by Gabriella Tomlinson
As I am writing this I have just sat my final year abroad exam, and whilst sitting it at home and celebrating with my family was not quite what I expected I did on the whole have an amazing year! But one of the reasons my year was as amazing as it was is because I chose to split my year between two places, which is not hugely done with only a handful of students doing this in my year. So, I am hoping by the end of this I will have inspired some people to take the opportunity to split your year and experience two different countries.
I split my year between Hamburg in Germany and Antwerp in Belgium… two countries both known for their beer, but I promise that is not the only reason I chose them! But whilst splitting my year seemed hugely daunting, by splitting your year abroad there are so many benefits which I am going to tell you about before telling you a little about both Hamburg and Antwerp.
Why split the year?
The vast majority of Erasmus students only do one semester abroad. So, when I arrived in Antwerp in February the students who were doing the full year were the odd ones out so making friends twice in a year was not an issue because almost everyone was in the same boat. So do not let the fear of being the new kid in school put you off, because chances are you won’t be!
Also, you benefit from two completely different learning and exam systems. This is maybe not the most important thing when planning your year abroad but whilst in Hamburg most of the modules were international commercial law based, whereas in Antwerp almost every module was European Union law of some variety. They were hugely different semesters from an academic point of view and I managed to do 16 modules this year, majority of which I cannot do in Sheffield.
Whilst I did not fully appreciate it until leaving either place splitting your year gives you the opportunity to make two amazing sets of exchange friends as you do not stay in a clique all year. Whether it was crying in Hamburg when realising we were all returning to different continents (I blame the beer and I was not the only one in tears!) or the sad realisation that in Antwerp I would not get to say bye to my friends as we all rushed home, I got to meet the most amazing people many of whom I would not have met if I had only been to one country.
Finally, splitting the year gives you the chance to live in two amazing countries! And I cannot explain how brilliant that was. Yes, it can be a little stressful planning accommodation twice especially planning the second semester whilst on your first but once you have done everything once doing it the second time is so much easier! Whether it’s the moving to a foreign country nerves, the stress of figuring out the local transport and the campus at the university, once you have done it once it is so much easier because you are more adaptable!
First Semester- Bucerius Law School, Hamburg
As I have said I spent my first semester in Hamburg, Germany. I know this sounds cliché, but I fell a little in love with Hamburg despite being homesick when arriving. It is a beautiful place which is big enough that you feel like you will never run out of places to explore but small enough it felt like home so quickly. The law school was instrumental in making the city feel like home and had an intro week which involved so many activities, and day trips which continued throughout the term. The highlight was 100% the on-campus Oktoberfest, which was attended by lecturers, students, and my exchange cohort.
In Hamburg most of the students were either from Australia or the US, and there were only 90 something of us. It almost felt like being back at college as you knew everyone on the exchange and the café was frequently overtaken by a huge group of us… I think the home students were glad to see the back of us! We visited multiple towns around Hamburg, and almost every Christmas market within Hamburg… I have the mugs to prove it! We spent many a weekend in the Irish pub watching the Rugby World Cup, the Aussie, Kiwi and English rivalry was real! However, I do not believe for one second, I got to experience everything Hamburg has to offer because no amount of time will ever be enough to discover every brilliant coffee shop, restaurant, and area. I cannot recommend Hamburg enough because it really does have everything, and it is so well connected for any travelling plans you may have for your year abroad.
My time in Antwerp was limited to a mere 6 weeks, and it rained for about five and a half of those… the winter months were not kind! It is smaller than Hamburg without a doubt and the university was bigger so my experience had completely switched. Everyone lived within walking distance of each other instead of a U-Bahn ride away, and I could connect to the university Wi-Fi from my flat instead of needing a 15-minute U-Bahn trip to Uni. But the university was multiple buildings which required figuring out instead of one big building.
Despite this being a short-lived experience looking back I crammed so much into those 6 weeks. I visited both Brussels and Ghent, went to numerous Antwerp attractions including the chocolate museum and most importantly drank a ridiculous amount of Belgium Beer. My friends and I managed numerous ‘international dinners’ where people brought food from their home country and days spent exploring in the rain. Doing the majority of my semester in Lancashire was not the plan at all but the six weeks I did experience in Antwerp were brilliant! Sadly, I did not get to experience sitting in the squares in the summer when all the restaurants put their chairs out and live my summer Erasmus dream but it just means that one day I will have to go back!
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org if anyone wants to ask anymore questions 😊
Or you can reach any of the Global Opps ambassadors at Globaloppsamb@sheffield.ac.uk