An unforgettable year for Welsh student living, studying and working in France
Exeter University business student Charlotte Evans admits she got so much more than a fresh take on learning during an Erasmus+ year in France - not least brushing up on her skiing technique.
Charlotte, from Newport in South Wales, opted to spend a year studying in Grenoble, in the French Alps, rather than on a work placement in the United Kingdom as part of her degree course - and by the end of her overseas adventure she was urging other students to grasp the opportunity with both hands.
"Erasmus+ sent me abroad and I returned an adventure-seeking, ex-Erasmus+ student, envious of those just starting out on their own experience," she said.
Watch Charlotte's video below to see how Erasmus+ gave her a new mind-set and imbued her with a sense of adventure and freedom to try new hobbies and take on new challenges.
Developing life skills
Charlotte studied International Business at Grenoble Ecole De Management during her time away from home - but insists her education during that time went way beyond just the academic, helping her to develop as a person in many other ways.
"You just develop general life skills, language skills especially in my case," she said. "In France you have to pick up the language quite quickly. They like it if you try and over time you get the hang of it, you pick the language up and you become more accustomed to using it.
"Even ordering a coffee at the coffee shop was the scariest thing for me in the first month or so but it's something you just develop over time.
"Social skills was a massive deal for me too. During my time in Grenoble I met the most amazing people from all over the world.
"I really developed a knowledge of different cultures - I had friends from Australia, America, Scandinavia and other parts of Europe. I just learned how to communicate with others and really immerse myself in different cultures.
"That's something that I wasn't used to and I'm so grateful to Erasmus+ for giving me that opportunity.
"While you're on your Erasmus year abroad you just think, 'Why Not?' and you try new activities and you develop new skills you never even knew that you had. It was just the most fun that I've ever had in my entire life."
I would shout from the rooftops to encourage people to experience Erasmus+
For Charlotte part of that fun was improving her skiing ability - as well as trying rock climbing, hiking and embarking on a two-day cycling expedition.
"Being in Grenoble meant that skiing was a massive part of my Erasmus year. When the snow came we were straight on the slopes. I love to ski anyway, so this was just a huge bonus for me.
"It was such a surreal feeling living in a place where you could go skiing at the weekends and it hit me just how amazing this opportunity was when I was in Alpe d'Huez, on a pair of skis, with my new friends. It really doesn't get any better than that."
It wasn't all play for Charlotte in south-eastern France, though, and she revelled in the learning environment of her overseas educational institute.
"Grenoble Ecole De Management is a straight line business school whereas Exeter University offers a wide array of subjects, so that was kind of different and took some getting used to," she said.
"But it was nice to have students around that studied the same subject as me, so that if ever I needed help I knew that everybody was on the same page. It was just a stunning campus and the professors were incredible.
"The friends that I met there are definitely friends for life."
Ready for work
Determined to take advantage of every opportunity, Charlotte also secured a short marketing internship with the Grenoble Rugby Club - a great bonus for her sports marketing module.
"I had wondered whether I'd made the right choice in studying abroad instead of doing a work placement, so I tried to find one while I was in France. I was lucky enough to do that and there's no reason why anyone can't get a mini-internship while they're studying abroad.
"At the time I was studying sports marketing so I asked the Grenoble Rugby Club whether I could come and work with them for a little while and see how they did things, especially marketing and social media. It was an absolutely incredible experience which definitely shaped my Erasmus experience and made it more personal to me.
"Attaining employment during Erasmus+ gave me pocket money for croissants and French chocolates and, of course, tickets to fund my travelling exploits, not to mention useful skills to add to my CV.
"I have come out of my experience feeling officially ready to enter the world of work. I'm already seeking new opportunities to relocate, so it's safe to say Erasmus+ has changed my life!"
Want to hear more stories from Erasmus+ participants? Visit our dedicated webpage.