Learning Curve

Learning Curve by kruuscht

This article was written by Becky Keogh, published on 7th September 2011 and has been read 1754 times.

It’s starting to get closer now. This time in four weeks I’ll hopefully be talking to you all from my flat which I’ll be starting to make my home for the next four months. I decided a while back that with four weeks to go, I’d finally start getting my bum into gear and getting down to the nitty gritty. I don’t think I’ve ever been as organised in my entire life as I have been these past three days! I’ve also learnt a lot this past week. I think it just goes to show that really, you can say you know it all but you never really do.
As my friends have all slowly but surely gone off, I find myself in the odd position of most likely being the last person in my University to be leaving British soil. My flight is probably the only thing I sorted a good two months in advance (apart from getting all my forms to the University and renewing my EHIC) and boy, am I glad I did! When to arrive was a big unknown for me – Augsburg, like many other Universities, puts on a free pre-semester German language course for all Erasmus students which starts on the 4th of October (as the 3rd is a national holiday). After a couple of frantic, terribly phrased e-mails to a lovely man in the accommodation office, I found out that my flat in Germany needs some work doing and I probably won’t be able to move in until the 5th, not the 1st as I previously thought (moving in at weekends seems to be a big no-no for whatever reason). However, nothing could be set in stone until I’d paid all my fees and spoken to the man in charge of the Wohnheim so he suggested flying out on the 3rd and staying in a hostel for one or maybe two nights. I’m very glad of these frantic e-mails – because of them, I was able to get a direct flight to Munich at a reasonable hour of the day from Manchester (living near Birmingham, Manchester isn’t that far away) for not that much money with Lufthansa. I looked at the price of my flight last night and it was almost double that. It’s definitely worth writing or ringing several times, even if you think you’re being annoying. Information like that is invaluable and can save you tens, even hundreds of pounds.

I’ve also learnt that there is no such thing as a stupid question and if someone offers you help, you take it. Augsburg has a fantastic ‘tutor’ system where you’re allocated a local student who is there to ask any questions you don’t feel like you could ask the International Office and will help you in any way they can. I was allocated to a girl named Mona who has been nothing short of an angel. She’s offered to pick me up from the train station, take me to register at the Uni and sign up for a bank account (something which I’ve heard is notoriously difficult for a non-native speaker to do in one visit!) and she’s told me how to apply for courses before I get there to guarantee I get a spot. I haven’t felt silly asking her anything and she doesn’t mind if I ask in English so I can definitely express what I mean. She also pointed me in the direction of the Augsburg Erasmus Facebook group where I’ve spoken to lots of people from all over the world and got to know them a little bit in advance. Basically, she has been a lifesaver!

Something else which has been causing me MASSIVE headaches is banking and I think this is something people need warning about! Being the naive person I am, I assumed that when it came to paying my housing fees from my British student account to the German housing association’s account, I could do it as easily as transferring money to another British account. So the day before my deadline, I got the money into my account and tried to make the payment online. That really didn’t work. I rang the Natwest hotline to find out that to make foreign payments, you have to physically go into a branch and fill in a form. This form then has to be processed and then the payment has to clear so the whole thing takes about 5 working days – not useful when you need to have the payment made the next day! Other banks can do it over the phone or via the internet (I had to get my Mum to make the payment on my behalf) but it still has to clear and so far hasn’t cleared in the 4 working days since we made the phonecall. I’ve obviously contacted the nice man in the Wohnen office and sorted it all out but it definitely hasn’t helped my stress levels! It’s also been useful to know that the easiest way of transferring money across while you’re abroad is to get a parent/guardian/partner made a third party on your account to make all the transfers on your behalf. It takes ten minutes to sort and is a lot easier than sending letters like my bank originally suggested I did. Definitely something I wish I’d known a month or so ago!


Another thing I’ve learnt is the importance of being organised. I’ve turned a partially used notebook into a Year Abroad Prep book and have two lists on the go at the minute: ‘Things to Do’ and ‘Things to Buy’. Doesn’t sound like much, but there’s a hell of a lot on the ‘Things to Do’ list and it keeps growing by the day; for everything I tick off, two more things get added! But at least I have it all written down somewhere and I know exactly what has to be done in the next few weeks. Some things are silly, others are quite urgent but all of them need doing. Similarly, a ‘Things to Buy’ list is definitely saving me money in the long run! Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you that I am terrible with money but I can safely say that having a list which I can carry around in my handbag and look at has helped me with not buying silly, frivolous things. I’ve even saved enough to get my hair dyed professionally! See what I mean? Terrible with money...


I’m off on a family holiday in a couple of days which will be a welcome break from everything, bar the relentless checking of e-mails to try and arrange moving in to my flat and renting some bedding! The Year Abroad stress really does never end...

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