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Erasmus+: they went back to school abroad

Nina, Léo and Théo began their last year of study thousands of kilometers from home. In Madrid, Berlin or Brussels, the start of the school year had a different flavor. On the occasion of ErasmusDays, which takes place from October 14 to 16, they tell us how they lived their first days as international students.

They dreamed of it and they did it. Deprived of international mobility for a year due to the health crisis, Nina, Léo and Théo were all determined to go abroad for this start of the 2021 school year. Driven by a desire for adventure and above all a need for autonomy and ‘independence, they did not hesitate to go abroad for five or six months (and maybe more…).

For all three, it is also an important year, that of their graduation. Originally from Saint-Etienne (42), Nina, 20, between in the third year of nursing studies at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Léo, him, 21 years old, in the third year of international management license at the IAE Gustave Eiffel of the University of Paris-Est Créteil (94) will discover the SRH Hochschule school in Berlin. As for Theo, 22, in fifth year of civil and urban engineering at INSA Rennes (35), heading to the polytechnic school of Brussels. A few days after their return, the Student went to meet them.

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Settle into a whole new country

It was an intense first week which was reserved for the three students. After months of waiting, classes have indeed resumed. Installed for several weeks already in Madrid, Nina was particularly impatient. “I arrived at the end of August because my classes were to start on September 8. They were rejected, I realized that I was not enrolled in college… In short, I finally started on September 27!” says the student nurse. After a few days of pre-return, in Brussels, Théo also began to go around in circles slightly.

In Berlin, Léo, he arrived the day before for the next day with the surprise of start the year with a full week of integration. “All the students were together and we had sessions to explain how the university works, he explains. We also met between Erasmus students to ask more specific questions. It was also an opportunity to choose our courses for the semester. Here, we do not follow a particular course but subjects that interest us.”

This was also the case for Nina and Théo, with several specificities. In Spain, nursing studies last four years, so the student straddles the third and fourth year program. Théo, who is destined to become an engineer, has chosen a course oriented towards responsible and sustainable engineering, a theme that is particularly close to his heart. “I had courses in architecture, others dedicated to new materials, related to the modeling of the movement of water… I explore other areas“, believes the student, for the moment delighted with the choices he has made.

Leo also hopes to take advantage of his Erasmus to visit Berlin. // © Photos provided by the witness

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Find your bearings between new courses and new organization

The three students also discover a whole new learning environment. For Nina, it was not easy to adapt right away. “The first day didn’t go very well, I got lost in the school and I didn’t expect the teachers to talk so fast… The hardest thing is to follow“, she laments.

From Monday to Wednesday, four-hour lessons follow one another in “classes-amphis”. At the end of the week, there are more seminars in small groups… all in Spanish. “After my first day, I was depressed. I wondered how I was going to do it, she sums up. I called my parents, I talked to my friends about it and they reassured me a lot. Afterwards, it was better but I know that I have a lot of work.

For the moment, Nina translates all her lessons even if some are easier than others because they are more colorful or have already been studied in France. “I just hope it won’t be like this all year!” The student sees the difference with the French system: the courses are more detailed and for the moment, the practical work does not seem to be relevant.

For Théo, it was rather necessary to adapt to the new courses. “Sometimes I’m a little lost because it’s very theoretical and I have the impression that everyone understands.” With à la carte courses, Rennais is not always with the same students in class either. “I try to approach everyone because ‘we’re also starting to have group work to hand in, but it’s not easy, the students speak Flemish.”

For his part, Léo does not really feel out of place compared to what he knew at the IAE Gustave Eiffel. “A lot of my lessons were already in English, like here, but I also chose to do intensive German lessons to improve myself. The difference can also be seen in the distribution of courses : we choose six subjects, including two main ones, which we follow throughout the semester, the others are concentrated over a period. It allows you to have free time.”

Arriving a month before her return, Nina discovered Madrid's nightlife.
Arriving a month before her return, Nina discovered Madrid’s nightlife. // © Photos provided by the witness

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Discover the country

For the three students, the whole objective is also to be able to enjoy their expatriate life. “Germany is a country that has always attracted me and I thinkthere is nothing better than Erasmus to immerse yourself in a country, to be confronted with a new culture, a new language… I also preferred to take an apartment in the center of Berlin to be able to visit easily. The city is great!” assures Leo.

Théo also started to go sightseeing and meet other students. “Just go to Place du Luxembourg, there are always plenty of people for a drink!” Although she has a lot of work to do, Nina also hopes to enjoy Madrid. “It’s hard having to stay in your room to work when you’ve been out for a month, she laughs. But with my schedule, I see that I will have time for myself. In Spain, the weather is nice and it’s a good country to meet people from all over, that’s what I wanted!”

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