: not!) the same as lemonade – even though its taste tricked me into thinking that every single time… I learned to appreciate the Midlands accent. I learned that going to Primark ‘to just have a quick look’ is never going to happen. Besides learning how to do my own laundry and how to resist Primark, I also learned to value unexpectedness. I was always ‘’The Planner’’. Every group of friends has one: the person who always knows which bus to take to arrive at the party on time and whose bag is always filled with ‘just in case’’ stuff . During my Erasmus, I learned that unexpectedness is what makes life worthwhile. Some things should not be planned. When I went out with the intention of having just one drink, I was often persuaded to ‘’stay just a little longer’’ – I often went home by the time the lights went on again. In Nottingham I learned to be more relaxed, because having a plan for every single moment means there’s no room for spontaneity. A term passes by before you know it, and being open to experiencing new things with new friends leads to memories that will last forever. No story worth telling ever started with the words ‘’everything went as I had planned’’, right?
Other lessons included being more independent, valuing the beauty of travelling even more and appreciating what I already have. Learning how to be independent sounds like the most cheesy thing ever, but it really is true. Moving to a new city where you don’t know anyone will feel like a new beginning, which makes it both exciting and scary. But once you’ve met some people and have become a bit more confident at navigating your new city’s streets, you’ll feel at home. At the same time, I learned to appreciate travelling even more than I already did. When you are abroad, you start to start to pay attention to seemingly ordinary things that you have started to take for granted back home: the charm of old houses, a walk in the park in the early morning, drinking a really good cup of coffee… And often, these small details can really make your day. While I was away from home, I fell in love with the British (student) life and all the ‘typical’ British things we did. Meeting for a cider at Wetherspoon’s, enjoying a cup of tea with something sweet in the afternoon or going to karaoke. At the same time, however, being away made me realise that I have so much to be thankful for already. My family and friends were really supportive and always curious to hear my stories, and it made me see how happy I am to have them in my life. It is easy to take the people in your life for granted when you get to see them every day, but being away from them makes you feel all the more grateful for having them.
Now that I have been back in the Netherlands for a week, my time in Nottingham feels like a short holiday. I really missed my friends and the city the first days, but coming home is one of the best feelings in the world. Going on Erasmus was definitely one of the best decisions I have made in my life; it exceeded all expectations I had of studying abroad. I’m really thankful for all the friends I made in Nottingham, because the memories I made with them are ones that I will never forget. The city stole my heart, and the experience of living abroad is one I want to repeat in the future.
When it comes to Mag’s question about what I learned during my Erasmus: I still cannot really give a good answer to that. I simply would not know what, of all these things I learned, was the most valuable to me. I still have some time to come up with a good answer, because – if everything goes according to plan – we will see each other this summer in Lisbon! Erasmus is not something that lasts for just one term, because if you are as lucky as I was, you will meet friends with whom you’ll stay in touch with long after going home.
If you don’t buy all the cliché stuff about ‘’getting to know yourself’’ and ‘’learning to be independent’’ that people tell you about Erasmus, take it from me that there is one cliché that is true: the friendships you build are always unforgettable.
NB from the Lifestyle Editor: I want to say a big thank you to May-Anne for sharing her experience with Platform magazine, we’ve all loved reading your posts, and we wish you all the best for the future!