Reflecting on Erasmus After 4 Years
Have you ever wondered how an Erasmus experience can affect you long-term? Here’s my story.
It’s easy to talk about your Erasmus experience when you just got back to your home country.
The memories are still fresh, the post-Erasmus depression is kicking in, and ALL you want to do is talk about your Erasmus or show your friends 1000+ photos you have from your semester abroad.
Been there, done that.
But now four years have passed since I came back from my Erasmus exchange in Brno, Czech Republic.
I may not mention my Erasmus experience in every third sentence but it doesn’t mean it’s not affecting me anymore.
It did change me in more ways than I would have realised back then.
Erasmus changes your relation with travelling
This one probably happens to most of us. If you didn’t have an urge to travel often before your Erasmus, you will once it’s over.
When you spend an entire semester (or even two) travelling from one place to another, this becomes a habit or even a need. Staying in one place is suddenly boring and you start looking for invitations, events, or the cheapest tickets to have an excuse to travel somewhere.
Four years may scale that desire down a bit but it’s still there. I still visit at least one new country every year and travel both in my own country and to places I consider my second home - my Erasmus country.
And you don’t travel just to check some countries off your list. You travel to meet your friends, learn about different cultures, and experience the countries as locals do. Maybe even to practice one of the many languages you want to learn.
Because that’s how you learn to travel when you’re on Erasmus.
Erasmus gives you valuable skills and helps with your professional career
People who believe Erasmus students are only good at partying have no idea how much Erasmus can help you grow as a professional.
Studies may be only a small part of all the Erasmus experience but it’s still there. You study at a different university, you try new extracurricular activities, meet different students and teachers, and do it all in a language other than your mother tongue (usually).
It challenges you both personally and professionally and grows both your soft and hard skills.
For me, it helped me to get comfortable speaking English. And now I speak, read, and write in English on a daily basis.
It inspired me to teach others, as I had a chance to teach other exchange students my difficult native language (which is Lithuanian). I continued teaching and sharing my knowledge with others in one way or another after coming back home, too. Now I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
On Erasmus, I also got involved in study projects that helped me to figure out what subfields of my major I like the most. Later on, I wrote my Bachelor thesis and a paper inspired by the things I learned while on Erasmus. And I still use all of those things even after changing my major.
And from many job interviews as well as my current position at an international company I’ve discovered that Erasmus “record” on my CV does say a lot to potential employees. It hints that you can speak English and probably know some other languages, have international experience, are not afraid of challenges and can solve problems on your own.
You become more independent and self-confident
Many students become more independent when they have to move to a different city because of their studies. But moving to a different country on Erasmus takes it up a notch.
Not only do you have to take care of yourself, but you also have to do so in a (completely) different environment.
But you learn, you adapt, you adopt new habits, and it makes you more independent. And no matter what challenges or problems you encounter, be it the language barrier, household chores you’ve never done before, studying in English, planning trips by yourself, or simply not counting on your family or friends for help the whole time, you'll come out of it as a more independent person.
At the same time, it makes you more confident - after all, you’ve survived it all.
Personally, Erasmus showed me that I can be independent from my parents. I passionately hated cooking before, but during Erasmus I started enjoying cooking for my roommate, my friends, and myself. I became more confident about my skills in general which led me to get involved in a lot more things when I got back home and I became less afraid of taking up more responsibilities.
Erasmus changes your definition of friendship
You’ve heard it many times before and you’ll hear it many times again. The friends you meet on Erasmus are friends for a lifetime.
If they are true friends, that is.
Not only does Erasmus help to find new friends from all over the world, but it also redefines the whole concept of friendship.
Yοu’ll meet people from different backgrounds and with different personalities. You’ll find many things in common and many differences. But you’ll still hang out, surprise and challenge each other, and create memories you’ll never forget.
We called our Erasmus friends group a family. Because that’s exactly what it felt like. We celebrated each other’s birthdays and other holidays together. We helped each other in need. We listened to each other’s hopes and dreams and encouraged each other to follow them. I can honestly say that before Erasmus I had never connected with people that strongly.
Perhaps being in the same boat is a great stepping stone for a friendship, I don’t know. But something about Erasmus friendships makes them different from all the others. And it redefines how you look at friendships when you’re back, too. You value different things and you try to be as good of a friend as the ones you had on Erasmus.
During Erasmus, I found true friends who redefined the meaning of friendship. Erasmus also encouraged me to pursue my hobbies professionally and to be more confident about the things I do. Finally, I fell in love with travelling and I don’t see myself falling out of it anytime soon.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, Erasmus changes you. Some changes you’ll notice right away, some may take a while to manifest.
But they will.
It may be minor things like new habits or hobbies. It may be something bigger that will shape your career or personality.
Erasmus is an incredible experience and every person takes something different from it.
Make sure you make the most of it.