The story of a 38-year-old Erasmus student
When you think of people that go on Erasmus, you think of people in their 20’s, right? This is the story of Kata, a 38-year-old woman that did an Erasmus this year.
When I first heard about Kata’s story, I thought it was unbelievable. How can someone go on Erasmus so late in their life? How can they manage? I just had to sit down and interview her.
Her blue eyes lit up as soon as I asked how her Erasmus was. She was fresh out of her mobility experience and it had clearly been a great one, but I wanted to know more. She’s from Hungary and currently lives in Budapest, working as an editor at a publishing house. When she was 18, she went to university, like all of us common mortals, and got a degree in Literature. At around age 32, she decided to change her whole life. She was depressed because everyone around her was having kids, but then she discovered something: “I might not have all of that, but I have myself. I can make peace with the fact that I can be alone, but I can be happy”. She decided to start a brand new career, changed her workplace and went back to school. She missed the studying lifestyle and went on to get a Law degree. When she got a letter from the university, just like everyone else, saying that she could go on Erasmus, she thought about it. Her life insurance had ended, which meant that, in legal terms, she would get that money back, so she would have money to fall back on. Kata decided to buy an experience with said money and not “a washing machine”. “I felt like I needed an experience like this since my first time around I couldn’t do it,'' she said, with a glimpse of joy.
The view from her balcony in Sienna, Italy
Fully packed and prepared, in February of this year, Kata went to Sienna, Italy. She was terrified of the whole thing, scared of being alone. “Going out with a community of Erasmus students that are all around 20-years-old, I was scared of getting isolated because of the age difference”. When she got to Sienna, even her coordinators reacted differently at first: “Are you sure you want to do this? You’re going to give up everything you have in your life for this?”, they said to her, incredulous. Kata ended up falling in love with the study programme in Sienna, she had wonderful professors that taught law and religion, something she really wanted to study, plus it was her first time studying in a foreign language. Even though she wasn’t an integral part of the Erasmus community of Sienna, one of her closest friends was a Turkish girl aged 21, and she ended up making many friends and gaining incredible experiences.
Kata (in the middle) and her Erasmus friends
Kata’s circumstances to go abroad were very peculiar, even more so because she has no family, no kids or a partner. This doesn’t make her stop living, in fact, it actually made her live the life she wanted. She learned how to act in a community that is essentially younger than her, in a foreign country. She could do things like everyone else could, like hug the walls of the city, announcing her love for Sienna.
What makes Kata even more incredible is that while on Erasmus, she decided she wanted to write her experience down on paper (or on a screen). Facebook didn’t seem like the right place, so her blog was born. She wrote down how she felt and what she experienced. It was a sort of a confessional type of blog. A friend of hers ended up stumbling upon it and they were shocked that she could open herself up to the world about her experience like that.
Kata on her trip to Pisa
As our interview was nearing the forty-minute mark, I asked her, reluctantly: “Do you regret going on Erasmus?”. She laughed. “I will never regret going on Erasmus. I can even tell you more: I don’t know if this is the last Erasmus I’ll ever do! This was the best decision of my life.” The things she’s gained through this experience are more than the things that she could have lost. She’s more confident, stronger, more relaxed, more poised and more focused. And the best part? It’s not just her saying it, it’s the people around her. Since she went back home, she got promoted at her job!
Kata wanted to make sure that her message came across correctly: getting away can be getting closer, both in your personal and in your work life. And I couldn’t have summed it up better myself.
If you want to know more about her story, you can check out her blog in Hungarian: https://insiemeinsiena.blog.hu