Today, Justine is writing to tell you about her one year stay in Canterbury, England last year. Indeed, I applied to the Erasmus+ programme to finish perfectly my foreign language degree… And it was the case ! Along this article, I hope to give you the will to go for this exceptional adventure too !
Here, I’m only focusing on my personal experience itself. To properly get ready for the departure, take a look at this article if you want to know more about the administrative procedures in France and there (apply to the Erasmus+ programme, learning agreement, find an accommodation…), what to pack…
For years, I’ve been passionate about the English language and English-speaking countries, in particular the United Kingdom, and thus England ; the proximity with France, the nice accent and the general mindset, are the reasons why. I’ve been dreaming to go there for about ten years. I’ve stayed there a few times on holidays with my family, which comforted my love for this country. I was convinced that one day, I would stay there for a longer period of time.
A few years later, here I am at the beginning for my second year of uni. The opportunity to go study abroad thanks to the exchange programmes presented itself. After some information meetings and gathering with the persons in charge of this project, I entered the preparation period : build the file, papers to give, procedures to go through… I’m not going to lie to you, it requires time and determination. A lot of candidates give up, discouraged by the amount of information to remember, to acquire and give.
I’m saying « candidates » because yes, the number of candidates is superior to the one who will be accepted : in other words, not everyone will be chosen to go... Which clearly, puts pressure on you ! Indeed, in my home uni, a first selection is done on academic records, and then it’s a random draw. It therefore requires rigour in your work, but there is also a part of luck… Fair, but not so fair !
As you would’ve understood, I thus have been selected, for my greatest happiness. I asked to go to the United Kingdom, preferably England. I was assigned to The University of Kent, in Canterbury, England, for two terms ; as you can imagine, I was so happy ! Besides, Emmie, a school acquaintance, which will become a really good friend of mine very quickly, also got assigned to this same university : I will therefore not be there on my own, which will be reassuring for both of us.
I passed my second year, I was thus certain to study in Canterbury next September. Summer goes by and I’m more and more impatient to leave… And at the same time quite worried : I am about to leave for the first time every my family, my friends (and French food!) pour a long period of time… As we’ll talk about it later, I was equally, perhaps even more sad when the experience came to an end and I had to leave England… Anyway, let’s start by the beginning !
Arriving on campus:
2-3 suitcases later, here I am on the pane. My sister is coming with me to help me settle in Canterbury : again, comforting ! I got a room on the uni campus, in which I could only enter the day after our arrival. We’re therefore spending the first night in an Airbnb in town. The next morning, 10am, we’re at the reception of my building : Darwin College. I got given the keys and taken to my bedroom. Okay, it’s small, but I expected it. It’s a small 8m2 room, and I also have a sink and a mirror, handy ! Over time, it’ll become my home sweet home.
On my floor, there are 4 other students (boys and girls, can be from all over the world), and who I share the toilets and the shower with. We’re sharing the kitchen with the downstair floor ; we’re thus 10 people sharing a same kitchen… You must be thinking that we were all on top of each other when it was time to make food ? Not really ! It’s quite big, and there are enough cupboards for everyone, 2 sinks, 2 fridges, 2 freezers, 2 cookers and 2 ovens… However, not everybody has the same sense of cleanliness… This is how it is to live with people ! Once a week, luckily, someone came to clean.
If you want to see more about the Darwin accommodation, you can directly go on the UKC website.
In my building, there’s Origins, a bar where students like to gather to have a drink while playing pool, watch football… Before going to the campus’ club: Venue.
I’m on the 4th floor (the last/top one) : my room is bright, I don’t have upstairs neighbours, and I’m on the back side of the building, it’s therefore more calm and there’s grass, where we later played football with my roommates, who became friends (and a few squirrels and rabbits!).
Behind Darwin College, there’s also the Rose Garden, where roses bloom in Spring (self-explanatory name!). There are banches where you can sit, if the weather is good enough of course!
We’re thus spending a few days settling myself, purchase some stuff in the city centre, situated at about 15 mins on bus… And the day came when my sister had to come back to France. So I’m now on my own here, with Emmie living in a flat outside campus : here it is, the experience is starting for real !
Before back to school, there is the « Freshers week », like an induction week. Numerous activities are planed to meet people, settle in… And spend good moments. This university is called « The UK’s European University », a nickname due to the important number of foreign people coming to study here… Which besides can help you blend in. Because yes, it’s not easy at first to feel at ease in a new environment, in particular with a foreign language ! Indeed, I got really sad when I ended up alone : I was lost, with the feeling that it was going to be very hard to settle in, being foreign as well, in this new place where I was… Thanks to Skype, my family and my friends were able to reassure and encourage me during this hard moment. I knew I was lucky to be here, it was my dream ! But sometimes, it’s just complicated at first, and for everything time is needed to adapt. I therefore tried to « force » myself to go to activities organised during Freshers week, where I met 2 persons, who I met with again several times later along the year. And of course, I often saw Emmie, and my roommates as well. Over time, it gets better, you adapt to another routine in a new place, with different people. So although you might find it hard to blend in at first, and you even consider to give up and go back home, don’t do it ! I swear, you will end up feeling good : you won’t even want to leave !
A week later, it’s back to school : I’m studying Chinese course, Chinese politics, American litterature… Everything therefore in English. It equates to the modules I’m supposed to have in my last year of my degree in France. Before leaving, I already had a rather good English comprehension ; however, I had to make efforts to speak : like a lot of people, I knew how to say things, but I couldn’t say them out loud ! Honestly, I naturally made progress over time. Classes obviously help too : with only 10-15 students per seminar, you’re encouraged to speak. You therefore don’t really have the choice to talk, and it’s for the best.
There are no holidays in October/November. To be clear, here is a quick planning of a university year at this uni in England (it can vary between the different universities) :
The weeks are going by very quickly, as well as the amount of work asked : therefore, the year passes in a heartbeat. It can feel overwhelming at first, but try to fully enjoy !
To give you an idea of a typical day for me there, I had very little classes : approximatively 6 hours a week. It depends on your course, but it’s the average quota. It can seem as nothing, and indeed me too at first I thought : « great, I’m going to have so much free time to enjoy ! »… Nope ! Indeed, the personal work and the amount of work required are considerable. With Emmie, we spent lots of our days at the library or in a café (article on the nice city of Canterbury to come) to always be up to date and hand in our assignments on time ! Of course, everything depends on what year you’re in, but we aware, and don’t lose too much time.
Beyond clearly improving my English level, I am now convinced : when I get the chance and/or the opportunity, I will go settle in England, it’s a certainty. I also came back with new people in my heart : Emmie of course, who became a dear friend of mine, and my roommates. Besides, as you can see on our Instagram, I often go back to visit them, wether it’s in London or in Canterbury, and it’s always a pleasure.
I will always remember this exceptional experience. Each time I’m being asked on the Erasmus mobility exchange, I hurry myself and say « if you have the opportunity to do it, do it ! »… I therefore hope you feel like you want to do it too now : go for it !
If you experienced it already, or consider to do so, I want to know about it ! Comment, send your questions… I will gladly reply.
« Exchange is not a year in your life : it’s a life in a year »
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