Eramus - who is? what is this word ? why do we hear it so much at university? Well there's a top bloke from the Netherlands by the name of Desiderius Erasmus. Ok, I know your thinking, what does this have to do with studying abroad or university life? Well.....thanks to this guy and the European union I am currently being paid to study in Budapest, Hungary sat in my city center apartment waiting to visit some ruin pubs.
Desiderius, although he may sound like a bedroom deep house DJ, is actually the namesake of the Erasmus programme, inspired by his voyages and mind opening travels throughout Europe. I remember having the Erasmus talk at the start of second year feeling kind of lost to the idea but also excited by it, live in another country, studying, meet international friends what's the catch? Someone in the meeting also felt this way and was literally flabberghasted when he realized there was no fee involved on either side for the tuition fees and although this has changed now it still represents value for money when you look at the actual cost of Education at your host university or your own.
First year of university is the best way I can compare the experience - you arrive open eyed, and fresh from a completely different educational experience looking for people to meet and to settle in. Similarly to first year, your focus is more on socially immersing yourself than educationally - the difference being that you're in a city usually better and brighter as well as being surrounded by people from every country you can think of and cannot. I went for dinner a few days ago and felt like I was in a poor mans version of the European Parliament ;we sat there, eight of us, with the same number of nationalities (English, French, Dutch, German, Italian, Swiss, Belgium, Portuguese). This overwhelming interaction facing such a cultural overload is a lot to take in at first but you very quickly embrace it. You not only find yourself discussing the benefits of marmite over Dutch peanut butter but you connect with your national identity on a completely new level. When I first arrived similarly to my friends who have visited I was asked by my European peers my view of England. 'How is it?' 'does it always rain' were common questions which I would usually answer with yes its pretty grim and there's nothing there worth shouting about. Over the course of time you start to suddenly become far more patriotic than you think you ever could be; you argue over much more than whose football team is better although it is always foolish to say one culture/country is better than any other.This just provokes ignorance but still it generates inner thought on your country and makes you reconsider your view.
To perfectly demonstrate this new found pride with England I will always remember a late night alcohol based conversation between my Scouse friend and my Serbian friend as they conversed back and forth ; my friend laid into Britain like a fat boy to cake whilst my Serbian friend defended Britain like a true Knight of the round table which all culminated with the sentence 'you cannot appreciate the freedoms you have as you have never been without them'. This impacted greatly on my friend and he completely changed his views like some kind of national hate bubble burst. Like most of us I take our freedoms we have completely for granted and continually look to find cracks in our country due to my disenchantment with politics, multinationals and judicial error and oh boy do we have enough evidence of those things. However its important to look beyond these to the bigger picture; in essence we are a country of great resilience, wonderful multiculturalism and although we may have our faults we need to use these freedoms, we forget so much about, to create the country we want to live in.
In conclusion Erasmus offers more than cheap booze, free EU money and a first year like experience. It also gives you an insight into yourself as you're taken out of your social sphere and placed in a completely foreign one not only surrounded by a new culture but more importantly a new perspective on your national identity.