Erasmus overseas – would I do it again?

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This past year, not everyone has been able to have the same Erasmus experience that you might expect. This blog by Student Ambassador Magdalena Szymanska tells us about how she found her virtual semester abroad!

Since I can remember, Erasmus has been my dream. I found out about the program when I was a little girl and one of my cousins went on an exchange. That’s when I knew that one day, when studying, I will go on Erasmus, to experience living abroad, to learn about another culture, to communicate in English and improve my skills, to meet new people and make with them memories for life. 

So, when I got into my University in Poland, I started to prepare myself for getting into the program. I knew everything and even more about it, and I was telling all about it to my family and friends. I was so excited about the whole thing, that I even encouraged my friends to do the same. Then, my first interview came in. I was prepared, and so stressed. I handled it pretty well, unfortunately didn’t get in. However, I wasn’t ready to give up, not yet. I started to work harder on my grades and choose more wisely Universities for exchange. It did pay off. I got into Limerick, and couldn’t be happier. I was so excited to go to Irealnd. And then, as we all know, the COVID has come to Europe and questioned all plans we had for the future, including my Erasmus. 

At first, I was convinced that until my departure, the situation would be under control and I would have the normal exchange. Boy, was I wrong! Until the last minute, I was holding onto hope that the situation would get better so I could go, but the virus turned out to be ruthless. At some point, I had to admit that going to Ireland during winter was not an option. However, I didn’t want to give up on my dream, I couldn’t. So, I started to think about an alternative, to have my cake and eat it too. I figured that I can turn around the situation in my favour, and use online learning to combine two terms. That’s why I decided to carry on studying at my Home University and at the same time do my Erasmus overseas. Luckily both terms have been different, also in the dates of the beginning and the ending, which made the whole thing so much easier. However, I still had to combine two student’s lives for three months. It wasn’t always easy. For instance, in March, I was so swamped with all the work for Limerick and my Home University in Warsaw, that I barely left the house or saw any of my friends. I felt like a robot, only doing its job, however at the same time I was satisfied, because I was using the opportunity I have been offered. 

How was it, studying at the University of Limerick? Marvelous. Honestly, I was amazed with all the hard work staff and students of the University had put into making things easier, for us Erasmus people. They wanted to make the experience of an exchange the best they could, considering the circumstances of the lockdown. That’s why every week there were online events in which we could participate. Moreover, we were offered help in many areas, including practicing our skills in English or another language, in writing final papers or essays, in explaining topics someone could not understand, and so on. I felt like we were all in this together, and that made things easier.  

Now, looking back, I would not change that decision. Yes, it was hard and sometimes I wish I hadn’t done it. I was wondering, why am I making my life harder, but then I realised that life is not about making things easier, it’s about enjoying it. So, I told myself “You can do it, enjoy it and take from it as much as you can”. And so I did. I am glad I did this. I have learned so much, despite everything I’ve met new, amazing people, I’ve developed myself. I am truly proud of myself, that I’ve managed to accomplish what I planned and didn’t give up.

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