Life After Erasmus #01: Coming Home

Welcome to Robin Graham, our newest regular blogger. Robin studies at Glasgow Caledonian University and has recently returned from a one-year Erasmus exchange in Rouen, France. He's going to be blogging about the weird and wonderful life after returning home. It's a kind of reverse culture shock in many ways. In his own words, here is Robin telling us what the return was like for him.

"A question that has been posed a thousand times to me since I have returned home from exchange in Rouen, France: how was it? I am still looking for the appropriate words, which might shed light on the life-changing experience. Maybe writing things down will help.

So why did I choose to go on exchange? I decided to leave home at the tender age of 19, having had a girlfriend for 3 years, something that isn’t very common! I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn another language and maybe gain some kind of advantage in the job market. I had dreamt of studying abroad since I started high school and I would not let anything take that away from me.

What I didn’t anticipate is that the Erasmus experience would change me forever.

After travelling through the continent, to 10 different countries in as many months, seeing some of the most beautiful paintings, sculptures, buildings, people and landscapes in the world. I can safely say it was the most enriching thing I could ever have done. And, I made so many friends whom I will keep forever!!

I did learn the language and even another one, since some of my best friends are Spanish, Mexican and Argentinean. It has made me want to travel the world, experience as many cultures as I can, and learn more languages than I thought were possible. However, there is one thing I cannot do. Sum up the life that I lived for 10 months in any way that makes sense or even in a succinct enough way that would interest people.

Would I suggest it to anyone else? Of course, and I would suggest they switch places with me so I can experience it again!

Waking up in a foreign country, in a place so magical, surrounded by friends whom after only a short time become absolutely everything to you is the best feeling I have ever felt, certainly. Studying with people from all walks of life, from every continent in the world really allows you to absorb their cultures and improve the way you live in as many ways as possible.

I went to Cologne for carnival and saw some of the happiest people on the planet whilst dressed as the most ridiculous things! I shared hostels and tiny single beds with people. I ate typical German food and slept for 5 hours a night. It was amazing.

Around 40 people from my Erasmus program in Rouen travelled together to Budapest, Hungary just because we found flights for €15. We rented a whole apartment block and had Palenka shots until we couldn’t stand any more. The sun shone like it never does in Glasgow and we spent 8 hours soaking in the traditional Hungarian bath houses with the locals.

I have seen more places and people than most people my age and I am so grateful that I am lucky enough to have experienced it. I have friends from the 4 corners of the globe whom I have visited or will visit soon, allowing me to see even more!

Some people find it difficult to be away from home, they get homesick; they miss their families and other halves. Relationships do take some strain, understandably. However the ones that matter flourish. Living away from home has made me appreciate how lucky I am to have some of the people around me, like my parents. Moving away also let me move on from some people I was stuck around in Glasgow, it allowed me to fall in love, with someone I never knew existed 2 weeks before.

Living on exchange is a dream, the most colourful, enriching and lucid dream you can ever have. And you never want it to finish.

However, you have to wake up at some point. For me, I woke up on a Sunday morning at home, having to say goodbye to my (newish) girlfriend at Glasgow International Airport who was flying back to Argentina after travelling here to visit me. I drove her to the airport and spent 2 hours just sitting in an embrace, which would be stepping on a plane shortly afterwards. Tears were hard to control and for me, they still are.

For me, the only negative aspect of life on exchange was coming home. Saying goodbye forever to some of the most amazing people you will ever meet. Saying goodbye to girlfriends/boyfriends who chances are you will never see again. Saying goodbye to a city that has widened your horizon. Saying goodbye to a life of which you had dreamt of for years and will only be allowed to dream of again.

I hope this short story of my exchange finally answers those people who ask, how was it? I don’t think I’ll ever be able to answer it completely. It is something that has to be lived in order to understand just how incredible it is. I think I have run out of the appropriate adjectives when speaking to friends or family, but I think they can understand. Just as I hope you can understand. Erasmus was magical."