All things must come to an end, but that doesn’t mean you have to be happy about it. For various reasons my Parisian adventures came to a somewhat abrupt end last Thursday and while I’m glad to be home, I’m having one hell of an Erasmus hangover. With Italy and Spain going head-to-head on my TV (really it’s just a warm-up for their games against Ireland) it seems like an appropriate time to try and summarize and put some sort of a conclusion on the past five months.
For the first 3 to 4 weeks it wasn’t easy, in fact there were several times during the first month I was ready to leave; it was freezing cold, I didn’t know anyone and I couldn’t understand a thing. I thought I was never going to get used to my new life in Paris, but after about three weeks strange things started to happen, the mumbling of the people on the metro started to turn into a recognizable language and the strangers I was living with became familiar faces and I began to settle into and enjoy my Erasmus experience.
Although it would have made my life a lot easier to do a Erasmus in a English speaking country/university, I’m really glad I decided to go to France. Prior to Erasmus I had studied French for almost 10 years but was still struggled to string a coherent sentence together. Even though I’m still far from fluent my French is a lot better than when I left and for the first time I have the confidence to try to speak in French to actual French people.
Despite being full of Parisians and tourists, Paris is a truly beautiful city. Even if I had have stayed there for a year, I doubt I would have seen it all. The only thing I struggled with was the metro. Coming from a tiny city where everything in the centre is within walking distance, it was exhausting having to spend 30 minutes trapped underground in order to get anywhere. I got used to the metro but I never really came to like it and I don’t know how I would cope living in a city where I had to take the metro multiple times a day.
Before I left I asked everyone to write down what Erasmus was to them and one thought kept coming up over and over again, Erasmus is about the people. Ultimately when I look back on this experience it is the people I will remember the most. I lived with people from 15 plus different countries most of whom were insane in the best possible way. I learned which stereotypes are bullshit (Not all Germans like meat) and which are kind of true (Italians do like talking) but most importantly I learned the things we all have in common (No matter the nationality, you will no see a student awake before 10am on a Saturday; If there is a large group to assemble, you will not be leaving on time). Even when the disorganization of the student residence got frustrating, the people I was living with almost made me glad I was staying there. I chose to end my Erasmus with a sushi dinner because I could not think of anything that sums up Erasmus more than eating in a Japanese restaurant in France while people the people around me are talking in 10 different languages all at the same time.
On a personal level Erasmus has given me the courage to live in a country and a culture that is not my own. Due the current state of the Irish economy it is very likely that I will end up living overseas, even for a while, once I finish university next year. I now have the confidence that I can go anywhere in the world and embrace a new culture while imparting some of my own. No amount of classroom learning could ever have thought me that and it is one of the reasons I think Erasmus should be mandatory for everyone.
So that’s it. I can’t believe it’s over, I miss it so much and after the grand boulevards of Paris, O’Connell and Grafton streets are never going to be the same. Luckily I only have three weeks until my next holiday, a return trip to France this time with la famille. Mon Dieu.