From personal experience I would say that the Erasmus students at the University of Leicester tend to keep to themselves and that there is not much integration between home and Erasmus/international students. Having said that, I have not met a huge amount of Erasmus students within my department, so the situation could be different within others, or perhaps this is a problem which exists in universities across the UK?
Now that I am an Erasmus student myself, I understand completely why there is a tendency to stick with the people you have met within the Erasmus society. The problem lies predominantly with the language barrier. No matter what your level in the native language is, beginner or advanced, it’s hard to strike up a conversation with a native speaker as they will have a degree of power over the situation. So you turn to the people who are equally as nervous as you in the language. It’s easier, there’s no pressure to be grammatically correct or to keep up with a quick speaking pace. This is one of the negatives I was forewarned about when choosing to study at a foreign university rather than do a work placement. At the moment it’s early days, more opportunities to integrate with French students will arise once the university routine kicks in properly. Until then I’ll be making good use of my language skills trying to keep up with my French housemates’ accelerated chatter!
It’s not all bad though, far from it. Being part of the Erasmus scheme means you meet new people from all walks of life. I’ve met people from Spain, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, America, South Korea, Ireland, and even been reunited with a girl from Wales! Despite our difference in nationalities, we all share a common ground. We’re all slightly out of our depth, we’re all a bit nervous, and we’re all getting used to living and studying in a new country. Even within Europe, there are big cultural differences and norms that take time to adjust to. So if anyone is getting irritated at how long it takes for the banks to issue debit cards, or if anyone from an Anglophone country is perplexed at the initial strangeness of dubbed American TV shows, we can turn to our fellow Erasmus students for support.
Yesterday, more than 50 Erasmus students went on a trip to Calanque de Port-Pin, which is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. We hiked up and down the rocks for an hour and were rewarded with a sunny afternoon at a beach. The water along the coast was crystal clear blue, I’ve never seen anything quite like it before. The trip was organised by one of our very own Erasmus students, with some guidance from members of the Erasmus society here at Université d’Avignon. The group photo shows just how many of us here are far from home but excited to meet new people and make new international friends. This big group has already started to naturally split into smaller groups of closer friends, but we’re all still lost individuals at this point. I can’t speak for anyone else here, but I’m happy to have met such a big group of diverse people. I hope that the Erasmus students at Leicester have something that resembles this 50 person safety net.