Why Erasmus is a year very well spent
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I studied in Dublin just shy of four months. In that time I made strong attachments to the people, culture and most of all, the city; an emotional attachment which surprisingly no one could have prepared me for and one which made the farewells difficult. Since its inception in 1987, the Erasmus+ plus programme has placed emphasis on students accessing both opportunity and learning in another European country. It works using three easy steps; gain a second family, gain new friends and become a local. My choice to study at University College Dublin was easy. Being a Scot means that some way down the line there is family heritage here, but also it helps to have a passion for Guinness, (aka "the black stuff"). On an unrelated note, I’m told that Guinness in fact makes your hair darker - a usefully useless tip. So, after making my choice and having signed all the necessary paperwork, I packed some belongings into a holdall and headed off for Ireland - easy. Well almost. See, the truth is, the Erasmus experience does not come easy at first. The few weeks prior to heading out to Dublin had been busy prioritising lists, flights, and accommodation so much so that nothing would prepare me for the "parent send-off" at the airport. From the car journey to departure gate there was a game of careful seating and glances rather than words; avoiding eye contact at all costs. Then came some hugs and goodbyes - tears, surprisingly, at one point too. Less than one hour into my semester abroad I sensed the year was going to be a learning curve. Then came the initial period of host-family introductions, locating UCD and general settling in. The city soon became a list of endless opportunities. Being a friendly city I found the streets bustling with tourists and students. According to the Irish Times, the Erasmus scheme brings 7,200 students to study or work in Ireland annually, contributing an extra 14 million Euros each year to the national economy. In an increasingly populist world, amidst deep economic uncertainties, surely students learning from and interacting with other cultures abroad is essential? I’d imagine these figures would be higher for the UK and I’d argue it’s a cherry in the cake to keep when negotiations begin to withdraw the UK from the European Union.
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