Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Long live Nijmegen!

For me it all started in Ba 1. I recall the moment when I was waiting to take Mr Delabastita’s oral exam, when suddenly I saw a girl from Ba 3 who was saying how great her experience in Cork was, how different it was from what she had experienced before … Then I thought: I really want to go on Erasmus when I am in Ba 3! From that moment onwards, it seems everything happened very quickly. After I was told my destination would be Nijmegen, I filled in a lot of administrative papers, but then … I was there.

Nijmegen was not exactly the way I expected it would be. Actually, it was a way better than what I had expected. I thought my student room would be in a huge building with at least ten rooms on each side of mine, but actually I only had five flatmates, so we all knew each other and in a way, I can say we were like a small family. It is true that coming into contact with them was not always easy. During the first months of my stay, I was always the first one to start the conversation with my flatmates. Once I forgot to empty the kitchen’s dustbin, so when I woke up the next day, I realised my flatmates had put the dustbin in front of my door, which was a very nasty thing to do. As the days passed, however, I became good friends with my flatmates. We drank tea together, we watched movies together … I even went to parties with my some of them and began to know all about their life and love affairs, so today when I think about my flatmates, I just wish I was with them once again, because they were just great.

My experience with Dutch people also took place through the courses I followed at university. The “Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen” is quite amazing when you look at the size of it because it is twenty floors tall. What made it even more amazing was that all students who studied Dutch and English seemed to be totally bilingual. Apparently Dutch people watch a lot of movies and TV-programs in English, which may explain why their English is so good! The classes were quite interesting, I must say. I followed a course about Dutch and Flemish literature which I found particularly worth doing. Even though we had to read a lot of books, I am quite glad I followed this course because it allowed me to read books I had already heard of, but hadn’t got the opportunity to read them yet. And if I had to do my Erasmus all over again, I think I would take the same classes, you know, because they were very interesting.

Perhaps more importantly, I think my greatest memories of my stay in Nijmegen will all have to do with the Erasmus students I met there. Even though classes in Nijmegen did not take place before 1st September, my Erasmus officially began on 20th August, during the so-called “Orientation Week”. I think I can say these ten days I spent there were among the happiest moments of my life! Basically we were about 300 Erasmus people who were separated into smaller groups to do a lot of activities. We visited the city, but actually I think the city’s PUBS were what our mentors really wanted to show to us. We went to a lake where everybody could swim and sunbathe. We took part in sports activities for one whole day, which was very exhausting but also very funny. We visited Amsterdam. We spent one whole weekend together in the small village “Putten” where we played various games on the beach and where there were parties every day … On the last day we even danced in the University’s restaurant! Not surprisingly, I was pretty much exhausted on the day I had to go to classes, but it made it funnier and, exhausted or not, I was ready to enjoy my Erasmus at its full. And indeed, all throughout the semester I took part in many activities for Erasmus students. I went to all excursions organised for the Erasmus students: we saw Delft, Rotterdam, the Texel Islands, Maastricht, Aachen … There were also many “mentor dinners” whereby everybody had to cook a meal to share it later on with the other students from the mentor group. I became a fan of the Erasmus-Italian football team, and in case I got bored, I could go to many parties with my bicycle …

What can I say to the students who envisage to go on Erasmus? First, that you shouldn’t hesitate too much because it’s an experience you won’t get to make later on. Secondly, that once abroad you should try to make as many contacts as you can with the people you meet because, apart from helping you practise your language skills, simply the fact of realising many people do not have the same customs as yours means you will be more open to the world thanks to your Erasmus. Thirdly, that you should enjoy your stay as much as you can, because from my experience, spending six months abroad is really not a long time, and it would be a pity to think you have not enjoyed your stay enough after you are back to your own country. In other words, go for it, enjoy it, and good luck!

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