Starting in college is never easy, is it? You don’t know what to bring with you, how you’re going to pay for food or where the best place to go for a night out with your pals.
For me, starting off in Dublin City University as a naïve eighteen-year-old girl from the sleepy town of Monaghan, was a big adventure. It was my first time living away from home, I had to get used to not waking up in my own bed and I had to start from scratch with regards to making friends. Two years on, I was doing it all over again; except this time, I not only had to get used to a new college, a new home, and new friends; I also had to get used to a new country.
I’d been studying Media Studies and International Languages for two years in DCU – in my case, the language I chose to study was German. I’d been learning German for the last seven years and probably the only thing I’d learned at the time was this: Hallo!
When the opportunity came for me to study abroad, I was all up for it. Up until now, I had never been to Germany; it’s been my dream to travel around Europe since I was about sixteen. History was my favourite subject in secondary school, particularly World War II and the Holocaust; I’ve always longed to visit the sites of the concentration camps and memorial buildings.
Out of all of my friends in DCU, I was the only one who was studying just one language. Just like me, they had taken up the opportunity to study abroad. Two of my friends were also in Germany, albeit in different cities, six of them were all sunning themselves in Spain – and two of them had gone as far as Japan! I would never be able to study in a place like Japan – one day I will go on a holiday, but I would never be able to stay there for a year. My two friends were extremely brave, that is all I have to say!
I was accepted to the University of Trier. Up until that point, I had never even heard of Trier – the only German cities that I was familiar with were the obvious ones – Berlin, Hamburg and Koln. Still, when would I ever get another chance to study in a different place? No, I couldn’t think of another time either!
Admittedly, getting my Erasmus year underway, didn’t go smoothly. Everyone began heading off to their respective countries around the middle of September. And guess who ended up being the last one going? I hated logging onto Facebook and seeing all the pictures that were being posted of the different exotic places. You have no idea how many times I wished that I was there.
On 27th September, the time finally came for me to start my Erasmus year. I’m sure many people can relate to the trouble that I had packing my suitcase! It had to fit everything but at the same time, weigh less than 15 kilograms – crazy, isn’t it? But by some miracle, my case was accepted onto the plane and I was able to get through security.
One thing that I made sure to stock up on in the duty free was chocolate. I know what most of you are thinking – Germany is the country of chocolate, why on earth would you need to buy chocolate beforehand? But I’m one of those people who have complicated food issues – I’m allergic to eggs and nuts, so basically I have to check everything before I can eat. So I bought three big bars of chocolate in the duty free – I’ve got one left at the moment, so they’ve done me well so far!
Eventually, the time to take the first step into this new adventure! To be honest, I couldn’t really sit still on the plane – just the thought of finally going to Germany, was running through my mind, over and over. I was leaving home for a year, studying in a new college… and trying to get used to a new language being spoken! The first night, I stayed in a small hotel, as the university have strict rules about when you can collect your flat keys.
The next morning, I checked out and got a taxi to Kleeburger Weg, where I’d be staying for the next year. The janitor himself, was quite an intimidating figure, I have to say. He spoke completely in German which was a bit of a problem for me as a beginner but eventually I was given my flat key and shown where to go. So, grabbing my bag and lugging my suitcase, I made my way to the apartment building.The one thing that I didn’t anticipate would that my apartment would be on the very top floor! And I will tell you something – lugging a 15kg suitcase up eight flights of stairs is no picnic! By the time I finally got to the top, I thought my arms were going to fall off! But at last, I got everything up and I reached my apartment. Turning the key in the lock, I made my way inside.
Slowly, I looked around the flat. It wasn’t anything special; a bed in the corner, an empty bookcase, a table with two chairs, a small bathroom and a kitchen with a fridge, a tiny cooker, a sink and some cupboards. It was then that I closed the flat door, biting my lip. It was time to face the reality of what was happening. This was it. My year living in Germany had begun.