One of the most difficult tasks before moving away is to make sure people around you understand and accept what you are doing. It could be your friends, your partner or your family. The former will probably be more likely to understand and support you, sharing your excitement and hoping to come and visit you and your Erasmus city. They’ll already be thinking about all the parties they can go to with you…
Boyfriends or girlfriends might not take it so well: some couples break up even before one of them leaves or after a couple of months. This means they probably weren’t meant to be together and that their relationship wasn’t strong enough to survive such a big change and long distance. On the other hand, many relationships survive the long distance and become stronger thanks to the experience, which can make couples closer despite being in two different countries.
The hardest people to convince are your family. If they don’t understand why you’re doing this, you can’t break up with them! Plus you will need their emotional as well as financial support. And they won’t consider parties and alcohol as an essential part of the experience like your friends do. If they take it badly, try to see it from their point of view: you’ve been living with them since you were born and this isn’t just a holiday for a couple of weeks. All families are different, react in different ways and value different things, so there is no clear guide on how to approach the subject. Only you can know how to speak to your family, but here is some advice you may find useful to begin with.
First of all, even though the Erasmus program has a reputation for parties, alcohol and sex, it can be an educational experience if you embrace its true aim. You need to make your family aware of how it can be helpful for your future and career. Employers now value this kind of experience abroad more than ever and considering how difficult it is to enter the job market, which demands such high standards, this can really make a difference. Students who have studied or worked abroad are more attractive to employers and find employment earlier than their peers.
Explain that Erasmus is not only about studying (you already knew that, didn’t you?); if it was only about going to university, you could do that in your own country. It is about getting to know new people and building a network of friends as well as contacts from a professional point of view. It is about being independent and growing up. You will be completely on your own, working things out and solving problems alone. You will learn how to be on your own and to make new friends. You will learn to adapt to change easily and to be proactive. You will gain decision-making and problem-solving skills. You will learn a new language and have more options if things don’t work out the way you want after graduation.
Make sure your family understand all the positive things you will gain by doing this and highlight the fact that it will not be easy, especially at the beginning, and that you will need all the support they can give you. You will miss them and they will miss you but it is just for a few months. If you have a friend who has already been abroad for a few months, ask him to talk about it with your family or if you have found some interviews showing the advantages of these experiences, show them.
Don’t worry: some families will accept it easily, while others might take a bit longer. But since they can’t stop you, they will ultimately embrace what you’re doing and support you. Thank them for letting you do that, for accepting a tough time apart and for being on your side, always.