Generation Erasmus: 'I’ll miss this system when I go back home'
Mia Colleran talks to Michael Tierney who was fresh from a morning of snowboarding in the Alps
Michael Tierney is an Irish student from Trinity, currently on Erasmus in Science Po, Grenoble.
Talking to Michael, it would seem that Science Po really cater to the Erasmus students when it comes to outdoor sports. He told me that last semester he had rock climbing classes for his sports requirement and this year he has snowboarding classes every Tuesday for three hours.
When I asked Michael how he found the classes in Grenoble he admitted, ‘I’ll miss this system when I go back home’. He explained to me that there are fewer introductory classes and far more specialised classes.
Most exams don’t have a multiple choice option, meaning that you have to learn everything on the curriculum and, although it sounds time consuming, Michael explained that it lead to a more holistic and methodical approach to learning because everyone in the class was learning the same things, unlike back home where students can specialise in their own way quite early, ‘You have to know what you’re talking about; you don’t have all this disjointed information’.
Semester One vs Semester Two
Michael is in his second semester in Science Po and I asked him how the two semesters compared, ‘You really find your feet in the second semester. The first semester it was harder because you didn’t know the evaluation methods, you didn’t know how much study you had to put in’.
With time comes familiarity and Michael explained how he now knows where all the good places are, ‘I know where the best bakery is, I know the best pubs to go to, you just have it all sussed out. You’re much more comfortable in the second semester’.
When I asked him about his friends he said that he was mostly friends with Erasmus students. He talked about how it was harder to push yourself to make friends with the locals when there is always a group of Erasmus students around who speak the same language as you.
It is harder to make friends with the locals, he said, because the language barrier can really inhibit you from expressing yourself properly. It can be disheartening when you feel as though some of your personality is suppressed because of the language barrier, something all Erasmus students have experienced at one time or another.
Michael told me that being in a melting pot of cultures (i.e. on Erasmus), ‘You’re reflected onto yourself and you realise things about yourself that you never would have realised before’.
Is Grenoble well equipped for an Erasmus?
Michael told me that his university is quite small, more like a secondary school. Compared to my host university (Sophia Antipolis in Nice) Science Po has equipped their Erasmus students quite well for their year studying through the French educational system.
Science Po provided introductory classes to the French system, including classes in ‘dissertation writing’ and general ‘introductory classes’. The college also provide a class through the year called: International Track Tutoring, where an Erasmus student is paired with a 1st Year French student who can answer questions and practice French with the Erasmus throughout the year.
There is also different evaluation provided for Erasmus students in Science Po, generally more exams are orally based so the Erasmus students can improve their spoken French. In Science Po all the 2nd Years have to leave to go on Erasmus which means that the incoming Erasmus students to Science Po effectively take the place of the 2nd Years, making the college more Erasmus-friendly.
I asked Michael about his initial expectations for Grenoble. He told me that he had great expectations when he was at home over the summer, having always loved living far away and exploring new places. Michael went over a month early to settle in and explore Grenoble. He told me that the night before he left for Grenoble he was a bit apprehensive, he was reluctant to leave the comfort and familiarity of home,
‘You’re a bit de-based - when you first arrive and it’s easy to be a little homesick in the beginning’.
Michael said he quickly becomes attached to places and calls them home, ‘once you start doing things and going to events, the place starts to feel like home.
It’s a gradual process of becoming home’. He admitted that he would miss Grenoble next year but then he sagely added that, ‘so many of your good memories of a place are attached to the people in it and the time that you spend with the people there’, something that rings true for most students on Erasmus, ‘What I’m going to miss most about Grenoble manifests itself in the people that I’ve met’.
Advice for next year?
Finally, I asked Michael what advice he would have given himself in hindsight, ‘Be more relaxed about academic things. You only have a couple of months, time goes by so quickly.
Erasmus is such a formative experience; it’s important to meet people and get to know yourself and the culture a bit more’. He says that it’s good if you’re apprehensive about going on Erasmus, because you learn so much more, ‘It’s nice to have your four years broken by one year that you spent in a completely different educational system, even if your experience is a bit lacklustre at times. You gain so much from having experienced it’.