In a series of blog posts, second year Sociology student, Abigail Joseph, blogs about her experience of the Erasmus scheme. In this edition she heads off to study in Copenhagen for five months, her first trip abroad for a while and the longest she's ever been away from home.
It’s 3am and I still haven’t finished packing my suitcase for Copenhagen. This would not matter except for the fact that I have to leave my house in three hours to make it to the airport in time for my flight. Yes, I should not have left it this late to pack but that’s chronic procrastination for you.
I haven’t been abroad in a while, but I’ve also never been away for what is going to be the longest holiday of my life so far. I am going to Denmark for five months. By myself.
It should be noted that, up until this point, the longest I had been away from my family was for three days on a Year 12 physics trip to CERN in Switzerland. Going from less than a week away to almost half a year away is a big jump.
I feel like it is going from paddling in the shallow end of a swimming pool to jumping off a boat in the middle of the sea, but it is happening, so I have to put my fears aside and just continue packing the rest of my life into my suitcase.
This day always seemed so far away but it is finally here, so I think it would be good to let you know how I got here.
Several months ago, at the start of the summer holidays, just after the end of my first year at Goldsmiths, I received an email notifying me that applications to study abroad with Erasmus were now open. I checked to see if my department, Sociology, was participating and they were. The options were either to study in Austria at the University of Vienna, or in Denmark at the University of Copenhagen.
I had not been to either country so spent a few days researching what each city was like and what facilities each university had. As a self-proclaimed bibliophile, libraries are very important to me so when I learnt that the University of Copenhagen had three libraries just for the social sciences, I was sold. The fact that it was also the alma mater of one of my favourite philosophers, Søren Kierkegaard (amazing guy - along with other fab stuff, he formulated ideas around angst and existential crises, which have become daily occurrences for me!), was the icing on the cake.
I was still hesitant to apply though. This may sound cliched, but I’m not necessarily a fan of change. I like familiarity. It’s comforting. I had been living at home whilst studying so my family were always nearby. The prospect of moving away from essentially everything I knew for five months was scary.
A few months before this, one of my favourite seminar tutors mentioned the Erasmus programme to me and encouraged me to apply. I told her about my fear of the unknown and my doubts over whether I could handle such a major change and her positive words had been reassuring.
I decided to give the application a go. I had nothing to lose and maybe gaining this experience would prove to be what I needed to allow me to grow and become fully independent. There were some standard questions to answer about where I lived and what I studied but the final few questions were ones which required more substantial answers. They asked why I wanted to apply for this, what I was hoping to gain, and how I thought I would be different upon completing a term abroad.
To be very honest, I did ‘nerd out’ a bit with my answers. I mentioned the three libraries at the University of Copenhagen and how it was home to one of my intellectual inspirations. I wrote about how I wanted to push myself and see how I could adapt to life outside of my comfort zone. When I had finished, I hoped for the best, but I did doubt that I would be successful because of how many other applicants I was up against.
However, my department seemed to like something about what I wrote because I was successful! I got an email of congratulations from the head of my department and I was just so pleased that she even knew my name.
Then came the paperwork and there was a large amount. It was all very straightforward though, so not at all taxing. When I came back to Goldsmiths for the beginning of my second year, I was so pleased to tell all my friends about where I would be going in a few months and we all celebrated together.
I was still worried though. I had been hearing that the second year of university would be difficult, I had just taken on the position of Department Rep, and recently set up a student collective (Intersectionals), so a lot more was being required of me and I was uncertain if I would be able to balance all of my commitments. I will not lie – there were definitely some difficult times and a few too many late nights, but I managed to do it.
For the modules I was studying, I had to complete coursework for all of them rather than for a select one or two and they were. All. Due. On. The. Same. Date. At. The. Same. Time. That was a struggle!
There was a lot of reading, midnight snacking, and procrastination via Netflix, but I realised that I had to do the work, so I just focused on getting it done. As a Department Rep, I had an amazing team around me, so I could always rely on them for support. Student representation is very important to me, so I felt compelled to do students justice in every meeting I attended.
My own group that had just begun that term was also doing amazingly. We were screening documentaries and having interesting discussions about Grenfell Tower, decolonising the curriculum, mental health in higher education and so many other important issues. Creating the group helped me to find people like me who cared deeply about social issues and were committed to educating themselves and working together to make a difference.
When the deadline for my coursework came around, I was exhausted. I had put everything I had into the essays and was in desperate need of a prolonged nap. But, this was also the final hurdle before leaving for Denmark in February. I met some other people who were also studying abroad for a term and a few of them had already left. I still had a few weeks to go and although I was not required to attend lectures and seminars in the meantime, I still decided to go because I was interested in quite a lot of the content being covered. It was also a chance to say goodbye to my friends and some of my favourite seminar tutors, so it ended up being worth it.
I packed the month of January with as many socials and outings as possible. A lot of vegan pizza was consumed, as was a vegan fried chicken burger with the BEST vegan mayo I have ever had (plug: Temple of Hackney). I also went to see The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre with two of my good friends. When I was checking Google Maps for the quickest route between the two lunch and the theatre, I found that my best bet would be a ten minute boat ride on one of London’s River Buses. I love the water and can honestly say that it was definitely one of the best experiences I have had. I am not even exaggerating. The ride was so smooth. There were so many available seats and the Thames is absolutely beautiful at night. I’m not going to gush about the boat, but it was amazing, and I found out that some people actually commute to work by boat. It is a far cry from the noise, claustrophobia, odour and sweat of the Underground.
Seeing the musical was one of my final outings and, when it came to my last day at Goldsmiths, I was sad to be leaving all my friends behind, but we promised to stay in touch and I said I would update them every day, which brings us back to now.
My packing is still incomplete, but I have made some progress. In less than two hours, I will be flying off to Copenhagen to embark on a new adventure. Let’s just hope I make the flight on time.
Photo by Mstyslav Chernov.