STUDIUM & FREIZEIT
By guest author Katja Winden
During my bachelor studies at Heinrich-Heine-Universität in Düsseldorf, I decided to go abroad for one semester. I studied French and decided it would be a perfect way to improve my language skills and experience life in a different country. Little did I know that I would find a new home and a family far away from Düsseldorf.
Of course it took quite some time to prepare everything. First, you need to apply at your own university by writing a personal statement, adding your CV and a letter of recommendation by one of your professors. When I got accepted for an Erasmus scholarship at the University of Nantes in France, the same procedure started all over again, as I had to hand in an official application at the university in Nantes, too.
Studying in France is so different from everything I was used to in Germany. The whole system is closer to the German school system. You have each and every class together with everyone else studying the same subject as you do. There are barely any possibilities to choose from a bigger pool of classes. For me as an Erasmus student, things were quite easy at the university.
I didn’t have to take exams in every class, as I only needed to prove that I attended the class regularly. Unfortunately, my coordinator in Nantes wasn’t very helpful. He couldn’t tell me to find out, how things work and where I needed to apply for the different classes. But in the end I found out by myself how things worked, talked to the professors (most of them were very nice and happy that an Erasmus student attended their class) and got in quite a good flow with all my different classes.
A New Family in France
I decided to stay in a student dorm for the semester. It was the easiest way to find accommodation as I couldn’t just go to Nantes (which is about 1000 kilometres away from home) to look at different apartments. Although I didn’t get a chance to pick my student dorm, I was really lucky. The place where I stayed was right in the city centre. I could easily walk home at night, so I didn’t need to take the last tram or a taxi to get back home. I bought a cheap bike and it enabled me to get everywhere in and around the city without big effort.
The dorm was a perfect place to meet new people. We shared one kitchen with the whole floor, but it worked out just fine. I met countless other Erasmus students as well as French students who lived there. We became friends, cooked dinner together, and it kind of felt like a little family far away from home, when my real family couldn’t be there for me. We shared so many unforgettable moments and became close friends in a really short period of time. Even though it seems weird, I feel a strong bond with those people as I share some of my most precious memories with them.
Even though I was a little scared, that I wouldn’t make any friends in a new city all alone, I noticed right away, that my concerns weren’t necessary. A huge part of the students I met during the first week in Nantes became really close friends of mine. Some of them still are, even though we live hundreds of kilometers apart and only see each other about once a year. Nantes definitely is a city with many students. You can experience it anywhere. There are many bars, which are always filled with young people, you don’t pay much money for a good glass of wine.
My Favourite Spots
Nantes is located in the western part of France, only about an hour away from the Atlantic Ocean. As it was still very warm and sunny until the middle of November, we often took the bus to the coast on the weekend to go to Pornic, a small town by the sea. When we arrived there for the first time, it felt like being on vacation right away. The town offers some shops, restaurants and cafes. You can relax on empty beaches or take a walk along the rocky coastline of the Atlantic Ocean.
Also, there are quite a lot of clubs in the city, if you want to party on the weekend. Plus, there is a lot to see and interesting sites to visit in Nantes, for example a huge castle which used to be the home to the Breton Duke. Two rivers, Loire and Erdre, cross the city and it’s so relaxing to take a walk along the river or just sit by the water. A little island – l`île de Nantes – which is separated from the rest of the city by the Loire, offers an extremely interesting museum with machines that look like huge animals which can actually walk or fly. It’s an amazing show. There are also some neat little cafes in which you can enjoy a look over the water and the city while drinking your coffee.
Embracing New Paths
Even though Nantes wasn’t my first choice for my time abroad, I had an amazing time in this city that I will never forget. It will always have a place in my heart, as I learned so much about myself and life in general during these months. It didn’t only help me further refining my language skills, but it was also important for my personal development. I found out how to make the best out of situations that seemed to be hopelessly messed up. I had to get along in a foreign country, solve problems alone and I kind of matured – even though I only stayed for one semester.
The most important lesson I have learned is probably that some things happen for a reason. When things don’t turn out the way you planned it, don’t be unhappy and don’t question it too much. The new path you have to take instead might be even better for you and offer some unexpected joy and enrichment for life. I would always recommend to anyone to go abroad as a student. Erasmus offers a great chance to cross your own boundaries and get to know other sides of yourself.