My name is Laura Such and I am going to tell you about my Erasmus+ experience in Ireland. I study Audiovisual Communication, which in my host university NUI Galway is known as “Film Studies“. This is basically because it is focused on film and visual culture. I went there during the first semester of my fourth year.
I decided to embark on this experience without being 100% sure, to be honest. I was scared with the idea of being alone in another country, without knowing anyone nor speaking the language. I found all of these factors very intimidating. But I wanted to leave because I knew that I couldn’t reject having such an experience, I wouldn’t have this opportunity again: it was a personal challenge that I had to overcome. It’s normal if you feel a bit scared at first but you need to dismiss that idea. Believe me, you won’t regret it.
The academic program is less practical than here at CEU Valencia. Classes are small, with about twenty students, and the teachers are very friendly. If you go in your fourth year like me, you will surely be studying some of the things you have studied here in previous years but hey, you always learn new things.
There are not that many class hours per day, so students have plenty of free time to take part in the thousands of different activities offered by the University.
In the first days, the University organizes some Open Days to inform about the activities on offer: mainly sports and clubs. You can sign up for as many activities as you want. And all for free. There are more than 200 sports disciplines and about 500 societies, there is everything you could think of!
“If you have the opportunity to go on an Erasmus+, take it: you won’t regret it.”
I signed up for ten different sports activities, but I’m a bit lazy and I only went to two, archery and fencing. On the other hand, “societies” are clubs where you meet people with your same interests, for example, the Feminist Club, Italian, Spanish, Film, Photography… I signed up to more than twenty clubs, but I really went to very few… although they offer free food in all of them! I strongly recommend signing up for as many activities as possible because you can meet interesting people and learn a lot (did I mention the free food?). My favorite is the “Baking Society“: 100% recommended.
Every week there is a specific topic in the spotlight, for example: the week of mental health, STDs, study methods… They give talks and carry out activities related to the topic, so it is impossible to get bored, even if you try! There is always something to do, and, therefore, interesting people to know.
The University has a very impressive campus, with all the facilities you could ask for: gym, libraries, a swimming pool, a pub, more than five coffee shops (I did not have time to know them all), a theater on campus… I used to go on weekend breaks to different parts of Ireland and I saw beautiful sites: The Aran Islands, the Cliffs of Moher, Kylemore Abbey, Barna Woods and Salthill. Ireland in general is a beautiful country. No matter where you go, there is always a beautiful spot to enjoy.
“Time just flies by and, when you least expect it, you are heading back home!”
I should not say this, but the most important thing is not what they will teach you in college: it is what you learn for yourself, your day to day, your independence… In my case, it was the first time that I lived alone, away from home. And it has been in a different country, so I have learned a lot!
I learned, for example, to control my nerves – which usually take control of me many times. Also, trying to be more outgoing as I am a very shy person. I could see that everyone was as scared as me and that nobody is unfriendly or intolerant. I also learned to cook, which I appreciate very much. I also improved my English a lot and I have become aware of this as time goes by.
So my general opinion about my Erasmus+ experience is very good, better than I had expected. I was afraid, of course, but then it happens, you have to take a bet and in this case you win more than you could ever imagine. You grow as a person, you have fun, you learn… why should anyone reject this opportunity? If you have it, take it and do not let it go by, you will not regret it.
Top tips for an unforgettable Erasmus+ experience
If I have managed to convince you, I hope that you find these seven tips and / or recommendations useful!
Tip 1: A positive attitude goes a long way
Go with a positive mentality, do not let fear take over you and think that it will be a very good experience for you. And even though you can get scared at times, humans are designed to adapt to different situations, and I assure you that you will find your place in no time.
Tip 2: Take advantage of every single opportunity
The University offers many things, and it is a great advantage for students. Without a doubt you will find something you have always wanted to try, or something you have not done yet. Well, this is your chance to change that!
Tip 3: Be tolerant
You will meet people very different from you, with a different mindset and culture. You must learn to accept their points of view, because you will also expect them to accept yours.
Tip 4: Travel as much as you can
Try visiting different places! Ireland is a very beautiful country, take a bus and do not miss the opportunity to get to know this island a little better.
Tip 5: Find an apartment as soon as possible
Do not leave accommodation for the last moment. Galway is a student city and it is difficult to find a good place to live in.
Tip 6: Do not stay indoors
Take part in as many activities as you can: it’s what helped me the most to meet people and fit in. The first days everyone seems as lost as you, so try to sign up to everything the University offers. Also, don’t be afraid of starting a conversation: if you do not get along with that person there are thousands of other students to start chatting with.
And the final tip: JUST HAVE A BALL!
Time just flies by and, when you least expect it, you are packing your things and heading back home. So here’s my advice: squeeze every minute and make the most of your Erasmus+ experience!