Europe in my Region Blog Contest: Why Erasmus should be mandatory for all students

by Lara

After seeing European Commission blog contest- Europe in my Region, about EU- funded projects, I knew immediately I have to write my (our) Erasmus story.

March 2012.

I was the 4th year Faculty of Law student. Not the best student, to be fair. Somewhere between the endless Administration Law articles, I forgot why I even chose this major. I had a severe lack of inspiration and motivation. One decision when you are 18 years old can determine the rest of your life. Terrifying, isn’t it? I was getting concerned I made the wrong choice and that there was no coming back from that. I needed an escape plan. Or at least a change of scenery. In June 2012 I decided to apply for Erasmus. I didn’t expect much more than a few months of fun before the „real life,“ filled with Administration law, began. Between Slovenia, Italy, Czechia and Poland, I chose the furthest country I knew the least about. Poland.

September 2012.

Not being „the best student“ meant I had five exams to pass in September. If I failed any of them, I couldn’t go on Erasmus. Suddenly, I found all the motivation in the world and made myself study for the whole summer. Failing was not an option.

October 2012.

It was an early autumn night. Surprisingly cold night for October, I thought. But then, it was Poland, so I guess it was just a regular October night. I was standing with my huge suitcase in front of two tall, gray buildings, one of them supposed to be my home for the next five months. I chose one of them and went straight to the lady at the reception desk. “Hi, my name is Lara and I am an Erasmus student. Is this the Olowek dorm?”

January 2013.

Last four months I’ve been living in the cutest city of Wroclaw in the southeast of Poland, exactly 1000  km away from home. 1000 km away from all the insecurities and self-doubts which, somehow, stayed on the coast of my hometown. In Wroclaw, I’ve met people from all over the Europe. Erasmus students. Living in a dorm where your neighbors are from Spain, Italy, Turkey, France, Portugal, Czechia, Germany and many other countries…is one of the most unique life experiences. Erasmus programme gave us all the opportunity to live in another country surrounded by people from all corners of Europe. Poland grew up on us very quickly, and after a few months, Wroclaw became our home away from home. Erasmus brought all these amazing young people from different country together and had enriched us forever.  We were spending days between classes exploring the city and getting to know each other. On the weekends we would travel and together were discovering our host country. We were experts on Ryanair deals and often would fly for a few Euros to some other country in Europe. We cooked our local dishes for each other, taught each other different languages, shared stories about our home, listened to each other’s dreams, plans or struggles. We made friendships for life, and some of us met their future husbands and wives there. Soon, we should have a first baby of our Erasmus generation in Wroclaw!

February 2013.

– “This is crazy, isn’t it?”

– “What is?”

– “That we were given this opportunity!”

-” Yeah…You know what? I think Erasmus should be mandatory. Every single student should be able to experience this. I still can’t believe that we are paid to study here, to live in a new country, to live in a multicultural environment, being able to learn all these things from the first hand.”

Most of our conversations about Erasmus went like this.

February came quickly and many of us had to go back home. Saying goodbye to all the friends was the toughest part of the Erasmus. We cried, we laughed, and we promised to visit each other in our countries. I somehow managed to prolong my Erasmus for the next semester as well, along with few other people. New students came and new friendships were made. Ones who left came back to visit us. We were something like a big, international family, bonded forever.

July 2013.

Leaving Poland was hard. Adapting to my old/new life was even harder.  I came back to the same life, same old friends which I missed a lot, but something inside of me was different. Erasmus year and everything that went with it has given me a new perspective. I finally understood that life doesn’t have to be determined by one decision you made when you were 18, nor does your major has to define your whole career. We live in the age of interdisciplinarity and information which gives us much more possibilities if we dare to think out of the box.

2017- four years after Erasmus

Erasmus programme has given me a lot and it still does. Words that we said to each other when saying goodbye were not just an empty promises. In last few years I have visited Erasmus friends in Serbia, Czechia, Italy, Portugal and many of them came to Croatia. Four years later, our WhatsApp group still rings every few days with intern jokes and plans for the next meet up. Erasmus has given me a chance for an internship in Prague after I graduated. It improved my employability since on every job interview I was asked about my year abroad. But most importantly, it gave me a clearer vision of what I want to do and where to be.

The Erasmus programme is for me, and I think I can speak for millions of other students who benefited from the programme, the best thing that the European Union could do for students. It helped us grow, progress, integrate and connect. It helped us build our character, taught us multiculturalism and understanding. It gave us friends from many countries who made our world richer and a lot smaller than it seemed to be. Erasmus programme actually puts Europe in each region. Thank you. And Happy 30th anniversary, Erasmus! Live long and welcome many more students.

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