I have bad news: There is no such thing as an Erasmus student who doesn't lead the Erasmus life. That's because there is no such thing as integrating to a society in five months.
Do you remember that, by the time you were three years old, your parents and the society structurally encouraged you to make friends? That there were special environments designed solely for this purpose?
Do you remember that it took you a whole adolescence period to comprehend how people live, talk and behave, to analyse and criticize social norms, to position yourself in the society? (and this, in a society you had been living in for some ten years already) And that the society was comparatively tolerant to your confusions and struggles at that period of your life?
But wait ! You don't have that much time there, do you?
When you are an adult, you are on your own. You happen to pop up in a new social ecosystem. The society is moving – and not really considering your insignificant introduction to the equation. You have to handle it, understand it, digest it. This may mean a boring life for a while, compared to what you are used to at home. (Or, you can as well hang out with the Erasmus people, go to the parties and all that.)
Yet there is more to it: When you were introduced to your own society, you were more or less a blank sheet. Now you already “know” that the Germans are disciplined, the Italians talk loudly, the Swedish are cold, the Spanish are talkative etc. You not only get into a new society, you are also not prepared for it – in the sense that you are too prepared in another direction.
The society you are introduced to also has such “knowledge” about you. Furthermore, they are also aware that you are temporary, that, in the worst case, you can just quit and go back home. Quite an uneven game to play for them, don't you think?
Erasmus, as a matter of fact any kind of immigration, is artificial. You must accept the fact that your experience is artificial, that you will not integrate naturally, that it will take a lot of effort.
But hey, I have good news too. It is an amazing experience anyway. Simply taking your time, feeling the society's rhythm and observing the life of your equivalent in that society is more inspiring than most of what you could learn in wherever you come from.
So, here are a few survival tips:
- Do not assume ! Observe, question, and ask. Almost nothing is “by default” in this new life.
- Take the language opportunity. Try to avoid the crooked version of American sit-com English. Practice talking, but don't neglect to correct yourself.Erasmus environments operate like language mistake epidemics, where a bunch of non-English speaking people communicate through a language of standardized mistakes and repetitive expressions.
- Find your equivalents in the society. Integrate through your previous social activities.
- This is the most crucial of all: Students tend to assume that they can understand a society by discussing it with other foreigners. This is not how it works. (Or rather, this you could do at home as well, by watching a documentary or something.) Instead, you have to wait, listen, observe, reflect and take action to be able to comprehend the implicit social codes.
That's all folks ! Have a nice holiday; or whatever..