Generation Erasmus: Halfway Home
Mia Colleran looks back on the past four months she has spent in Nice on Erasmus.
Four months ago, if someone had told me that I would miss Nice while I was home in Ireland, I would have laughed. But the unimaginable happened and I miss the rich blue sky, the anonymity as I walk the streets (you’ll never be anonymous in Dublin) and the otherness of it all.
I’ve been back in our fair city for two weeks, the longest I’ve been home since I moved in September, and I’ve slotted right back into life here a little too quickly and easily for my liking. There’s something equally comforting and frightening about it, almost as if I was never gone; as if I made up my life in Nice. Dublin is still Dublin and it hasn’t changed much in my eyes.
Sixteen more Monday mornings
I’m having this sad realisation that my time in Nice is now limited. Before Christmas every day in Nice brought me farther from home … but now that I’ve hit the halfway mark every day brings me closer to home. I only have sixteen weeks left in Nice; sixteen more Monday mornings, desperately running for the bus with my roommate, almost tumbling down our five flights of stairs. Sixteen more deserted Sundays in France where you’re scarcely able to buy a baguette or cheese.
This distant ending is poignant and reminds me of the end of a long holiday. It is strange to live through what you know will soon be a fond memory. I know I will miss all of Nice’s little quirks; the song of the stones when you submerge your ears in the Mediterranean, the freshly baked croissants every day and the ridiculous (let me be emphatic here) opening hours of the post office and bank.
Funnily enough it was only in December that I stopped thinking about coming back to Trinity and I really started to accept Sophia Antipolis as my university (ironically I’m writing this article sitting in the Ussher library in Trinity). I’ve learnt that it was never a questions of ‘would Nice adopt me?’ but rather ‘would I adopt Nice?’. The city was always going to be there.
Learning outside of university
Arguably I’ve learnt more outside of university in Nice than I have inside … but secretly I think that’s the point. I haven’t heard anyone come back from their Erasmus gushing about the amount of new knowledge they’ve learnt at their host university. No, it’s the people, the culture, the newness of everything that they gush about. It’s learning to stand on your own two feet in a different language and culture.
I know I will look back on my time in Nice as a precious in-between time. I can’t ever return to it; my experience is mainly due to the people and the time we’re all here together. If I wanted to stay here forever I couldn’t – my friends will all leave and the next round of Erasmus students will arrive in September. We all have to go home and finish our degrees. I return to Nice on Monday and I wonder what it will be like knowing that every day now brings me closer to the end, closer to Ireland. Will I be happy? Sad?
Friends becoming family
There’s a different sense of community among Erasmus students in Nice. We look out for one another. The French won’t look out for us, so instead we became family to one another. Friendships are rarely based on mutual interests anymore, instead there’s a pack-like bond that links the Erasmus group. We’re all here together going through some of the best and worst experiences of our lives so far. Back in Dublin, it’s easy to be pickier about my friends but I think that Erasmus has taught me not to pre-judge people as much. I’ve met some wonderful people who I didn’t think I’d get along with in Nice. These people have challenged my perceptions of myself and they’ve also taught me that everyone is a medley of character traits, life experience and dreams. Our identity cannot be contained to one word like ‘Irish’ or ‘talkative’ or whatever people try and label you as.
Erasmus is not the easiest experience of my life by any means. I’ve had to deal with various levels of annoyingness, I’ve had to get used to never fully understanding anything and I’ve had to learn how to exist without the familiarity of friends, family or landscape. However, the self-confidence you gain from successfully integrating into a new country is invaluable.
I wonder if Nice will stay with me after I leave in April? I wonder if I will ever want to go back or if it’s purely a case of time and place and people all coming together harmoniously? I have a feeling that there’s big life lesson tucked away in all my life experiences in Nice, but I’ll have to work that out at the end.