C’est normal. One moment you’re revelling in your new found ” exotic traveller” status, wearing a beret and Googling permanent residency in France. The next moment…it’s all fallen a bit flat. The fifty baguettes that you’ve just eaten are lying uneasily in your stomach, and suddenly the Aer Lingus seat sale home seems tempting…
As I’ve spoken about before, I was lucky enough to have an incredible Erasmus experience. Of course, there were certainly difficult moments- dealing with harassment from French men (I think they call it “compliments”…..), wondering how I somehow decided that studying Ancient History in French seemed like a good idea and realising that my retirement from cycling at 11 years old was probably sensible, given the amount of times I fell off my vélo in Lyon!
I fully comprehend that some others may not have such a good experience. Some of my own friends were quite homesick, and I know of other people who genuinely hated the entire year. I would attribute some of this to the choice of Erasmus destination- people in small towns did tend to be lonelier/ more bored than those of us in cities.
If the stress is relating to study:
First of all, take a moment to relax. Studying abroad through a foreign language is always going to be incredibly challenging. Indeed, some of the subjects studied would be incredibly difficult even through the English language, so don’t be overly hard on yourself. If it’s too late to change modules, I would advise chatting to the lecturer about your difficulties. Some of our lecturers kindly gave us projects to complete instead of the exam, which was a complete relief. Other lecturers were “generous” markers in the exam (…apart from a lecturer of a certain Geography module…..speaking on behalf of a friend of course…). If all else fails, get chatting to a student in your class. Most of the classes have Facebook pages and will often willingly give you notes out of kindness (or sympathy…). And a slight whisper- it may not actually matter if you fail your exams on Erasmus. My college (UCD) issued threats to anyone who returned with less than the required credits, but secretly gave the students who had failed an essay to complete in final year which miraculously allowed them to pass the year.
If the stress is relating to boredom/ loneliness:
I know that many of my friends who completed their year abroad in smaller towns often became overwhelmed with loneliness. This was quite common in larger towns and cities too- some people simply found it quite difficult to “gel” with a completely different culture. Again, this is completely normal. My main advice would be to do your best to get out of your room. I personally know somebody who unfortunately spent most of Erasmus in her bedroom on the internet. Forcing yourself to get out and about can often be easier said than done (particularly if you STILL having mastered rolling your “rs” in French), but falling into an unsociable rut on Erasmus will really negatively affect your experience. Otherwise, take a weekend to travel- even if you’re solo travelling. You can read here for some cheap ways to travel in France. Finally, don’t forget the important of exercising in reducing stress- even if I’m convinced that an hour long spin class in France is suspiciously longer than an hour in Ireland…
If the stress is financial stress:
Magical Erasmus grant aside, the Erasmus year can have serious financial implications for many people. Firstly- learn to manage your spending. Try to avoid more expensive grocery shops (Monoprix- I’m looking at you) and instead go to Auchan/ Lidl instead. Secondly, do not underestimate your value as a foreign student in France. Many restaurants and bars desperately hunt for English speaking staff- you can find a list of Irish bars in France here. Similarly, many families hunt for English speaking babysitting- Babylangues is a good place to start. Just remember that the wooden spoon is illegal in France.
Also, SOS Helpline is a useful, English speaking helpline that is affiliated to the Samaritans.