When I was a teenager, alumni from my school used to come to my classes to deliver guest lectures about their university and Erasmus experiences. I immediately knew I wanted to do the same thing, live an experience and study abroad.
I didn’t have a lot of information back then. The only things I heard were how great and life-changing Erasmus was for everyone.
The Erasmus programme is an EU funded exchange programme in which university students, both undergraduate and postgraduate, can study for a defined period of time in another university in Europe. For this to be possible, the home university and the receiving university must have some agreement for the student to get the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) they would normally get at home.
Even though I am originally Spanish and I am already studying abroad in Scotland, I knew I wanted to embark on another adventure. Maybe I was influenced by all these people who had talked wonders about the student exchange programmes, but I pretty much decided it during my first year of university. Not only did I want to practice another language, but I wanted to meet new people, new cultures and live different experiences.
So, I packed my suitcase and moved to Brussels in the first semester of my third year of Journalism.
I attended the Erasmushogeschool Brussel, a Flemish school in the centre of the capital. The programme there was fixed, the subjects being 30 ECTS, so I could not choose any modules. These ranged from theoretical subjects such as Cross Cultural Management and Current News, to practical ones in which I had to write many articles and do TV packages.
Despite the school being Flemish (Dutch-speaking), and the classes being taught in English, I had the opportunity to practice my French in the streets with people I’ve encountered while exploring Brussels.
Brussels being the capital of Europe is very well situated for travelling around the continent. I visited many other Belgian cities such as Gent, Antwerp and Bruges, but I also travelled abroad to Germany and Finland. The flights and buses were not expensive, so it was easier for me to move around and travel a bit to get to know the heart of Europe.
But despite travelling being a big part of the experience, Brussels is where I spent most of my time. I lived at the Van Orley International Student House, a big accommodation with 90 other international students. My housemates were from all over the world; Spaniards, Italians, Chinese, Egyptians all living in one place as a big family. The dinners, the gatherings, the parties and Sunday movies are all memories that will remain with me forever. That big family made my Erasmus experience unforgettable!
A bonus thing? The house is situated in the centre of the city, so it didn’t take long for me to go to the main landmarks: Mont des Arts, the Royal Palace and the Grand Place, some of the most beautiful places in the city if you ask me.
With all this in mind, the question then is: would I recommend it? Absolutely!
My Erasmus experience has taught me a lot. Not only did I learn new things during the classes, but I also acquired transferable skills like stress management and adaptation to new environments. I stepped out of my comfort zone and threw myself into an unknown environment, where I didn’t know anyone, and this made me a whole new person!
I also made so many new friends from all over the world which has made the experience unforgettable. I will treasure my Erasmus experience and the memories that I made forever!
Natalia Núñez Bolaño
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