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This is a guest blog by current student Árdís Aslaugardottir studying BA (Hons) Events Management

Hello! I am Árdís, an Icelandic BA (Hons) Events Management undergraduate at Bournemouth University. At first, I wasn’t really that excited to do a semester abroad because at Bournemouth University I’m already technically ‘studying abroad’. That said, my best friend and classmate, Emilia sparked my interest when she considered the Erasmus + work programme offered at Bournemouth University. We both decided to complete a semester abroad in Faro, in the University of Algarve in Portugal.  Because I come from Iceland and she comes from Finland we decided to go somewhere sunny! The Algarve has over 300 sunny days a year, so it was a no brainer and a very easy decision.

This was my second time moving abroad to study so I wasn’t that nervous.  I have been to the Algarve as a kid with my family three times before too, so I only had happy memories from Portugal. Going with Emilia also had me very relaxed because I knew for sure I would have someone to lean on. Since we only picked the University of Algarve due to its location, I kind of expected the University to be very different from Bournemouth Uni. It definitely was. I had no expectations from the Erasmus network, none of my friends or relatives had tried it before so I did not know what to expect at all. I think to have no expectations turned out amazing, the Erasmus network is the best and it truly made my time in Faro so good.

Studying at the University of the Algarve is definitely a very different experience from what I am used to both in Iceland and at Bournemouth. Firstly, everything is in Portuguese, all documents, all information about the lectures and seminars, their virtual learning area, everything! The majority of staff at the University do not speak any English, and by staff I mean the people working at the information desk, the printer office, the canteen, the cafeteria, even some of the professors. Whilst this may seem daunting, it worked to my advantage as i was able to pick up some Portuguese.

The grading system is from 0-20 which was very new for me. It was not mandatory to reference your work, the assignments were not checked for plagiarism and you handed them in by email or by printing out the assignment and hand it in physically.  There wasn’t a schedule as such, so it didn’t feel regimented. It all felt really relaxed.

In terms of a social life, there are so many events that ESN has to offer. Every Monday there was an international movie night, every Wednesday there was a Karaoke party at Piper’s, and every Friday there was an international party at Patrimonio, a club in downtown Faro. Then, of course, there were so many other events which were held maybe 1 or 2 times over the semester. The majority of the Erasmus students would always show up to these events and have great fun.

The Erasmus students had a WhatsApp group where we would discuss to meet up which meant we never felt isolated or on our own. Our favourite things to organise and do was watch the sunsets on the marina, play volleyball at the beach, meet up for coffee and a pastry, and have house parties. I could never have imagined gaining so many friends through Erasmus and I am so lucky. Every Erasmus student in Faro leaned on each other and gained valuable friendships.

The experience impacted me in a way that I have more understanding of other nations and their culture. During my time on Erasmus+, I met many people from countries that I have never met anyone from, and so many of those people were also meeting an Icelander (me) for the first time. So it was very interesting to get to know them and learn a little bit about their ways, and a couple of words in their language. Many Erasmus+ students had notes on their phones about how to say simple words like: thank you, cheers, good morning, good night, friends, party, etc., in many languages. Personally, I had a note on my phone for Portuguese, Spanish, Greek, German, Finnish and Slovak.

Moving abroad definitely changes you, you toughen up, get more independent, and you widen your horizon. Moving abroad teaches you to be more humble, gives you more understanding for immigrants and of course more appreciation for your home country.

Doing a semester abroad gave me more self-confidence and  made me realise that I could do anything I want to do. As a result of this realisation, I am moving to Brussels for a challenging Events Assistant internship for one year.

I believe, now that I have lived in three and soon to be four different countries, it has allowed for me to adjust my communication style to meet the needs of different people and situations better than I used too.

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