I want to use this post to talk about moving into my own little place on my Erasmus and how I felt at the end of the year when I moved back to Ireland.
In Universitat Trier, Erasmus students were given the option of single apartments or sharing with another person. At the time, I wasn’t sure about living with a complete stranger, so I opted to stay in a single apartment.
The apartment block I was staying in, Kleeburger Weg was just a five-minute walk from the university campus. That was handy! My apartment was on the very top floor, apartment number 425. Not very good when you’re carrying big suitcases at the start of the year.
On the first day, when I finally got all my possessions up the stairs, I opened the door to my home for the next year. I looked around. There was one large room, with a bed, a table, chair, and bookshelf. A tiny kitchen with a wardrobe in the corner and a little bathroom. That was my apartment.
I spent a moment looking around at all the bare walls, the empty bookshelf, and the sparse bed. Taking a deep breath, I began unpacking and decorating. I had brought two things that I thought would be important; blu-tack and a folder of pictures. There was a little bit of Anne Frank in me when I did that. When she arrived in her Secret Annexe in 1942, she had brought her collection of movie star portraits to decorate the walls of her room. I used my own pictures to decorate my walls.
I spent the majority of the day, tacking and sticking pictures onto each wall. Some of the walls had a certain theme; one wall was dedicated to Harry Potter, another had Yu-Gi-Oh pictures everywhere. I wanted to decorate the walls the way that I wanted to. It took a while for the decorating to be finished, but at last, I managed to get my last picture up on the wall.
The walls above my bed were different. On a shopping day, I found a collection of wall stickers in the shape of butterflies. The butterflies had a different design and came in pink, purple, blue and yellow. I thought they looked really lovely and I have always had a weakness for butterflies so I decided to use them for decorating my room.
The final wall was a masterful collage of favorite pictures. I think I spent the most of my time decorating this wall, picking out all sorts of different pictures and putting them in exactly the right place. There was no select theme or anything like that, it was just a selection of my favorite pictures.
At last, my apartment was fully furnished. Now, I had to deal with the silence.
The silence was eerie. It made me nervous. Despite the brightly decorated walls and all my possessions around me, I felt nervous. The longer I spent in the silence, the more I didn’t like it.
Every day I lived in that apartment in Trier, I did whatever I could to fill the silence. In the morning, when I got up to have a shower or make myself some breakfast, there was always a video playing on my laptop. That Christmas, Mum bought me a little portable radio. Sometimes on Sunday evenings, I’d sit at the windowsill with a book and I’d read with the radio playing in the background. There was some form of noise in my apartment every night until I had to switch it off to go to sleep.
As the Erasmus year moved forward and I made new friends, I found myself hating it whenever I had to return to my apartment. The reason for it was, because I was returning alone. If I had been in a shared apartment, I’d have at least have had somebody else there. I could have become friends with my housemate if I’d have one. But I thought I’d be happy in a single apartment. That was where I was mistaken.
Living in an apartment in Trier taught me a few things. It taught me how to be independent and how to look after myself. I had to do my own cooking and clean after myself everyday. I had to throw out my own rubbish and do my laundry every week. I had to buy my own food and make sure everything was ready for the next day. There was no parent to look after me. I went home to Ireland with the knowledge that I was more than capable of looking after myself.
But another thing I learned is that I wasn’t happy living on my own. I thought I was happy in my own company, but I was wrong. The loneliness and eerie silence that I felt, made me spend as much time as possible out and about or with something in the background to fill the quiet. I realised that I was much happier to share a living space rather than having it all to myself.
It’s reflected on my living arrangements nowadays. I have my own room, in a house in Dublin. I have again decorated it to my own liking, but now I share the house with four other people. They started off as complete strangers but now, I’m happy to say that we’ve become really good friends. The girls in the house, and I spend as much time as we can, going out and having fun.
Maybe if things had been different when I was on Erasmus, I could have made friends with a housemate. But sometimes, things happen for a reason. I think I needed to fully experience living on my own, to understand what it was like.
Because now I know that I never want to do it again!