Claus Viol

Home university: Ruhr-Universität Bochum

Guest university: University of Limerick

City/country: Limerick, Ireland

Erasmus stay: 1993/1994

Current occupation: Coordinator for the ERASMUS programme at the English Department of Ruhr-Universität

The work as coordinator for the ERASMUS programme at the English Department, which I was allowed to take over by our pioneers Paul Botheroyd and Dieter Wessels more than 10 years ago, is one of the more pleasant tasks of my job. We still manage to send some 20 students annually to the UK and Ireland and, according to what I hear, the experiences of most of the students are similar and as positive as those I made during my studies.

24 years ago, I was fortunate enough to go to Limerick – an opportunity that I would not have had without the ERASMUS programme. Studying abroad with little administrative obstacles, sufficient financial support, without exaggerated pressure to perform, a lot of time to reflect one's own and foreign cultures (I could get used to the Irish time, but using your hands in a football match? And why did the Irish students wear German military parka, but did not know Nutella?), for reading, drinking beer and finding friends (for life). Almost automatically, we were able to develop our language skills, build self-confidence, become more European and at the same time find a place that feels like a second home. We learned so much about ourselves and the (supposedly) others, exchanged opinions, stories and perspectives. These were immensely defining experiences – experiences that already felt quite fantastic at the time, but became more and more significant in hindsight.

Claus in Claus in Limerick in 1993/1994

In times of increasing problems for the European project (and developments like the Brexit) one can only hope that the programme and the institutional contacts and possibilities that it has created will continue to exist. This would already seem to be a great success. It would be even better, but this is probably a pious wish, if the academic and social frameworks changed in a way that the trends of the last few years of ever-shorter stays and justifying ERASMUS as a profiling element during studies could be reversed. From Erasmus of Rotterdam, the eponym to the programme, it is known that he did not only spent three months abroad. For him it was not about the acquisition of skills or the increase of employability, but about education, mutual exchange and a profound intercultural understanding, and thus ultimately the overcoming of foreignness. Hopefully, there is a way to give these processes back the time they need to unfold their full effect.

Therefore, of course, here is also my tip: When you are in your twenties and get the opportunity to go abroad with ERASMUS, you should not hesitate for a moment. Pack your bags, stay as long as possible and experience an unforgettable time! Go out and be outgoing!