Fine Art - MA student Camille Biddell went to Strasbourg for her 3rd year of study during the 2015/16 academic year.
What were some of your first impressions when you started your time studying abroad?
At first it felt quite chaotic and overwhelming. I had nowhere to live, had landed somewhere I had never been before, and felt as though there were a thousand things flying over my head. There was a lot of paperwork to fill in, and me and the other Erasmus students revelled in our cluelessness slightly. But it was so exciting!
We were incredibly well looked after by the international staff, who gave us all the information they could and tried to make us feel at home.
What activities outside of your studies did you get involved in?
My flatmate owned a brewery so I helped him out a bit, including on his stall at the Christmas markets. I really enjoyed going and exploring the Black Forest on my days off, as it was so near and incredibly stunning and wild. I also did a week-long basket-weaving workshop as part of the Hors Limites week Strasbourg put on.
My studio also went on a trip to Paris to visit the manufacture of Sevres which was an eye-opening opportunity. But really I just loved being in the studio there and I devoted as much time to that as I could.
What other places nearby did you visit during your time there?
I went to the Black Forest numerous times, once for a weekend of walking with a friend. That was definitely the highlight for me. The scenery was breath-taking and we stayed with a farmer who was so accommodating. I visited friends on Erasmus in both Stockholm and Munich, which was great. It was nice to compare our experiences abroad and see what they were up to in such different cities.
I also enjoyed getting to know my immediate surroundings well. That way I really understood a region I might never have visited.
How did your experience of studying abroad change from your first impressions as time went on?
At first I felt quite overwhelmed because I had never properly worked with clay before, and I really had no idea how to start. It was frustrating to get off to a slow start as I knew I had limited time there. But eventually I realised what I wanted to focus on; throwing and glaze research. And I knew I could devote my time to that.
The assistant tutor, Sylvain, was incredibly supportive and helpful, and the girls would always point out techniques I could be using to make the process easier. By the end of my time there, it was very rewarding to be able to come into the studio and know exactly what I wanted to do and how to do it. I think that is a testament to the hard work I put in.
Tell us about some of the people you met during your studies
The great thing about working in a studio is that you are immediately welcomed into a social circle, as you are spending all day, every day together. I got on very well with the ceramics assistant at Strasbourg and he invited me to be his studio assistant this summer, so I will be returning then. I really feel that I discovered my passion in Strasbourg, and it’s rewarding and exciting that this is something I can pursue, and that it opened doors for me.
I am also planning a road trip with my Catalonian friend through Spain this summer.
What advice would you give someone who wants to study abroad?
I think it is really important to make an effort to learn the language of the country you are going to. You will never have the opportunity again to be so fully immersed in the language, which is the best way to learn. I have come away fluent in French and I think, without a doubt, that is my greatest achievement. It lets you relate to your fellow students so much better and really feel integrated in a culture and city that isn’t your own. It was a lot of work, but so worth the effort.
I think it’s also important to have no expectations, because the whole experience is surprising and eye-opening at every turn.
And finally, (and this may seem obvious) it’s so important to say “yes” to absolutely every opportunity that comes your way! You never know where it will lead you.