It sounded like a great idea at the time. A year-long holiday? Living alone, buying cups and cute little plates and shit from Ikea? Studying abroad for a year is more like bye, I'm never coming home! But it's only after you sign away your soul that you realise there's a lot more to Erasmus than pissing time away on a beach and drinking your liver to death. Oh, how naive and foolish we were...
How many forms, did you say?
Literally what even. Something you will be woefully unprepared for when you're studying abroad is the sheer amount of forms that you'll need to both fill out, sign and actually think about. This will wear out your trusty black biro that, deep down, you secretly consider to be lucky. Tick your life away HERE please.
The whole language barrier thing...
Oh, who are we to have chosen to study in a non-English speaking country. Gesturing wildly and acting out things like "toothbrush" and "where is the bathroom" will soon become the norm, and then there are the competence tests, lectures in rapid gibberish and exams in parseltongue... why aren't we just all multilingual? Seriously, WHY?
You can France if you wanna, you can leave your friends behind.
The sad truth about studying abroad is that in the majority of cases, you leave behind your old friends, whether it's because of your course buddies moving on without you, or the simple fact that you've fucked off abroad and the only way they can contact you is through Skype. If you're lucky enough to be going with a friend, you also know deep down that if you want to learn the language and generally survive, you'll have to semi-ditch them to hang out with the locals. Studying abroad brings out the cold-hearted-bastardness in us all eventually...
Wait... I have to study something this year?
Not only do you have to study something, you have to make up enough credits by the end of the year to pass. It varies from Uni to Uni, but traditionally you need 60 ECTS, 30 each semester. A big shout out to those wonderful Universities that seem to only offer courses for 2 ECTS and 3 ECTS each. Another 'fuck you' to those among us who have signed up for the elite "Beginners English" course - we're proud of you. And just a tiny bit worried too...
Those dolla dolla bills, yo.
No longer are you dependent on your parents for food - hell, no longer are you dependent on them for anything (apart from emergency cash injections, of course.) What a terrifying realisation! Living away from home in another country is a completely different prospect, and money is so much harder to come by. Chances are, you have some kind of savings or scholarship or something, but that well can run dry pretty quickly my friend, and the old noodles-and-beans diet will soon commence. FUN.
Welcome To My Crib....
Student accommodation is, at the very least, extremely basic for those of us studying abroad. The list of things they don't provide for you seems to be almost twice as long as the list of things you can squeeze into your suitcase (no cutlery?! really?!), and the fact that you and potentially ten other people in your apartment will somehow have to pitch in and buy pots and pans is slightly nightmarish, not to mention the fact that you'll probably come across one stubborn (read: stingy) roomie. Boundaries will be broken, and there will be that one weird roommate, it's just a fact of life.
If you're lucky enough have stumbled across off-campus accommodation and are currently congratulating yourself, then calm down and listen up. Your "luck" is essentially extra charges like wi-fi and heating and probably includes negotiating with someone who can't speak English. But no rules, yaaay!
Studying abroad is a terrifying prospect, with (so many) obstacles and strange experiences. That said, it's also an amazing opportunity for travel, independence and making loads of international friends - as daunting as all of this is, the good outweighs the bad infinitely. Have fun friends!