Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Erasmus in Innsbruck

Servus !

Can you imagine that? I am writing to you from Innsbruck! Taking part in an exchange program was a wish I cherished for so long, and now, I actually have! Many people really wondered why I had chosen Innsbruck since I hate skiing and hiking. That is often all people know about Tyrol, but now that I am here, I swear it is so much more! Anyway I chose Innsbruck because I wanted my Erasmus experience to be something special: I thought it would be so exciting to live four months in a country most people do not know a lot about, where the regional identity is so strong (say the dialect) and also where no one from the faculties of Namur had ever spent a semester. But really you can never picture how your Erasmus stay will be. I was only sure of a few things: I wanted to improve my German, I would try to overcome my terrible shyness and I did not want to live with Caroline or with any other Erasmus student (mostly for a reason of language; I would be there to speak German!).

Talking about housing, I have something to tell you about that one! Since I wanted to live with some Austrian students I started to go through all the websites reserved for private individuals. And how lucky was I?! After a week I found a student room in a flat I would share with three other students in the same street as my university department. That was in April or May. But two or three weeks before I left Belgium for Innsbruck the owner of the place wrote me an e-mail to say how sorry he was but that he had decided to keep the flat for his own and did not want tenants anymore. You cannot even imagine the level of stress when you read something like that so close to your departure. Nevertheless he promised me to find another accommodation for me and that if he had not found anything for me before I came to Innsbruck I could stay at his place. All is well that ends well he found a student room for me one week before my arrival. I thus have been staying at an Austrian pensioner's place not far from the town center; it is certainly not what you dream of when you imagine your Erasmus stay but the old lady is really nice and still active and the flat is charming.

As I said above, I really wanted to improve my German skills. So now, am I bilingual like I hoped? Nope. It takes so much more time to reach that stage. In four months, you mostly learn to dare! Before going to Innsbruck I never expected me to talk during two hours with a native speaker. Of course I made lots of mistakes and had difficulties to find my words but I dared to speak, and learning a language is all about practicing. It is only once you do not have French as a lifebuoy, that you realize you can actually kind of swim in this huge ocean that is German (even if sometimes it looks more like a freestyle dog swim). Really, the more you speak, the more you learn!

About learning, I would like to say a few words about the university now. The learning system is so different here: you really can choose whatever classes you want; you could study English and geography or German and biology for instance. That’s amazing how studying changes from one country to another. On the one hand, there are the minor differences like the length of a class (here it lasts 1h30) or the way they applause at the end of every lecture (they actually kind of knock on the tables); on the other hand, there is their particular conception of a seminar: it almost entirely consists in oral presentations given by students and a group discussion about the topic presented. Of course, I can only tell about the seminars as I did not take any ex cathedra classes. It was a little bit awkward at the beginning but at the end of the day, when you do not have piles of syllabus to study by heart, you are kind of relieved. It is more practical: you have to talk in front of the class, to write papers and to read a lot of books. By the way, I would like to mention here my course of Australian literature given by Mrs Marinell because this one was simply one of the most interesting I ever had.

And finally, let’s approach the topic of my life in Innsbruck (yes, here, I actually had a life apart from studying... just kidding!). The first thing I did here was to go sightseeing and believe me, there is a lot to visit here, like the city tower, the Court Church, the Hofgarten, the imperial palace, the golden roof or simply the old city which is particularly beautiful; I still would like to see the Swarowski Kristallwelten, the Ambras Castle and the Cathedral St. James. I also went to the Erasmus parties, events or trips (For instance I went to South Tyrol to try the Törggelen). Moreover I took part in English conversation tables which were really great! I met nice people from UK, America or from Innsbruck. We met every week to have a drink (or more) and have a good chat in English. By night, Innsbruck is not really a lively city except for the bars which turn into mini night clubs. I really enjoy my life in Innsbruck; I often tell myself that this city only lacks the team of Namur, the Belgian food and of course, the people I love.

To conclude, I can only advise you to take part in the famous Erasmus adventure. Don’t fool yourself, I did not say it was easy, particularly at the beginning when at times you feel so homesick, but you should definitely do it! You learn a lot about yourself, about a language and a culture (the everyday life side of it!) and you open your mind to the world (my perception of travelling really changed). You only live once, so give Erasmus a try, it is so worth it!

Miriam Beard said: "Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living. "

Elodie Valet

1 comment:

Phil said...


I can relate to your description of terrible shyness!

I also enjoyed reading about your travels in Germany. I lived there as a kid and still miss it sometimes after all these years.

I've been helped a lot with my shyness by the way, by Social Anxiety Anonymous support groups, they really helped me to overcome a lot of my shyness- http://www.healsocialanxiety.com