Erasmus and Courage

Jose Avila studied at HfG Schwäbisch Gmünd. In this article he describes his experiences as an international student at HfG.
teddy bear looking at sign with directions to different rooms in the inner yard of the university of design in Schwäbisch Gmünd
teddy bear looking at sign in front of the university of design in Schwäbisch Gmünd

As an Erasmus Student you have to get out of your comfort zone and deal with all the fears this new experience has for you: New social interactions, a different language and an unknown culture.

According to Wikipedia, source of all knowledge in the world, a comfort zone is a psychological state in which things feel familiar to a person and they are in control of their environment. So, your comfort zone is basically living in a place you call home, stepping out the door and recognizing everything that surrounds you, being able to read letters on the walls, and the most important thing: feeling comfortable with family and friends.

Sometimes it’s frightening when life forcefully pushes you out from your zone of feeling “homelike”, so the choice of being an Erasmus student in a completely different culture and pulling yourself out from that comfort zone takes a lot of courage. This article summarizes the experiences of some brave Erasmus students, and it‘s also a small compilation of “fears” that we – including myself – face during this adventure. These fears are just elements that we always take for granted in our comfort zone.

In order to create a real and honest result, it was necessary to have two different perspectives: Erasmus students in Germany and German Erasmus students. It’s interesting to consider that even though we all come from different countries and cultures, we share –as humans – the same challenges when it comes to being strangers in an unknown place.

In order to create a real and honest result, it was necessary to have two different perspectives: Erasmus students in Germany and German Erasmus students.

Experience

Personal events, knowledge, adventures, emotions, and sensations are all  bottled up in the word “experience.” Going alone to another country to live and study is  perhaps a completely different adventure in your life and no one is really prepared to do it until they are already there, out of the comfort zone. This new experience includes all the following points in this compilation list, but it’s the first step you take when you decide to study one or more semesters abroad.

Personal events, knowledge, adventures, emotions, and sensations are all  bottled up in the word “experience.”

Language

This is the biggest and hardest barrier a person can face anywhere, because communicating with people or being able to understand everything that surrounds you is one of the most important and basic elements to create a comfort zone. Communication can affect –positively or negatively – this experience, and is the key to interacting, not only as a social matter, but as an independent person with your environment.

Communication can affect –positively or negatively – this experience and is the key to interacting, not only as a social matter but as an independent person with your environment.

Social interaction

Sometimes people like to rely part of their comfort zone on friends or in social interactions and they share the same “fear” in this new experience: not being able to connect with people.

As cliché as it may sound, we all need “someone” – singular or plural – sometimes: someone open minded, friendly and willing to help you get through all the things this adventure holds. That “someone”, can come from anywhere – local or Erasmus – because the most important thing is that you feel less as an outsider in a place you don’t know anyone.

Sometimes people like to rely part of their comfort zone on friends or in social interactions and they share the same “fear” in this new experience: not being able to connect with people.

Culture

Each continent and country has different behaviours and norms that create society as we know it and sometimes it can be hard to fit in. As an exchange student, one of the main goals is trying to learn from another culture, compare it with your own and at the end take the best of both. The purpose of this experience is to learn as a student, but if you go with an open mind you will also learn and grow, not only as a designer, but as a person and you can only discover that out of your comfort zone.

The past four points were “fears” Erasmus had before their adventure, but the real fear comes when you are already in the middle of your experience and you start missing your “feeling homelike” zone. This is the moment where you have to convince yourself that you have the courage to overcome this fear to keep the experience growing, that you can always find the way to communicate with others, that you have the skills to rely on “someone” in case you need to and that you can keep trying to fit in a new culture. That is all the courage you need to be an Erasmus.

Each continent and country has different behaviours and norms that create society as we know it and sometimes it can be hard to fit in.

Personally, I want to encourage you to do two things: first be brave, get out of your comfort zone and if you have the chance to study abroad do not hesitate. We all need a fresh start once in a while and this experience is one of the best ways to do that. Second, but not less important, try to help the exchange students  –in any way– to avoid feeling like outsiders and creating their comfort zones here. Maybe if you were already an Erasmus in another country you can relate to this. We all need some help from time to time.

Text und Bilder: José Avila

Ich bin Jose Avila

Portrait eines lachenden jungen Mannes mit kurzen schwarzen Haaren vor blauem Hintergrund

Name: Jose Avila

Alter: 29

Wohnort:

Beruf:

Hauptcharakterzug:

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