Last time I sent an update I had yet to start the first semester of my exchange, and as I am writing this I am sending through the final documents to conclude my Erasmus experience. I will try to sum up everything shortly, however it was a long year and I am guessing it will be a long post.
To my knowledge, I was the first to attempt to spend one whole year at another institution, which meant that there would be a few obstacles in the way. Germany has a very strict and diverse system of rewarding credits and distributing classes. Some classes I missed the deadlines, some were a bit challenging and I will admit that at times it got tough. However, there is a light at the end of every tunnel. I feel very lucky to have had the support of everyone at Strathclyde, in particular of Dr. Papoff, whom I cannot thank enough. You just need to remind yourself that everyone is here to help you as long as you do your best as well.
Probably the most exciting and rewarding part of this experience is my new found passion in Materials Physics. One of the main reasons I wanted to study abroad was to experience life at another institution and learn about new aspects of physics. Classes like Solid State or Nuclear Physics were very much the same as what I had learned at Strathclyde, but this new subject was like therapy. I could sit in that lecture for hours. This year has definitely rekindled my passion for Physics and I cannot wait to be back for fifth year.
The second most exciting thing about studying Physics in Germany, is the amount of hands-on experimental work you get to do. In addition to my project, I attended three experimental classes. The practical exercises were particularly exciting because you had the opportunity to conduct experiments inside the actual research labs and we were taught to use a large variety of methods and instruments. If it wasn’t for the reports you had to write afterwards, these experimental exercises were as fun as a day in a Disneyland for physicists.
Now let’s talk a bit about the social aspect. I will be completely honest here and say that even though Germans are extremely nice people, they do take some “time to thaw”. However, there is much to learn from them. Everyone I met was into sports, spoke perfect English (and more languages) and had other impressive skills. Being constantly surrounded by such impressive yet friendly people, I got the courage to push out of my comfort zone considerably. In that regard I can say this year has changed me completely as a person (for the much better), and I suppose that is what Erasmus does to you.
In addition to this, I lived at the heart of student life, a huge collection of student housing. Germans really like to party, and they sure know how to throw one. There is ALWAYS something going on in Muenster, that the fear of missing out is a thing. Muenster has a strategic location, making it very easy to travel to almost all main large German cities in the north for free using your student card and countries like the Netherlands and Denmark. I decided to take it a bit further and awarded myself a trip to Grand Canaria with my friends after the first semester. Did I mention the amount of holidays we had?
However, after trying to keep up with all of it I decided that studying Physics is a full time commitment and retired to my office. Sometimes you just have to admit you can’t have it all in life. What you can have, is all the new amazing people I met. People like my flatmate Steffan, who made the best morning coffee with our philosophical rants, my new lab partners, in particular Drazen, who taught me his amazing work ethic, Kristina, who played amazing music, Joana, my “papi”, Marta, the always smiling girl from Spain, and many others. (I miss you all terribly already if you’re reading this)
So you see in the end, from someone who has now lived in 6 cities (not counting anything less than 3 months stay), I can only tell you this: everywhere I’ve been, I have seen streets, cars, buildings, parks etc. Some of them were not that pretty and some of them were beautiful. However the human mind learns to notice these things only for a short while. What really stays with you in the end is the people you met, the experiences you shared with them and how they made you feel. After every experience you come out as a new, more complete person. So I shall leave you with the famous lyrics from Smash Mouth’s hit, “All Star”:
“You never know if you don’t go,