Generation Erasmus: 'Erasmus doesn’t give you exactly what it says on the tin'
Mia Colleran interviews fellow Erasmus student Meadhbh Ní Ruairc who is studying at the prestigious Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Meadhbh Ní Ruairc is studying music at the prestigious Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
Why did you decide to go on Erasmus?
My fear is that I’ll become too comfortable in one place and stop learning, so Erasmus seemed to make the most sense. As a musician you never stop learning, you’re always learning from someone or something and I could sense that I was getting too comfort able in my own little bubble. It’s been good to push the boundaries. It’s been quite scary but now that I’ve done it, it all seems so much easier. I’m constantly exhausted but I’m learning so much.
How did the application process work?
I had to send out audition tapes and write specific motivational letters for each college when applying to go on Erasmus. Music is different that way, the applications take a lot more work. I heard back for colleges in April, although it still wasn’t quite definite. I had to wait until all of DIT had received their end of year marks in June before I was formally accepted for Erasmus.
What was it like when you first moved over to Glasgow?
I think it’s impossible to fully accept that you’re moving until you’ve moved. You talk to everyone before you go and everyone knows that you’re moving but it I remember sitting in the introductory meeting during Fresher’s Week in Glasgow and thinking ‘I’m here, this is actually happening’.
I was also by myself; there are only one or two other Erasmus students in my year, so I had to learn quickly. Initially you latch on to one another until you find your feet and then you’re fine. But at the beginning it was difficult to do the simplest of things, like navigating your way around. You really are thrown in and expected just to know what’s happening and what’s going on because you’re not a first year. At the beginning you feel very removed from everyone at home, because you’ve only been gone a week but already things feel so different.
It’s amazing how you can adapt to your surroundings so quickly! I’m only here little over a month but once I got over the initial hump I was fine and now I’m always busy here.
What does your day-to-day schedule look like?
A music student’s life is a working life already. I’m in college 8am until 8pm every day. It’s all very exhausting. Then after twelve hours of university someone will ask if you want to go to the pub and you say ‘sure, why not’ … and then you wonder what you can’t move on Saturday. But that’s what Erasmus is, I think; you’re exhausted but you’re having an amazing time.
I came on Erasmus for the Conservatoire. People go on Erasmus just to have a party for a year but that’s not really possible with music. You get what you want to get out of Erasmus. If people think that they’re only going away to party and drink then that’s all they’re really going to get.
What makes music such a particular subject to study on Erasmus?
You can’t bluff music. You can’t cram a year’s worth of practice into one week before the exam. Glasgow is a great place for classical music – there are so many people who are so interested in it, far more than at home. There’s so much on and that really makes a difference. Just recently I was at a six hour Beethoven concert and it was nice to see the auditorium filled with young and old alike.
Any advice you wish you had received about Erasmus?
In hindsight I would have come over to Glasgow two weeks before college. Although this doesn’t apply to me, I would also recommend that people research their college thoroughly. Find out as much as you can about your host university. Talk to students who were there before and ask questions. Inevitably though, Erasmus doesn’t give you exactly what it says on the tin.
How do you find living in Glasgow and studying in the Conservatoire?
Glasgow is a great place to go if you’re crazy about classical music. There’s so much happening here. However Scotland is freezing - one of the first things I had to do here was buy a winter coat. There’s definitely a wind and it cuts you in two. Honestly I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to properly explore Glasgow, but I will!
There’s a nice group of people on Erasmus in the Conservatoire. There are people here doing Masters, student studying vocal performance, instrumentalists, and then there are also students of drama and ballet. It’s nice to be with so many creative people and the Conservatoire really try and mix the Erasmus people in.
Do you often feel homesick?
To be honest with you, I’ve become more Irish than the Irish themselves here in Glasgow! At home I’m not typically Irish nor am I hugely patriotic. But when you’re on Erasmus, Ireland suddenly becomes an idyllic land where nothing goes wrong.
In terms of homesickness, I honestly haven’t really had the time to miss home. It’s true that sometimes you have to force yourself to get out and do something and you can’t stay at home watching TV.
Skyping people is great; it stops you feeling removed from what’s happening at home. You learn a lot about your friendships at home when you’re on Erasmus – who’s stayed in touch with me, who’s still thinking of me when I’m not physically there … and it’s mostly been good to know. It’s lovely knowing that there are people who are willing to make that extra effort.
What do you miss most about home?
I miss the familiarity of home. Like when you go in to town and you bump into five people that you know. I’ve come to realise that Irishness is very special. There are small things that Irish people say that they just don’t understand in Glasgow; like when I say ‘that’s gas’ people genuinely don’t understand what I’m saying. And of course I miss my family.
Do you think that Erasmus had made you more open to living abroad?
I’ve always been very interested in different cultures and different ways of living. Being here has just confirmed what I already knew about myself. It’s amazing to see that you can adapt to and live in an entirely new city. I definitely would be more open to living abroad.
Top Tip: If you’re thinking of going on Erasmus next year, find someone who was was/is in that university and ask them all your questions. University websites are great but they don’t tell you much about what it’s actually like to live and study there.