Here it is. Today marks the two week point since my arrival in Köln, Germany. It’s been busy, to say the least, but I can’t say I would change a thing. If you ever decide to apply for a year abroad (which I highly recommend regardless), you’ll notice that little bits and pieces of the application will seem incredibly confusing and sometimes frustrating. I’ve split this post into three parts to make it as clear and concise as possible: the initial application, pre-arrival and post-arrival.
The Initial Application
Applying through Durham University was relatively simple. The coordinators were unbelievably helpful in explaining exactly what we needed to fill out / how the process would unfold, etc. Having applied for an Erasmus exchange, I wasn’t too worried about not getting my first choice of location (at the time, all Erasmus applicants got their first choice). If I remember correctly, we were required to fill out the generic application paperwork as well as write a motivational letter (#UCASalloveragain).
Once all that was complete, all we had to do was wait for the verdict. Weirdly enough, I was stranded in Amsterdam due to a cancelled flight when I received the email confirming my place at the University of Cologne (I believe this was at the beginning of the second term). Let’s say I went a little crazy in the waiting lounge.
All in all: pretty straight forward and great amount of help from Durham.
The build-up to moving abroad was a bit unconventional in my case. As mentioned in my last post, I was backpacking Vietnam days before leaving for Germany so I had to get everything ready beforehand. This included registration at the University of Cologne, finding accommodation, figuring out if I needed any specific documentation and basically all the other boring stuff that needs to happen before moving.
To make matters worse, Köln is infamous for its’ nightmarish housing market. With over 100 000 students living in the city itself, you can imagine that it quickly comes down to a ‘first come first served’ scenario. I must have sent out hundreds of emails begging for a bed and a roof above my head, and I started the search early. I have friends here who are staying in hostels 2 weeks into the term because they still haven’t found a place! I ended up finding a room in a private residence perfectly placed in between the University and the budding nightlife: I was a happy bunny.
All in all: don’t let the housing market scare you off, it’s doable and worth it in the end – just don’t be picky and start looking EARLY.
The road doesn’t end there! My dad was kind enough to drive the 5 hours separating Paris and my new home, so I could take more with me than the common Erasmus student. I share a flat with a dude from Finland – very quiet but very nice – and my room is more than enough to fulfil my needs (maybe I’ll post some pictures in a next post?)
During the first week, we had to register for our courses (strange system – so strange that I can’t even explain it, I had to have the International Office help me) and then for our exams (even more strange – was a bit disappointed with this German (un)efficiency ironically enough).
I also had to wait for hours to get my campus card (which is your public transport card for the whole region of NordRhein-Westfalen, your library card, your cafeteria card, basically your life on one card). Again, a few hours were waited to register with the townhall (biiiigggg fine if you don’t shout ‘hey ho I’m living here now’ within 2 weeks of arrival). And then a lot of hours were spent discovering the city and wasting money unnecessarily. More on that in another post.
I hope I have cleared up at least a few ambiguities, I hope I haven’t scared any of you off, and I genuinely hope you decide to take part in the Erasmus Program. It’s been 2 weeks and I already know I’ll hate the day that I need to leave.