My year abroad got off to a very chaotic start, but it’s something that I wouldn’t have changed for the world and it is truly one of my funniest memories to date. I’d never even visited Germany before, yet here I was now, flying over there to live for an entire year!
Before I embarked, my friends threw me a big leaving party, wishing me good luck in this foreign land, and wrapped up in all the excitement we partied until the early morning. Then there was the next day. I woke up late, now realising that I hadn’t packed everything and still had to drive to Liverpool from my home in the Midlands feeling very worse for wear to catch a plane.
Once at the airport, I and a friend spent twenty minutes frantically throwing my things in to different bags to keep below the Ryanair luggage limit as the panic started to set in. Even worse was the fact that I had forgotten the map to my new house and had no idea where as I was supposed to be going when we got off the plane! I finally set off in a state of panic, not quite knowing what to expect. Turns out, contrary to stereotypes, the German people were, and are, some of the friendliest people I have ever met. I asked strangers nervously if they could direct me to my new address, and they were very happy to oblige. Erasmus lesson one: Don’t be shy. No matter how many mistakes you make in your language (and I made a lot that day!) people will just appreciate it if you try, so just go for it.
After finding my house in the Viertel area of Bremen, I was introduced to my landlady, a German woman, and my housemate, an Italian girl named Maria. I was still extremely nervous and thought it was the worst way to start my year, but in hindsight, it was probably the best. It really makes you feel that after that, you can accomplish anything, and it gives you a LOT more confidence.
I carried on the rest of the year with that exact mentality and confidence. The Erasmus team in Bremen explain everything to you, and there are constant emails reminding you when you need to pick your modules and what else needs to be done, from where to set up your German bank account, to setting up your semester ticket. The lectures were daunting at first, but being surrounded by German nearly 24 hours a day, your understanding improves fast.
Being on Erasmus however, you really live for socialising and the parties that go along with it. The Erasmus team for Uni Bremen were so good and helped to organise parties and bar crawls so you get to meet as many other international students as possible (and of course many native Germans along the way!) Most of my best friends in Bremen are German which helps my language; it’s amazing how many new words you pick up when you’re just generally chit chatting on a night out, and I do genuinely believe the best way to improve your language is just by going to the pub for a few beers!!
The Bremen nightlife is really incredible, as are the people. Viertel is the more “studenty” area of Bremen, near many of the bars and clubs, and if you’re a bit of a social butterfly like me I really recommend it, you have all the best parts of the city on your doorstep! The Weser River in particular is really good around the summertime; expect lots of social gatherings there!
Above everything though, it’s really a cultural eye opener that I cannot recommend enough. Bremen has the Freimarkt, the oldest fair in Germany that is open at the end of October every year, and with over 4 million visitors it’s incredible to walk around and some of the rides they have are huge! The Weihnachtsmarkt is a must-see as well, as are the Glühwein mugs that you collect on your way around!
My Erasmus year also opened up my eyes to even more cultural experiences, not only in Bremen. I managed to visit Bonn and Cologne, Hannover, Hamburg and Berlin for a week. I went on trips with new friends to Poland, Estonia, Morocco and Spain, and I now have friends of various nationalities, be it German, Polish, Turkish, Italian, Spanish or French; it’s sort of nice knowing that in many countries in the world, there’ll always be a friend there for you with their door open and a couch for you to crash on! I have a lot of fond memories of my Erasmus year in Bremen – I wouldn’t want to have had them anywhere else.