Isanya Köhne

If there’s a country within Europe that the Dutch in particular have affinity for, it’s France. Each summer many families head south to enjoy the hot Mediterranean weather. But not only do the Dutch go there, many others from all over Europe and beyond come see what the country has to offer. Lydia, who’s originally from Málaga, Spain, and currently doing her masters in Accounting and Control at the Radboud University in Nijmegen, also took to France, to Bordeaux, to do her exchange. “I did my exchange in Bordeaux. Originally I really wanted to go to Ireland to improve my English but I also selected Bordeaux due to their program and English taught course. Till today, I’m so glad I went to Bordeaux which was the best experience of my life”.

Friends & Traveling

I’m not going to lie, the procedure leading up to my exchange was horrible. My university was pretty strict when it came down to the courses. I had to make sure that I wouldn’t end up having a study delay and the amount of paperwork occasionally made me think if the whole thing was even worth it. But it definitely was. I think the most valuable thing about going on exchange is the open-mindedness. Every person you meet comes from a different country, has a different background and will enlighten you with new thoughts and ideas you didn’t think you’d have. My exchange definitely opened my eyes to a completely new world. I lived in a flat that I managed to find throughout a housing platform from my University. I had four roommates, one of them being my friend from Málaga, two girls from France and a Korean guy. Our flat was close to the university so that made life real easy in order to get to those mandatory morning classes on time. When I first arrived, I remember I was instantly excited and curious for this life experience. However, I was also a bit worried that my English level was not good enough in order to communicate with other internationals, as well as my French good enough in order to do daily tasks. In the end it was fine, I was able to find my way in both languages.

Down memory lane

I made so many great memories, it’s difficult to just pick one of them, as they’re all amazing, but there’s one in particular that always makes me smile. One week, my group of friends and I decided to rent a house in the famous wine region of France and stay there for a few days. We rented some cars and visited different villages, tasted the traditional food, and obviously also enjoyed the good wine. The best part about this memory is, however, not the touristic aspect, but the evenings back home when we’d prepare dinner all together like a family.

There’s also our trip to San Sebastian during the second week of exchange. Even though we didn’t know each other for that long we felt it was right to do a trip together already because it was still summer and university hadn’t started yet. I remember this trip as yet another one of my best memories of my Erasmus. It was the moment when I realized that these people that I had only met two weeks ago, were already winning my heart. We were full of energy and excited to live these new experiences together. Despite the fact that we probably slept for only three hours that whole weekend, we enjoyed every single moment. We’d travel every other week and we would go to the most amazing places in France. I was amazed by every single city or village I got to visit. It sounds a bit funny, but I even visited my own country while I was on exchange. Bordeaux is really close to the Northern border of Spain, and since I’m originally from the south I had never been up there before. The entire wine region, all the small villages, Toulouse, the castles in the Loire Valley… it’s all stunning. When someone asks about my exchange, there are many stories that come to mind, but those unexpected plans that turn into the best days are the best to tell. For example, one Sunday some friend of mine and I decided to go to ‘La dune du Pilat’. On our way back we decided it was a nice idea to have a French night for dinner, which is a cheese and wine kind of night. It was Sunday so I didn’t expect to make it too late. The next thing I remember was heading home at 7 in the morning to have a shower before my morning class, oops

Melting Potes

Besides traveling, my week would usually look a little something like the following. I had about three or four days dedicated to classes so I’d be at university then, have lunch with my friends, go to the library and something fun in the evenings. The courses were really interactive. My favourite was by far ‘Negotiation Techniques’ where we always had to play different roles. On Tuesdays the student association would organise parties for the international and French students of the business school and sometimes we’d go to those theme parties which were always really fun. On the weekend my friends and I would go somewhere new to visit or we’d explore Bordeaux further. Most of my fellow classmates were French and there was only a small group of international students. For all the working groups I wasn’t paired up with other internationals and therefore got to know a lot of my French classmates. But it was really easy to connect with other international students. During the first week we had an introduction week with all the internationals and there were several group chats that the association for International student, Melting Potes, created. They organized different social events during the first week so by the end I had made a group of friends that had become my Erasmus family till the very end of my exchange.

Streets of Bordeaux

Although France is pretty similar to Spain in many ways, my biggest shock was the eating schedule. As a Spaniard, I’m used to eating quite late, so having lunch at 12:00 was definitely something I had to get used to. Also, I still don’t understand whether it’s ‘chocolatine’ or ‘pain au chocolait’. All in all, I knew that this experience was going to mark the rest of my life, but looking back I would’ve opted for an entire year abroad instead of just a semester. Yes, the country is definitely a bit more expensive compared to where I’m from but I also managed to travel a lot. Luckily, there are aids such as the Erasmus+ grant. If you’re someone that’s thinking of heading on exchange, I can’t tell you enough to just go! You will not regret it, even if the paperwork is frustrating in the beginning or finding housing isn’t a smooth procedure, in the end it’s all worth it! And if France is your choice, I recommend trying as many cheeses and wines as you can. There is so much variety in France and it’s exciting and delicious to try it all out. I loved France from the very first moment, with all the amazing cities that I visited during my trips. But there was one day that I was walking on the streets of Bordeaux, looking up at the architecture, noticing how vivid the city was. That’s the moment I really realized how much I loved it to live there, I felt so lucky.

Au revoir, mon Bordeaux

The day of my return is probably one of the saddest moments up till now. I remember having to say goodbye to one of my friends at the airport and I couldn’t stop crying until I arrived back home. I woke up the next day in my own bed and realized I wasn’t in Bordeaux anymore, at that moment I believed I’d never get over my post Erasmus depression. I’m still in contact with some of my friends from exchange, especially with one person in particular. She lives in Germany and now that I live in the Netherlands, we meet quite often. I have also been back in Bordeaux last Christmas. I was doing a road trip from Spain up to the Netherlands and I knew I needed to stop in that city for a few hours before continuing my journey. Every street I walked in, I felt incredibly nostalgic. After returning to Spain, thanks to my time abroad, I joined ESN. I felt that I needed to keep living in an international environment and be around people from different cultures. This has probably been the second-best decision I’ve made.  

Thank you so much Lydia for taking us on your journey to the beautiful Bordeaux, France. For anyone thinking of heading into this direction, feel free to send Lydia a message with your questions if you’ve got them!