From Norwich to Mainz: My Erasmus Experience
Third year BA (Hons) Graphic Design student Kirsty Fisher reflects on her German Erasmus experience.
Many students dream about experiencing something as exhilarating as studying abroad. I’ve always been intrigued by other cultures and the idea of living in another country was very appealing, but can you imagine leaving the country all by yourself for six months?
When I heard about the Erasmus scheme, I knew it was something I had to be involved in. Despite the initial thoughts of fearing the unknown, I was excited. I knew that I would never be lucky enough to get this opportunity again.
A whole new world was ahead of me – art, culture, language, surroundings. I also thought this experience would enable me to enter a more global design field, opening stronger prospects for my future. I didn’t know what to expect, but there was one thing that I knew for sure – I had to go.
Choosing where to study
I chose to go to Germany because I had never been there before. I studied at Hochschule Mainz (The University of Applied Sciences). When browsing the school website I saw that they taught bookbinding and screen-printing, which pushed my decision to go to this school. At the end of the day I was going abroad to study, therefore the school choice was very important.
On my first day I met people from Spain, Italy, Australia, Korea, France, Colombia, and so many more places – they were all kind and welcoming. I stayed in a student dorm where five of my international friends also lived, which was nice as it gave us more opportunities to do things together.
In each class, I was given a project to last the whole of the semester. I chose Corporate Design, (which was mandatory for all Erasmus students as it was taught in English) Book Design, German, Bookbinding and Screen Printing. My projects involved reproducing ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ by Walter Benjamin into a deep speed reading book, transforming the layout to enhance reading ability. I also made lots of screen printed post cards and learned lots of new bookbinding techniques. I also had the opportunity to design posters for some Erasmus events (and get some shifts there too!).
Life in Germany
Mainz is located on the River Rhine, full of wonderful coloured buildings, dreamy sunsets, giant pretzels, and the best ice cream! During the summer, we spent most nights by the river, often taking disposable BBQ’s, music, beers, snacks, and chilled until dark. My friends and I also used our semester ticket to visit lots of cities and goon some beautiful hikes.
I wasn’t very familiar with the language at the beginning. Fortunately, German lessons were provided as an option to study, but I’d suggest learning as much as you can beforehand. I had some language difficulty and at times it was a struggle, but disregarding the obstacles I had to find a way of getting around it– usually involving translator, or making hand gestures! Just knowing a few sentences made everyday life easier.
My first Erasmus event was a boat party with lots of games – including beer pong! It was fun and gave us all the chance to let go of our nerves whilst getting to know each other.
If you are unsure whether to take part in the scheme, my advice would be to Just go for it. It is scary to begin with, but it does get easier. This experience was invaluable as I learned new ways of working, saw new landscapes, and met some truly inspiring characters. My work has got stronger – it’s opened my eyes as a student designer.
Even after writing this, my Erasmus journey is still difficult to summarise. The most rewarding part of this experience were the amazing people that I had the pleasure to spend every day with. I have made friends forever – a year on and we are still talking and visiting one another. I also realised that I would love to live and work abroad. Erasmus is my favourite university memory, and it could be yours too.