I wake up and I have breakfast with my flatmate from the U.S., I go to the grocery store with my flatmate from Austria, I pay, leave the bags in my house and then I go to attend lessons. I take notes, I have a coffee break (rigorously an Espresso) during the morning with my classmate from Egypt and then I’m ready to have lunch with another international student.
This could seem so easy right now, but the first days I was completely terrified and worried about my level of English.
Before I came here at the UL I barely reached a level B1 of English, and I can openly say that I have never spoken in English with a native English speaker for more than ten minutes.
The first thought that I had when I had found that I would have passed a semester in Ireland was “oh cool, finally I can improve my English skills”, but immediately after I was pressured by thoughts like “Oh but probably I will meet people that already speak a good English, nobody will listen to me”, “I will be surrounded by people with different accents, I will never understand them”, “how can I take notes during lectures, if I have never taken notes in another language?”.
This thoughts followed me for all the period before the first day of this Erasmus experience.
Since September indeed I have just met people that make the same mistakes in English that I normally make, or, if they are native language speakers, they are always encouraging me to make as much mistakes as I can so they’re ready to correct me.
I think that almost every English, U.S., Irish student that I have met here, when they discover that I’m from Italy, have told me that they really admire the fact that I can speak two languages, and that they really love Italian, for sure.
After less than one month of this semester, thanks also to a specific English course built for people who are not native English speakers organised by the university, but without a doubt also thanks to the fact that I’m surrounded by English speakers, my language skills are definitely improved, and finally I have also dreamt in English.
The university organises a lot of events where you can meet international students that have the same English gaps, and the barriers can be destroyed easily. And if there are still some problems, the writing centre is always happy to help you with your academic exams.
So no worries, we are here to make mistakes, but at the end of this experience we will probably ask, without even noticing, “what’s the craic?” to our old friends.