Erasmus without End
The true story of a student who has experienced academic mobility three times, and proves you can never go on an exchange too many times!
Going on an exchange is a wonderful, but challenging journey. Many young people find it hard to take the first step and go on Erasmus for the first time. But what is it like to take multiple mobility opportunities? Is Erasmus really worth going on several times?
We decided to ask Filip – a 23-year-old student from Croatia, who has been on an exchange three times while studying for his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.
Filip (on the right) with international students during his first Erasmus
In 2014, Filip enrolled at the University of Zadar – a small Croatian town on the Adriatic coast – to study Geography and Italian. During his school years, he had already participated in three one-week youth exchange programmes, after which he got motivated to go on a long-term mobility period; a “real” exchange. With Google’s help, Filip easily discovered the Erasmus+ programme and filled in the application form immediately. While waiting for the results, he engaged in ESN activities.
1st academic exchange. October 2015 - February 2016 - Padova, Italy
During his third semester, Filip went on a six-month exchange to Padova, Italy. His motivation was to improve his Italian, of course, but also to experience life in a different country, discover its culture, and get connected to the locals and other international students.
Filip admits that when he first came to Italy, he didn’t even know how to ask for a bus ticket! By the end of his exchange, however, he had mastered la lingua parlata – the real Italian language spoken by real Italians.
Filip also did quite a lot of travelling across Italy. Initially planning to visit the most popular cities, such as Rome, Florence, Milan, and Naples, he ended up travelling to smaller, less popular cities – Trentino, Udine, Trieste, Verona… Discovering the non-touristy spots helped him feel the authentic Italian atmosphere.
Filip with his international friends in Bolzano, Italy
“My best memory from Italy is the atmosphere in the student dormitory. There was a small local pizzeria nearby, where my friends and I – around 20 of us! – would all meet. We would sit and talk and have fun, and the owner would give us free stuff and speak Italian with us. If I ever come back – and I hope I will – this little pizzeria would be the first place I would visit.”
When Filip got back from his exchange, he, unsurprisingly, suffered from post-Erasmus depression, which he got over thanks to ESN. Filip refers to the time after his first student exchange as one of the best ESN semesters.
2nd academic exchange. October 2016 - February 2017 - Graz, Austria
For the first few months after Italy, Filip couldn’t imagine going on another exchange – it seemed like letting down his Italian friends to him! Then, one day, he saw a CEEPUS announcement and decided to take this opportunity. During his third year of studies, Filip went on an exchange to Austria. His grandfather used to work in Austria, so he was curious to see it with his own eyes.
In Italy, Filip wanted to meet as many people as possible. In Austria, he went out less often and got connected with fewer people, but their relationships proved to be stronger. Filip made friends with two people, and they spent all their free time together. They are still close friends.
Filip was also much more engaged in the university’s activities: he was elected as Vice President of his local ESN section and was really into studying and doing multidisciplinary research. He had never thought that studies could be so exciting!
Filip with other ESNers at the National Platform of ESN Austria
“My second exchange has helped me understand what I’d like to do in my future. Without it, I’d still live in my small town and study both Geography and Italian, not sure which programme to choose. After Graz, I’ve made up my mind to move to Zagreb – the capital of Croatia, do a Master’s programme in Geography and apply for the position of the National Mov’in Europe Coordinator in ESN”.
3rd academic exchange. March 2018 - Koper, Slovenia
Already as a Master’s student in Zagreb, Filip was not sure whether to apply for another exchange – his third one already. Would it be worth it? Would he learn or see something new? In the end, he decided to apply for a short-term mobility programme in Koper, Slovenia.
Initially, Filip was mostly interested in this mobility programme for academic reasons – Koper is a tiny town, which is at the same time a big port and a big tourist destination, and Filip had a professional curiosity to understand how all this can be combined into one place. However, this one-month exchange has given Filip much more.
“Before my exchange, I perceived Slovenia as a boring neighboring country, with its capital Ljubljana as the only place worth visiting. I have never been more wrong – Slovenia has so much to offer! Now, thanks to the exchange, I know that even a country next to your homeland is different and you can have incredible experience there”.
During the exchange in Slovenia, Filip also made friends with two girls from Croatia. Even though they all came from and lived in one country, without the exchange they would have probably never met.
Filip with his international friends in Venice, Italy
“Curiosity to see what’s out there has been my main drive to go on exchanges. If you haven’t been on an exchange yet, then you must take this unique opportunity! Just stop for a moment and think what an exchange can bring you. People never come with bad memories from it; on the contrary, everyone wants more – and there must be a reason for it! Even if you’ve already been on an exchange, why don’t you try a new one? Apart from numerous adventures, it will help you clear your mind and have a better picture of your future”.
We hope that Filip’s story is a vivid illustration of the fact that there are never too many exchanges. In any case, the best way to check it is to go for it yourself! And who knows – maybe you’ll be the one we write about in one of our next articles? Good luck!
This might feel like a very personal piece, but above all it is meant to highlight the inspiration, skills, and self exploration that leaving your comfort zone can bring, whether that’s an exchange, volunteering or simply being honest with yourself.