Things I have learned from my Erasmus semester in Norway
Do you consider to spend a semester abroad during your studies? Don’t hesitate to do so. In 2015, I spent five months in Norway as part of my studies and I can only recommend it. It was different from what I had expected but nonetheless a great experience. Here, I will share four things I learned.
1. There will be times when you want to quit
Maybe this isn’t true for everyone, but it was for me and a couple of other students I met. For me, it was in the beginning because I had bedbugs which gave me some sleepless nights. I was the only one on my floor who had troubles with bedbugs and I thought it was kind of unfair (even though it is a stupid thing to think). Additionally, it all happened during the first couple of days in Norway, so I didn’t have any friends yet. Sometimes, I thought the easiest way would be to just book a ticket home and leave everything behind. But I am so glad I didn’t. I would have missed so many great experiences. If you ever consider quitting, then don’t do it or at least think it through very well. They say “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” for a reason.
2. The fear of missing out will be omnipresent
A semester abroad is usually limited to a certain amount of time. For me, it were five months in Norway. Beforehand, I did a bit of research of what I wanted to do. The list was long. So, we travelled and hiked a lot. If the sun was shining, we were out there hiking one of the seven summits, taking a bath in the fjords or exploring the hanseatic wharf Bryggen. On top of that came social events: pancake breakfast, 3 hours of playing Risk, going here, going there, going out. Sometimes I felt exhausted and instead of joining, I would have preferred to stay in my room watching Netflix. But most of the time I didn’t because of the fear of missing out. The fear of missing something unique, the fear of not keeping pace with the other students, the fear of not making those incredible memories. Most of the time it was great, but sometimes it was just a lot. But being on a semester abroad is a unique experience and you should make the most of it and get out of your comfort zone.
3. You will spend a lot of time with other exchange students
There were many exchange students in Bergen and most of them lived in the same dormitory called Fantoft. Before I went abroad, I didn’t want to live in that house, because in my semester abroad I wanted to learn Norwegian and only hang out with locals. Well, it didn’t work out as I had planned. I got a room in Fantoft on the 17th floor with seven other students from France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Turkey and actually one student from Norway! In the end, I spent most of my time with exchange students from all over the world. At first, I wasn’t really pleased about that but I soon realised that it is actually good to be around so many exchange students. It’s an intercultural experience and otherwise I probably wouldn’t have gotten in touch with students from Japan, Australia or Italy, even though it is so close to Germany. But the best thing about hanging out with other exchange students is that you’re all in the same boat. You have all just arrived in a foreign country, you don’t know anyone and you want to see as much as possible of this new country. That’s why it’s so easy to make friends and that’s why it’s so easy to find travel buddies. In hindsight, I am actually very glad that I met so many exchange students. One of them became one of my best friends. And after all, I was also an exchange student.
4. Do not underestimate the post-Erasmus-depression
Studying abroad was nothing like studying in Germany. A typical exchange student has only a few courses and a lot of free time. You meet a lot of new people and get many more unforgettable impressions in a short period of time. It’s a great experience but also a lot to take in. All the worse it is to get back into your daily routine back home. Don’t get me wrong, of course I was happy to be around my family and friends again. It was just so different. I returned home during the semester break of my university in Mannheim, so I stayed with my parents for a while. My parents live in the countryside, so there is not much to do there. Thus, I had a lot of time to do nothing. Mainly, I was just bored and reminiscing about all the exciting things I did in Norway, while no one at home really understood my feelings. Looking back now, I don’t even understand anymore why I was so fed up with everything. Unfortunately, I cannot change what happened in the past. I can only give advice on how to overcome the post-erasmus-depression. It’s easy: just do something! Get a new hobby, read, do sports and get excited about something. For example, I took a short trip to Budapest with my friend from Norway, which was a great way out of the rut. I had something to plan and look forward to and something I was excited about.
What’ the conclusion of all this?
I would recommend a semester abroad to everyone who has the chance to do so. Of course, it wasn’t all perfect and although, there were highs and lows it was a great experience and I can hardly remember those lows.