So, 52% of UK voters have chosen to leave the EU, a decision which has far-reaching consequences in many areas of daily life. One thing that’s unclear is how university students who chose to study abroad in Europe for a year as part of their degree, under the ERASMUS scheme, will fare. Will they still have the chance to study abroad? If not, what are they really missing out on?
Doing an Erasmus year in the south of France played a huge part in developing my love for travel. The chance to live in another country, become friends with some of its people, listen to its music and soak up its culture was amazing to me at the age of 22. I still have many happy memories and a real fondness for Montpellier, the southern, student-friendly city where ‘le soleil ne se couche jamais’, as one of its old marketing slogans would have you believe. Montpellier is an arty, young, vibrant city, only a few miles from the Mediterranean and less than an hour’s drive to the spectacular limestone scenery of the Cevennes.
Although I’d been studying French from the age of 11, first at school, then college and finally university, it was only by living in the country, immersing myself in its TV shows, reading its magazines, listening to its music that I really could say I was fluent in French. Listening to lectures in French and having to make notes at the same time was a steep learning curve!
Living abroad also helped make me more independent and self-sufficient; arranging a phone line (no internet at home in those days!), opening a bank account, hiring a TV, signing up for classes and meeting up with some of the other UK students at the university. Looking for a flat meant going to a central ‘student support’ place, taking a list of apartments for rent and making a lot of phone calls, which was a little nerve-wracking. It was also how I learned that a lot of French apartments are rented completely empty. I was lucky to find an apartment in a former small hotel which had been converted into studios, but with no oven I had to learn lots of new dishes that could be made on a hob!
My studies also provided plenty of free time to visit other French cities like Toulouse and Marseille, but Montpellier quickly felt like home. The warm, balmy climate meant that for most of the year I could walk outside without a jacket, being almost certain it wouldn’t rain (or if it did it wouldn’t be for long). I used to love just people-watching on its medieval streets from a pavement café or taking a stroll up to the Promenade de Peyrou and looking out to the Cevennes in the distance or the aqueduct closer by. The year held many different experiences, from the time some French rugby supporters brought a live cockerel into the pub to dancing in a tiny medieval square, the music echoing off the walls at the Fete de la Musique, a national day that celebrates music in all its forms every 21st of June.
It’s still not clear if UK students will still have access to the Erasmus scheme, which provides a maintenance grant for living costs, once the UK eventually leaves the EU. But it would be a real shame if this and future generations of students didn’t have the same chances we did to study and live abroad.
Did you do an Erasmus year? Share your thoughts in the comments.
I’m linking this post up with the weekly travel blog hop, #wanderfulwednesday. Find the hosts at the sites below and join in every Wednesday at 8am GMT.
Marcella : www.whatawonderfulworld.co
Lauren : www.laurenonlocation.com
Van : www.snowintromso.com
Isabel : www.thesunnysideofthis.com