Sunday, 7 January 2018

Anxiety and Erasmus

Anxiety and Erasmus
Angela and Emily
Accident and Emergency

In August 2017 I began a journey as part of my degree; my year abroad. A year that is divided into two sections; the first half living in Grenoble, in the south of France by the Alpes and the second I will be moving to Bologna, Italy. 

Going on a year abroad  for anyone is a daunting process but throw in the mix generalised anxiety disorder and well, a bit of storm forms. I (of course) made myself as prepared as possible, I found my accommodation 2 months in advance (accommodation is usually a last minute thing unlike in the UK), I had my bank account sorted and my mum and brother were going to drop me off. Everything that needed to be in place was, but that didn't stop weeks of some of the worst anxiety I had ever experienced. However, I knew once I was out there it would be better, right? 


The Erasmus team at my university had painted a beautiful picture of what our year abroad would be like, and boy was it rose gold with diamonds and everyone wanted it. So I went abroad with A LOT of expectations, none of which were met. 

I was living in a studio flat alone. The flat itself was decent with the most beautiful views, everyday my day began with the sun rising over the mountains. I'm not sure it gets much better than that.(I think the mountains were one of the only good aspects of my time in France so buckle up because the rest of the post is mainly negative.) Living in a private studio flat was my choice, and I made the choice based on the fact that I could have got university accommodation but there was a chance of being put in accommodation all over the city, with some places that  had Turkish toilets (this is the 21st century, what flats in the first world don't have toilets??) and no WiFi or in a dangerous part of the city where the windows had gunshot holes in and the university warned us to not even visit the area. A chance I was not willing to take. So I payed extra to have a flat I knew I would like and  that I was safe in. 

I was expecting to make friends (which is a normal assumption to have) however, the french wouldn't talk to us, or even go near us. In class we would have an entire row to ourselves because they didn't want to sit with us, in one class we weren't even given a table because the french had to be prioritised. We were stared at strangely, told to stop speaking English and called Ex-Europeans. I didn't make any french friends, something that really shocked me considering I am half french. I had never felt so segregated. Originally I thought it was a problem that just my friend and I faced, however, we soon learnt that the majority of Erasmus students in France, no matter the nationality or the university were facing the same issue. Luckily the majority of us had our time divided between two countries, but for those who had a whole year there, some dropped out. 

For four months straight I spoke mainly English as our pursuit for French friends failed. The university system was like taking a step back into secondary school. Most of my lessons were with 17&18 year olds, the classes were of 40 students sat in rows and if you needed a trip to the loo we were back to having to ask. In terms of education I feel like I've lost some of the independence I had gained over the previous two years at university in England. 

My day to day life wasn't great, it consisted of going to university and then going home where I lived alone. I grew lonely, depressed and suicidal pretty quickly. It was hard. But some days where a dream, a break from that little hell hole, when we would travel. 4 English girls taking on France and Switzerland, laughing at our painful experience of a year abroad. 

In 3 weeks I start my journey in Italy and this time everything is different. I don't know when I start university, I don't have a place to live (minus an air b&b for the first 12 nights), I don't know if the courses I've chosen exist anymore and I don't know if it's going to be just like France. I have already made the decision that if it is as hard as France, i'm coming home. My mental health is more important that getting a degree certificate that says "with year abroad". However, I am now going to Italy with 0 expectations so surely it can only be better. 

My Erasmus experience has been harder than I could have ever imagined, but with 6 months left in Italy I hope it can be turned around. The hardest experiences in life make us grow the most and I do feel like I've changed, I've realised what is more important to me on this journey, I've grown stronger and rely less on other people. 

Here is to the next portion of my Erasmus year. 

If you would like to watch my adventure in France then I did vlog it (only the exciting bits) and you can watch it over here on my Youtube Channel .


  1. Good luck with your final few months. I'm glad you stuck with it. I wouldn't have!

    Fix Me In Forty Five - A Mental Health Blog


  2. Good luck with Italy! I also have serious anxiety and also went on Erasmus. It was HARD, but I made it through. Even though I didn't want to be there, even though sometimes I had no idea what I was doing there, even though even though even though... I made it. You can too.

    Also Italians are a pretty friendly bunch! Allora...!

  3. Thank you! I hope it is great and that just like you I will get through it

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