I met Sarah back in 2010 in our hometown. We were what you could call the “weird kids,” walking around with purple hairs, mangas in our bags, listening to Green Day and Nirvana. We now are in 2017, our hair is back to normal (thank God), and I’ve been following her study abroad experience through social media with interest, and a bit of curiosity. After I had visited her in Berlin a few months ago, I thought that sharing her experience with you might be interesting.
Where are you from, and where do you live at the moment?
I am from France, and at the moment I live in Berlin, Germany. But a few months ago I was residing in Växjö, Sweden.
You were in an international high school when you were living in France. Did you always know you wanted to study abroad? Why and when did you decide to do it?
I always knew that I was going to study abroad. I have planned to go to Canada, that was my dream, but I had visa issues, so I ended up in Sweden. I decided to study abroad when I was around 14.
How did you manage to do it?
I applied by myself, I have a scholarship, and my parents give me money. Finding an accommodation was easy in Berlin as I am living in a student residence, but in Sweden, it was harder. That is a friend of a friend of my parents who helped me.
How did your first days go? Was the reality different than what you expected?
My first days in Sweden were horrible; it was not what I expected at all. I felt disappointed, sad, and homesick. In Berlin, it was better because I already had this experience of living abroad, but still, I miss France. It’s hard when you don’t know anybody, you have no friends, and you have got to start “a new life.”
Where the school and classes different compares to what you were used to in France?
In both cases, I feel like it’s easier to express myself in class, people are less judgmental, teachers aren’t “mean.” I mean, they seem happier to teach than in France (in general). They don’t like when you’re late, and they’re concerned about being punctual. They’re very open and easy to talk with.
I feel like moving abroad on your own in an unknown city can be stressful and a little overwhelming. What was the hardest thing/most annoying part of your journey?
When I moved to Berlin, the most difficult thing was at the airport. I missed my flight connexion because my first plane was late then the company lost my suitcase, and when I finally arrived my student residence was closed. However, the first morning, the second day when you wake up in this unknown environment, it is kind of weird. You have to do a lot of administrative stuff, and go to the supermarket for the first time, you have to figure out which station is yours, where’s your school
You’re French, lived in Sweden and now you’re in Germany… How do you deal with the language barrier?
In Sweden it was alright, everybody or almost was speaking English, cashiers, bus drivers… but here in Berlin, it’s not the same, so sometimes you cannot understand or making people understand you, and it’s frustrating.
As an art student, do you think living abroad has changed the way you create?
It changed my perception of life and so the way I create. You meet people from all over the world, with unique stories, and it influences you.
What do you like the most about studying abroad?
I enjoy speaking English first of all, and the reaction of people when I say I live in Berlin and I used to live in Sweden. But also, it gives autonomy and social skills.
In the future, do you plan on going back to France? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I plan to go back to France but at the same time I don’t want to stop discovering the world, so I have this hope to study in New York. In five years I wish I will graduate. I see myself as a photographer traveling around the world. It’s like a drug, the more countries you visit, the more you want to travel.
Any tips for people who wants to study abroad?
I would say to someone who wants to study abroad: “Are you sure ?”. Because it may be expensive or hard to go back home, or you won’t even have the possibility to do so. Then I would say even if you don’t speak proper English or any other languages, living abroad is going to increase your skills. Also, if you’re a “free mover” (like if you want to move alone and not with Erasmus or similar program) I’d recommend to live in a shared flat because being alone and without any friends can be hard at the beginning.
+Find Sarah Here