At the end of my first year studying literature at Portsmouth, I realised that, rather than continue with my regular studies, I needed to take advantage of a situation which would lead to culture, experience and growth.
The above explains very accurately how my Erasmus Study/Work placement year in Germany panned out.
In September 2018, I landed at Hamburg airport and boarded a bus to Kiel, a quaint and modest city in the north-east of Germany, a country I had been near-ignorant of in the past. Among the destinations on offer for Erasmus (including Luxembourg, Poland, and Belgium), Germany was not on the top of my list. In fact, I wanted to go to Spain to begin with. However, after some gentle encouragement, it transpired that you can indeed have a wealth of fun in a ‘less-conventionally-fun’ part of Europe.
I earned a scholarship for an intensive German language course which took place in September 2018. It was here that I met most of the friends who I became close to during the exchange. Being part of a multi-cultural group did me many favours in terms of my exposure to and understanding of Europe’s countries; from the passion and romance of Italy to the quiet corners of Moldova, every day was a journey of discovery, just by being around people of so many nationalities. From the deadpan remarks of my Dutch friend (“If you can kick it over a fence, it’s not a dog.”), to the deep insight provided by my Czech friend (“Czechoslovakia hasn’t existed for twenty-eight years; I wish people would stop calling it that.”) and the patient reminder from my Italian friend that “chicken doesn’t belong on a pizza and carbonara isn’t made with cream”, everything I was exposed to in Germany bettered my understanding of Europe and ignited a desire to keep learning about these fascinating cultures from which we are separated on our tiny island.
After the intensive language course, I began classes at the University of Kiel and had a great time getting to grips with a new subject. I was given the opportunity to do Law, instead of the literature I had been studying for two years in England. I learned a lot about German law, as well as international justice procedures and the kinds of crimes that are punished internationally. Thankfully, all my classes were in English because, although my German was good at this point, it wasn’t good enough to keep up with the pace of learning that was expected of me. Consequently, I reserved my German speaking for when I had visitors over from England that I wanted to impress.
When my study semester was over, I took up an internship working with a German bamboo bicycle company in their newly-founded UK Sales department. It was such a useful experience working in a German-speaking office because the regular staff meetings were conducted in German and I had the opportunity to listen to German conversation in real-time and pick up conversational skills. I also experienced working in a career path I hadn’t considered before and it was good to find out about something I might enjoy in the future. Erasmus is brilliant at evoking these realisations!
In all, moving to Kiel strongly realigned my sense of direction I’d begun to develop during my first two years in Portsmouth. It was an overwhelmingly positive experience to take up and it has made an extraordinary difference to my academic and intellectual, as well as worldly, consciousness. If I could, I’d pay to help every single Portsmouth student to take a year abroad. Luckily, however, there is no need: bursaries are available!