I have never travelled abroad on my own without my family before taking part in Erasmus. I am also the first person in my family to graduate from university. I took part in the Erasmus programme because initially I wanted to take a gap year after graduation but I also wanted it to be a productive gap year which would enable me to gain skills that could enhance my future career prospects. Hence I chose the study abroad programme because I believed it was a great opportunity to live abroad but also to get to experience the educational system of another country and study modules that I didn't have the option to study in my home institution. Taking part in Erasmus has benefited me in so many ways academically, socially and personally but if I have to choose the best thing I got out of the experience, then it has to be the great network of friends that I have built with people from around the world with whom I still keep in contact.
My biggest fear before going on the study period was accommodation. I applied to take part in the Erasmus programme late and as a result, I had not sorted out accommodation before travelling. I had a hard time during my first month in Sweden but the host institution were very helpful. The other thing I worried about was how I was going to find my way around without speaking or understanding the local languages. I did not speak either Swedish or Dutch but I had basic language books handy just in case I needed it. When I got there I found out that both the Swedes and the Dutch have a really good command of the English language which made life very easy for me during my time there in terms of socialising and travelling around town.
I think more students should take part in the programme because it is a great chance to challenge themselves as individuals to grow out of their comfort zone. Growing out of one's comfort zone is like travelling on a self-discovery road because you learn so much yourself with every challenge you face out there and gain valuable life lessons. You will come out of the experience mature, independent and open-minded. Being a Black African did not give me any difficulties whatsoever on my time abroad. All the lecturers and students with whom I came into contact treated me with the same respect and in a friendly manner as they treated everyone else around me. I never once felt excluded by anyone because of my ethnicity. I was involved in all my class activities as well as invited to all the NUS events organised for exchange students.
You will have an amazing and probably one of the most spectacular times of your life on your year abroad. You will definitely face some challenges but the most important thing is the way in which you choose to handle those challenges. If you are faced with challenges try and deal with them in a constructive and positive way. Above all, make sure you enjoy each day of your time abroad to the fullest and make the most of your experience.