My name is Marina Cook and I study German and Music. I chose to spend my year abroad in Gӧttingen, Germany as an Erasmus student. The choice to go to Gӧttingen, a lesser-known student city just south of Hannover, was a relatively random one, but I could not have been happier with my choice.

When first arriving in September, I took part in a four-week intensive language course where I was able to get involved intensively with improving my language, and meet a lot of new people. I was, however, very aware that I wanted to make German friends, and avoid spending all my time with other English students. The fact that I had found a flat online with three other German girls helped me enormously, not only practically (there was a lot of challenges at the beginning, for example opening a bank account) but also with getting used to speaking and hearing German all the time, and learning everyday talk.

Leading up to Christmas, Germany is beautiful; they really go all out for Advent. We had a Christmas market every day, and the weather was bitterly cold, which made the Glühwein all the better. By this point I was busy with university courses, singing in the local choir, and doing a tennis course, and taking part in regular open-mic nights at the local bar. I felt really settled. Getting involved with the music world in Gӧttingen really opened a lot of doors for me and made me a lot of friends. All this of course helped improve my German too.

Living in Europe really does have a different feel to being on an island, and I learnt so much about the different parts of Germany, the Bundeslӓnder, and what they all think of one other!

I also ran a 10km race and did a sprint Triathlon —  it is so much fun to get involved with local activites. I am a keen cycler, and explored much of Niedersachsen on my bike which is also a great way of getting to know the area and all there is around you. A lot of people hadn’t even been to the lake just 3km outside of Gӧttingen – a missed opportunity!

There is so much you can make of Erasmus, but a word of warning: there are two different kinds of years you can have. I witnessed in Gӧttingen a large group of English students who were always together  — of course they still learnt German – but nowhere near as much as they could if they had branched out and tried to make German friends. It is such an opportunity – and one not to be wasted.