To be perfectly honest, there are truly no words to describe all of the places that I was fortunate enough to visit during my time on Erasmus. So what I am going to do, is show some of the photos that I took.
I went to several different places while on Erasmus, some of them being places that I’d never even heard of. These are only a few of the photos I took, but every place was fantastic.
I count myself extremely lucky that I was able to visit so many places that year. Hopefully in the future, I’ll be able to visit a lot more.
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!
My Erasmus year brought many different classes and modules. I was taking Media Studies classes, German language classes, and a class in German history and literature. At the start of the year, I didn’t realize that I was signing up for classes under two different courses at the university. You could choose classes as long as they added up to 60 credits for the full academic year. The compulsory Erasmus German language classes added up to about 15 or 20 credits, so we had to sign up for classes to add up the rest. Unintentionally, I signed up for one class in the German Studies course and the rest was in Media Studies. Thankfully though, I didn’t get penalized for it and I was allowed to continue studying in the classes that I’d chosen.
However, I must tell you that my home university, DCU offered Erasmus students the opportunity to undertake a Career Development Module. The module would see us speak with people who worked in our chosen area of study and allow us to get a perspective on possible future careers. It would help us decide the path we wanted to go down on after we graduated. I was all up for it.
While working on this module was a little bit annoying in the fact that it took so long to finish, I have to admit that I am glad that I did choose to work on it. The module gave me a chance to look deeper into the different options with regard to careers in the media industry. I know that I would love to work in television and broadcasting in the future, but I also know that it’s important to look at all the possibilities.
As part of my Career Development module, I had to interview three people who work in different professions in the media industry. The three industries that I chose were communications, education, and broadcasting. It took quite a while to find three people in these professions. Think I must have emailed at least twenty different people all over Ireland and Germany. At last, I received a response from Vera Tellmann, the Head of Communications in die Deutsche Welle. We conducted an interview by phone about a week after she agreed to take part. Vera Tellmann was lovely to talk to and gave me an insight into the world of communication. She spoke about the years that she worked in journalism and public relations in England and Germany before moving to Die Deutsche Welle.
I also interviewed one of my Media lecturers in the university, Annette Deeken. Although (to be perfectly truthful), working in education is the last thing that I want to do, I thought that I should still look into it because you never know. This interview was easier to organize because I was able to talk to her face-to-face. I must admit, from my interview with Annette Deeken, I found that the education side of media had more depth than I thought. In all honesty, I assumed that education was just teaching to kids who couldn’t be bothered to listen most of the time. But from what I discovered was that education involves research, asking questions, and understanding what you are teaching.
The final person I interviewed was someone suggested by my mum – Irish radio broadcaster, Ian Dempsey on Today FM! This interview was done by email due to (unfortunate) problems with the phone connection. Ian Dempsey was really kind in his emails and answered every question that I sent to him. I grew up listening to Ian Dempsey, every morning on the way to school. Mum absolutely loves him! I’m glad that she gave me the suggestion of interviewing Ian Dempsey. He actually said to me that he’ll be watching out for me in the media!
The one downside to working on the career development module was that most of it had to be written in German! Not fun, especially as it took me forever to write out my notes into an essay and then translate it all into German! By 22nd May, the day of submission, I was nearly tearing my hair out with frustration, wondering how on earth I would finish this. But, I am relieved to say that I did get my career development module finished and submitted back to DCU just in time.
Looking back at the interviews that I did and the amount of time that I took to get it done, I have to say that I’m really glad that I decided to do the Career Development module. It gave me a better insight into the different career options in the world of media and all the choices that I have in the future. Before I sign off for now, I got an email from DCU, with the results of my submission – and I’m happy to say that I passed!
My mum has worked as a teacher long before I was born. For years, she has worked at the local primary school in Monaghan, my hometown. I had her as my teacher for my second-last year of primary school and I consider it the worst year of my school life. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration; it’s the second-worst, after the Leaving Cert. After years of watching my mother plan lessons and correct copies nearly every night, I made a vow to myself: no matter what happened, I would never ever EVER enter the world of education when it came to choosing my career. No. Way.
At the start of the Erasmus year, during the orientation, the International Centre in the university was asking for volunteers to teach language classes. My friend, Jasmine suggested that I should volunteer to teach Irish classes. Not really thinking much of it, I decided to do it, just to see what they thought. Well, the Centre was thrilled as they had never had an Irish class in Trier before. So they arranged a day, a time and a place where I could teach the class and I began my first lesson.
Naturally, for the class, I had to teach my pupils the basics of the Irish language; how to greet someone, how to say who you are, where you live, etc. But I also wanted to teach them a little bit about Ireland itself.
When most people think about Ireland, they think about leprechauns, lucky charms and drunken idiots. Ireland is so much more than that. We are the home of amazing legends and poets (Oscar Wilde, Seamus Heaney), beautiful music (The Corrs, Celtic Thunder), and literature (Brendan Behan, James Joyce). I wanted to show my pupils that during my classes as well.
Preparing my classes definitely took a lot of time. Every week, I had to choose what kind of vocabulary and verbs the class would learn and what topic about Ireland I would cover. Not to mention, looking up all the right information and adding it all into a presentation. It took a lot of time and there were some weeks where I just wanted to give up but I have to admit, the end result was worth it.
I held my Irish classes every Monday from 4-6pm. I had an average of six to seven people in my classes per week – for a language class being taught in the university for the first time, that wasn’t too bad. Every class, we would start with the Irish language and basic vocabulary and grammar. I tried not to make it too difficult – grammar is hard in any language! Basically, I taught my class how to greet one another, how to talk about their families, how to count in Irish, days of the week, months of the year – simple things that were, in my opinion, easy to remember. In one class, I gave them the task of matching some words with their Irish counterpart. I split them into groups and everyone got all but one right! If that doesn’t count as a great achievement, I don’t know what does!
After teaching a bit of the Irish language for one hour I would move on to Ireland in general. Every week, there would be a different theme. One week, I did Irish Myths and Legends – stories about the Children of Lír, Chúchulainn, Fionn, and the Fianna, those sorts of things. Another week, I talked about Irish music and traditional Irish instruments and dancing, playing a few samples of each one. The week before the Christmas holidays, I talked about the traditions of Christmas in Ireland.
I also decided to show them a few Irish television programs. I know I’ve already said that Ireland is more than the stereotype – but that doesn’t stop us from making fun of that stereotype! I showed them programs like Killinaskuly and Father Ted… and of course the legendary Mrs. Brown! Irish films were also looked at and I showed them ‘Circle of Friends’ – a simple but very touching film based on a book by author Maeve Binchy.
Two weeks before I was due to fly back home for good, I decided to host one last Irish language class. With everything that had to be done, including packing, cleaning my apartment for the next tenant, I just knew that I wouldn’t have the time to prepare for another class so I was firm with my decision to end my Irish class.
It was actually with a heavy heart that I taught my final class. The theme was ‘Plans for the Future’ which I considered appropriate. We did a simple Irish conversation about plans and watched some Irish television programs. I ended the class by talking a little about Dublin City university and what I planned to do when I returned home to Ireland. And then, it was 6pm and time to end the class. I thanked everybody for taking the time to take part in my class and I hoped that they enjoyed them. The class then thanked and applauded me before leaving. I packed up everything and closed the door of the classroom for the last time.
I have to admit that my opinion about teaching has changed thanks to my experience teaching Irish on my Erasmus year. While I still say that it is stressful and very time-demanding, it is also good fun teaching to others and sharing out all sorts of knowledge with them. Maybe in the future – it is a possibility – I could teach media to students in universities- I’m not saying that it’s definitely going to happen, but you never know!
As Orientation finally came to an end, I was finally given the opportunity to take part in actual classes in the university. During the day, I had to sit through Media classes, and in the evenings, I had German language classes with the other Erasmus students.
Before we began our official classes, we had the opportunity to pick what classes we wanted to participate in. It was important that the number of classes we took totalled to 60 credits. Here is a list of the classes that I chose:
Film- und Kinosoziologie
Foko-Ikonen: Die Geschichte hinter den Bildern
Qualitát im Fernsehen: Dokufiktion
Judische Figuren in Film und Literatur aus der DDR
GERMAN LANGUAGE STUDIES
Aussprachetraining (Pronunciation Training)
Sprechkompetenz (Speaking Skills)
Deutsch: Mittelkurs 2
As you can see from the names, all of my classes were in German! That itself was going to be a big challenge for somebody whose first language was English! I was in for it!
You would notice that one class doesn’t fall under Media Studies – Jewish Figures in Film and Literature from the GDR. As a person who had a great love for history, when I saw that they were offering a course in learning about important film and literature that arrived after the Second World War, I signed up immediately. I’m glad I did because there was a lot to learn about the culture that came into Germany after the end of Nazism.
The class involved studying films that were released mere years after the war as well as stories detailing the lives and brutal realities that Jews were forced to endure. There were two movies in particular that stood out to me: Ehe im Schatten about the story of a German man who refuses to divorce his Jewish wife despite extreme pressure from the Nazis and ultimately end up committing suicide to avoid the death camps. Sterne, a tragic story about a young German boy who falls in love with a Jewish girl who is imprisoned in a temporary prison for deported Jews. We has to watch and examine these films – while it was difficult to fully understand the langauge, I was captivated by what I saw. German films have a certain depth that definitely draws you in.
Meanwhile, my Media classes were different as well. I deliberately chose to study Film and Cinema Sociology because I had always been interested in the inner messages of films.
In Germany, the pass system is different to what I’m used to. While in Ireland, your grades are A-F, in Germany, the grades are 1-6, with 1 being the best and 6 being the worst. If you get a 5 or a 6 in a German exam, then you have to repeat. I was really hoping that wouldn’t be the case for me!
I also passed my Jewish Figures in Literature and Film exam with a 2.0 (B). This oral exam was a first for me and my lecturer – according to him, I was the first Erasmus student that he had ever had for an exam – that’s an honour in itself I suppose! For this, I had to prepare information about three different topics- I chose two different films ,,Ehe im Schatten’’ and ,,Sterne’’ along with talking about the Stereotypes of Jews used throughout the years. Having studied the Holocaust previously in my History classes, this wasn’t too difficult for me!
Also, I achieved something that I have never got before in my college years – I passed my Film and Cinema Sociology exam with an A+ (or a 1.0 in this case!) For this, I had to prepare a topic of my choice for discussion. Thankfully, I was able to speak in English, but I printed out an essay that I had written in German and gave it to my lecturer. He was very impressed with my topic and the amount of research that I had put into. So my A+ (I mean 1.0!) was well-deserved for this module, wouldn’t you agree?
These achievements certainly gave me a boot of confidence with my studies and my language skills. It gave me the belief that I could go even further with everything. I finished my first semester at the University of Trier a very happy person.
My next Erasmus post will move away from the classroom and out into society. I did a lot more than study during my year abroad!
The first three weeks on Erasmus were spent taking part in an orientation program. What this program involved was morning German classes, important form filling and a chance to get to know your fellow year abroad students. So from 29th September until 21st October, I took part in the orientation program in order to get me ready to actually start studying in Trier.
Admittedly, at first, I wasn’t very impressed with the orientation program. If there is one thing that I have inherited from my father, it’s impatience! To be honest, I just wanted to get started on my course right now!
But, looking back over those first three weeks, I realise now why I put myself through the orientation. It was to help me see my level of German, enable me to fill out the last of the ‘necessary’ documents and getting to know other students who were in the same boat as me, so to speak. In a way, I was lucky. I mean, imagine if you arrived in your college after any orientation program has finished. When all the forms have been filled, all the classes have been taken and everyone has mixed in with everyone else. To be the new student arriving after everyone has gotten to know everyone…, it’s extremely, extremely difficult.
So I am glad that I took part in the orientation after everything. I got to know many amazing people in the last three weeks and I would meet a lot more when I would finally begin my course.
Besides, it wasn’t all completely about learning German and filling out forms. On 8th and 15th October, day trips were organized to Bonn and Cochem respectively. As I was determined to make the most of my year abroad, I immediately signed up for those two day trips.
8th October was the trip to Bonn. This day trip featured a trip to the ‘Haus der Geschichte’, an amazing museum that covered the history of Germany. After that, we were allowed some free time – or as they say in Germany, ‘FreiZeit!’ – to have a look around and do what we want. After a big of lunch with some friends, we have a brief look around the place. Some had wanted to visit the museum dedicated to Ludwig van Beethoven, but unfortunately our time was restricted. One thing that I will say is that people are very punctual in Germany. The students involved said that if we weren’t back on the bus by five o’clock, they would leave without us!
15th October was the day everyone headed to Cochem. For this trip, there would be a visit to Reichsburg and a wine-tasting experience.
I have to say that Reichsburg was absolutely beautiful. The scenery was breath-taking and just stunning. The castle was beautiful and the village itself was…I think I’d better stop rambling now!
But in all seriousness, I really enjoyed visiting Cochem and I plan to definitely return. The only thing that I didn’t enjoy was the wine-tasting. I’m not much of a wine drinker, I prefer a good vodka with a hint of coke! Or a Sex on the Beach, I’m not fussed!
One thing that I definitely planed to do over this year is travel. I would end up visiting eleven places in total throughout my Erasmus, a feat I was certainly proud of.
But back then, I wasn’t thinking about that, My main focus was finishing my orientation and finally beginning my course.
It’s always weird moving into a new place. You cautiously make your way into a stark, cold room, not knowing what to expect.
One thing I will say, the moment you move into a new place, there’s a lot to be done before you can actually call it ‘home.’
My apartment, when I moved in was basically a small walk-in kitchen with a big wardrobe shoved in at the side, a tiny bathroom with a shower (that had dodgy temperatures, but I suppose it’s better to be burning hot than freezing cold!) and a large bedroom/study. Sighing, I began to unpack my things and decorate my room.
If there is one thing that I hate about any room, it’s bare walls. Luckily, I made the decision to bring my picture folder with me (I’ve always loved collecting pictures, whether they be Disney, Harry Potter or historical people). So thanks to a slab of Blu-Tack, my room has become a big picture collage – it’s kind of like how Anne Frank decorated her room when she arrived in her Secret Annexe.
Once I’d finished packing and decorating, I had to get basic supplies. You know the sort – cutlery, bowls, cups. plates. Oh, and of course, the most important thing of all…. FOOD! Whenever you have time to yourself, it’s very important to know where you can buy your food. Where I was staying in Kleeburger Weg, there was a Lidl store just a five minute walk away, where I was able to buy some food. There was also a large supermarket with the very peculiar name of Wasgau. Weird name, but at least you know what you’re buying in there!
That night, I cooked myself a big bowl of pasta smothered in tomato sauce and sat at my desk, brooding. The next day was the beginning of the orientation course. Nearly four weeks of form-filling, German classes and exploring Trier. I have to admit, I was very nervous about it all. But then again, who wouldn’t be nervous? Wouldn’t you be scared about starting college in a whole new place, having to start from the beginning with regards to making friends? Yeah…. that’s what I thought!
I lay in my new bed that night, my mind in a spin. There was so much that was going to happen and I wasn’t that sure if I would be able to go through it all. But I’d already made it to Germany and here I was now, in my new apartment. If I could make it that far, I would able to make it through whatever happens next. After all, as the saying goes, tomorrow is another day.
Next morning, was the start of the orientation. Think of it like the first day of school, standing on the sideline, eyes scanning the room, wondering who you can talk to, who looks like a friend. Well, that’s how it was for the first while of the orientation. At first I didn’t get much time to interact because once everyone was sitting, we were subjected to long talks about the college, the studies, the social activities etc. etc. basically all the usual Now-You’re-In-College lectures. At least I think it was those kind of lectures. Didn’t really help that the lecturer only spoke in German! I gave myself a mental note: learn and revise as much German as possible. I didn’t think I will ever be fluent, but I want to at least stop getting ‘Der, Die and Das’ mixed up!
I read the timetable that I was given for the next three weeks and I tried my best to take in what I was going to be doing. Every weekday, there would be German classes, then either more form-filling, lectures about the different courses and day trips on the weekends. As I read it, I thought ‘I don’t know if I’ll survive three days, let alone three weeks!’ I guess I thought that we would start our chosen courses right away – I wasn’t expecting anything that the orientation offered, I’ll tell you that! But if I wanted to do my Media program, I knew that I’d have to do the orientation.
And thus, began three whole weeks of boredom and torture. Oh alright, it wasn’t all completely boring. Next Erasmus post will be all about the lighter side of the orientation program!
Starting in college is never easy, is it? You don’t know what to bring with you, how you’re going to pay for food or where the best place to go for a night out with your pals.
For me, starting off in Dublin City University as a naïve eighteen-year-old girl from the sleepy town of Monaghan, was a big adventure. It was my first time living away from home, I had to get used to not waking up in my own bed and I had to start from scratch with regards to making friends. Two years on, I was doing it all over again; except this time, I not only had to get used to a new college, a new home, and new friends; I also had to get used to a new country.
I’d been studying Media Studies and International Languages for two years in DCU – in my case, the language I chose to study was German. I’d been learning German for the last seven years and probably the only thing I’d learned at the time was this: Hallo!
When the opportunity came for me to study abroad, I was all up for it. Up until now, I had never been to Germany; it’s been my dream to travel around Europe since I was about sixteen. History was my favourite subject in secondary school, particularly World War II and the Holocaust; I’ve always longed to visit the sites of the concentration camps and memorial buildings.
Out of all of my friends in DCU, I was the only one who was studying just one language. Just like me, they had taken up the opportunity to study abroad. Two of my friends were also in Germany, albeit in different cities, six of them were all sunning themselves in Spain – and two of them had gone as far as Japan! I would never be able to study in a place like Japan – one day I will go on a holiday, but I would never be able to stay there for a year. My two friends were extremely brave, that is all I have to say!
I was accepted to the University of Trier. Up until that point, I had never even heard of Trier – the only German cities that I was familiar with were the obvious ones – Berlin, Hamburg and Koln. Still, when would I ever get another chance to study in a different place? No, I couldn’t think of another time either!
Admittedly, getting my Erasmus year underway, didn’t go smoothly. Everyone began heading off to their respective countries around the middle of September. And guess who ended up being the last one going? I hated logging onto Facebook and seeing all the pictures that were being posted of the different exotic places. You have no idea how many times I wished that I was there.
On 27th September, the time finally came for me to start my Erasmus year. I’m sure many people can relate to the trouble that I had packing my suitcase! It had to fit everything but at the same time, weigh less than 15 kilograms – crazy, isn’t it? But by some miracle, my case was accepted onto the plane and I was able to get through security.
One thing that I made sure to stock up on in the duty free was chocolate. I know what most of you are thinking – Germany is the country of chocolate, why on earth would you need to buy chocolate beforehand? But I’m one of those people who have complicated food issues – I’m allergic to eggs and nuts, so basically I have to check everything before I can eat. So I bought three big bars of chocolate in the duty free – I’ve got one left at the moment, so they’ve done me well so far!
Eventually, the time to take the first step into this new adventure! To be honest, I couldn’t really sit still on the plane – just the thought of finally going to Germany, was running through my mind, over and over. I was leaving home for a year, studying in a new college… and trying to get used to a new language being spoken! The first night, I stayed in a small hotel, as the university have strict rules about when you can collect your flat keys.
The next morning, I checked out and got a taxi to Kleeburger Weg, where I’d be staying for the next year. The janitor himself, was quite an intimidating figure, I have to say. He spoke completely in German which was a bit of a problem for me as a beginner but eventually I was given my flat key and shown where to go. So, grabbing my bag and lugging my suitcase, I made my way to the apartment building.The one thing that I didn’t anticipate would that my apartment would be on the very top floor! And I will tell you something – lugging a 15kg suitcase up eight flights of stairs is no picnic! By the time I finally got to the top, I thought my arms were going to fall off! But at last, I got everything up and I reached my apartment. Turning the key in the lock, I made my way inside.
Slowly, I looked around the flat. It wasn’t anything special; a bed in the corner, an empty bookcase, a table with two chairs, a small bathroom and a kitchen with a fridge, a tiny cooker, a sink and some cupboards. It was then that I closed the flat door, biting my lip. It was time to face the reality of what was happening. This was it. My year living in Germany had begun.