In January of this year, I flew four hours across Europe to the of Meditteranean island of Malta. Malta has a complicated history, having been influenced by many European powers, including Great Britain, before achieving independence in 1964.
Going to class seemed to be the only activity I was capable of doing at first. I dreamt that I was at home sleeping in my double bed, only to wake up disorientated. Unfortunately this became a night-time trend.
I had pictured Malta as resembling Italy, as the two nations are close in proximity. However I was stunned by the middle-eastern influence present in every aspect of Maltese society. From clothing to buildings to the Maltese language, it seemed closer to Baghdad than Rome.
How did I cope? I accepted that this was where I lived. Whether I liked it or not. I set a routine for myself and the days and weeks started to pass by. I immersed myself in everything Maltese. Along with some friends, I began to see how lucky I was to have had such an opportunity. We partied, sailed, partied some more, hiked and even experienced traditional post-election day festivities. These in particular were a real eye opener, as politics dominated every advertising medium for the first six weeks of my Erasmus experience.
Saint Patrick’s Day came around quickly and experiencing that day as an Irish person in another country was out of this world. Our new friends from various countries wanted to see how the Irish spend the day and we were delighted to demonstrate some Irish traditions. This was also the first year that a St Patrick’s Day parade was held in the Maltese capital, Valetta.
Soon it was time for friends from home to visit. Before I knew it my family were here for a holiday and I was showing them the beautiful nature of the place. I hadn’t realised but after two months of complaining about the country I had been sent to, I began to fall in love with all of the aspects I once hated.
Many life lessons can be learned on Erasmus. Not every place is the same, not everything is going to turn out as you expect it to. First impressions might initially leave you feeling intimidated or out of your comfort zone, but by the time your Easter break arrives, you’ll be calling it ‘home’.